The Importance of Checklists
Isn’t it frustrating when you are doing something that you’ve done a hundred times before and still you manage to forget an important step? I’m the first to put my hand up for this, it’s frustrating and in some cases may even cause harm.
It was such a relief to discover that I’m not alone! I’ve just finished reading The Checklist Manefesto by Atul Gawande and I’m really excited to start putting some of what I’ve learned into practice.
I’m already a big believer in checklists. At home I have a constant shopping list on the go and a reminder of what we need to purchase the next time we head to Bunnings. At Bluewire we have project to-do lists where steps are ticked off at each stage of a project, but we’re always looking for ways to do things better.
Gwande offered an explanation from Daniel Boorman, Boeing Company in Seattle:
Good checklists are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do no try to spell out everything–a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps–the ones that even the highly skilled professionals using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.
For me this was a light bulb moment. Instead of getting our team to tick off rigid steps in a predetermined checklist (which most of the time doesn’t suit the project), why don’t we identify those important steps that are often overlooked. This list then becomes our mandatory checklist plus each project team can then create their own daily checklists (with the client) to complement and enhance the mandatory list.
By far this was the biggest take home for me. Checklists shouldn’t include every single step of a process. You still want people to be able to think for themselves. Instead, a checklist should highlight those steps that are super important and yet often so obvious or simple that they’re missed.
‘The Checklist Manifesto’ offers numerous real life examples which makes the book an interesting an enjoyable read. Plus, Gwande takes you on a journey while he develops a checklist that is now being used in operating theatres around the world.