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A 5-Step Process to Utilize Your Existing Technology: Level 2—Make a Checklist

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In my last blog in this series on how to optimize your technology systems, I reviewed how most people in an advisory practice perform their jobs based on what they know or what a coworker has trained them to do.  Often times there is not a lot of documentation about the process or checkpoints that ensure everyone in the office is performing tasks in a similar way.

Quite frequently, a firm’s principals believe selecting the right technology is the most complicated part of systematizing their practice.  In my experience, the greatest difficulty throughout advisory teams is having a defined process that everyone uses because it requires significant behavioral change.  Typically everyone is philosophically aligned, but execute a specific process like “prep for client meeting” differently.  Before even thinking about automating and systemizing a practice, the processes need to be defined, written down in a consistent way and used by all members of the team.  This is a much bigger step than most anticipate.

When talking with advisors about systematizing their practice, I begin by asking them if they have a process in place for onboarding new clients. Most of the time they answer with a very confident, “Yes!”  Next, I ask each member of the team to draw a picture of the process.  If there are five people in the room I will end up with five different pictures; five different processes for doing the same thing.  This poses a significant challenge for advisory firms.  An undefined process leads to confusion, inefficiency and ultimately an inability to effectively grow your practice.

At the core of every process is a sequence of tasks in logical order that is organized in some type of checklist.  One of my favorite quotes comes from Atul Gawade’s book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.  He describes a good checklist as one that is precise, efficient and to the point.  It must be easy to use, even in the most difficult situations.  He said, “Good checklists are, above all, practical.”

There are four steps to follow when creating a checklist for the practice:

  1. Conduct a working session to define the process 
  2. Translate the output into a written checklist
  3. Agree to the checklist
  4. Determine how you will know it is being used and properly done

It is easier to make changes to checklists on paper than it is to modify workflow in a CRM. Most of the time it will require at least two drafts of the checklist before the majority of users will say, “This is working for me.”

Once you have agreement on your checklists and have tested and validated them in the real world, it’s time to move up to the next level. 

Please look for my next blog post which will discuss how to take those processes and embed them into a workflow using your CRM.  

A full-size PDF of this diagram is available upon request from ActiFi.  

ActiFi's Five Levels of Utilization (click to enlarge)