At my last full-time position several departments, in a production area, shared restrooms. However, there wasn’t a cleaning schedule, and the cleaning was often inconsistent and incomplete. The answer? A checklist. So, in a leadership development session, the production department team leaders outlined a bathroom cleaning checklist. It now hangs on a clipboard in the restrooms, and is initialed and dated as it’s completed. So, why use checklists? Clean restrooms are a good start. 

Where Do You Start?

A tractor-trailer service facility asked me for ideas to improve their operational efficiency. I observed several trailer roller door conversions, which is removing standard horizontally opening doors and replacing them with vertical doors on rollers. They had two lines, two teams doing this work and they followed different procedures, which became a problem when teams needed to loan members to each other. So, I met with the team leaders to work on a roller door conversion checklist. We developed a one-page,  step-by-step task list. The checklist improved efficiency by more than 30%, made the tasks easier, encouraged teamwork, and improved quality.

Do Checklists Work?

In Dr. Atul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto, he makes a compelling argument for using checklists, not only in his field, but in general. He categorizes errors into those of ignorance and errors of ineptitude. With today’s access to information, more errors are caused by ineptitude — improper use of the information. These types of errors can be improved — even eliminated — through the use of checklists. In a National Public Radio interview, he explained his insight while observing an airline pre-flight checklist and realizing checklists could improve surgery and save lives. “I got a chance to visit Boeing and see how they make things work, and over and over again they fall back on checklists.

Because the pilot’s checklist is a crucial component, not just for how you handle takeoff and landing in normal circumstances, but even how you handle a crisis emergency when you only have a couple of minutes to make a critical decision.” So, Dr. Gawande and a team created a safe surgery checklist. In clinical studies, it reduced patient mortality during surgery by nearly 50%, and complications went from an incidence of 11% to 7%. Medical facilities all over the world have adopted the surgery checklist.

Should You Use Checklists?

You probably already use some kind of checklist, like a to-do list, but do you use checklists to their full advantage? The bottom line is the more information available, the more difficult it is to complete tasks from memory. Compound this with coordinating group activities, and you have a formula for failure. Why depend only on memory recall, while hoping the team efforts are properly orchestrated? Do you use checklists, and do you prefer app based, such Todoist or handwritten?

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

Does your business have a  management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash