Why you should use checklists has more than one answer.  Several departments used the restrooms in a production area of a company I worked with, and cleaning the bathrooms was delegated between them. However, the cleaning schedule needed to be more consistent and complete. The answer? A checklist. So, in a leadership development session, the production department team leaders outlined a bathroom cleaning schedule and checklist. It now hangs on a clipboard in the restrooms where actions are checked off and then it’s initialed and dated as completed.

Why You Should Use Checklists

Where Do You Start?

A VP of operations visited an offsite service facility. He identified one process that could be more efficient. After sharing this with me, I met with the team to work on a checklist. The first step was gathering team input and making a step-by-step task list. Next, they introduced the checklist and asked all teammates to consider additions or omissions to the list. After a few adjustments, they implemented the list. The checklist not only improved efficiency by more than 30%, but it also made the tasks more manageable, improved quality, kept all the team on the same page, and made for a happier work culture.

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, the improper use of information causes problems. You can improve or eliminate these using checklists. In a National Public Radio interview, Dr. Gawande 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 handling takeoff and landing in normal circumstances, but even handling 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%. The safe surgery checklist has now been adopted by medical facilities internationally.

Should You Use Checklists?

You already use some checklists, like a to-do list, but do you use checklists to their full advantage? The bottom line is it’s more difficult  to complete tasks from memory. Why depend only on memory? Compound this with coordinating group activities, and you have a formula for failure.

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? Businesses and universities use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook, a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. I’m also available to conduct training.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay