Checklists are used in many contexts, and can even save your life! In his book The Checklist Manifesto, how to get things right Atul Gawande explains how he helped saving lives by implementing the use of checklists in hospitals to help entier medical teams do the right things at the right time and react appropriately in crisis situations.
The initial problem he was asked to solve was the very high level of child death at birth in his country of origin, India, but not only there. Following his study of the question and interview of nurses and doctors, he could identify that if the medical teams confronted with specific problem would react in a different way, they would avoid complications and child – and mother – death at birth.
He inspired himself from, among others, the aviation, to establish easy to use checklists to help medical teams react in the most appropriate way when confronted with life threatening issues when a woman was giving birth. The results were astonishing, certainly when we look at how simple the solution was : use a checklist!
The checklist in this case was not only a tool to help a team react quietly and appropriately. It also helped trigger better communication between each member of the team when before an intervention, they would have – it was part of the checklist – to tell their names and respective roles before checking if they had well prepared all the material for the intervention.
In conditions where teams were rarely the same (each intervention had potentially different nurses and experts), knowing names and roles of each member is not a small detail to ensure success.
Checklists and personal productivity
Checklists can also help you tremendously at improving your personal productivity :
- For non-frequent but still repetitive tasks where you might forget one or the other step of the process because you don’t do it frequently (let’s say the monthly KPI or closing)
- In tasks where, when you forget one step, the consequences can be dramatic (or only very bad)
- As tool to collect information in an “After Action Review” process and sharing the lessons learned with others or your future self
- As tool of planification and efficiency when you are in action mode and you don’t want to organise your ideas but you want to DO your tasks
- As tool to share information in a project and enrich the checklist in common processes you do with your team
- As support for your motivation : so nice to check a task as done in your list!
Key Success Factors in the use of Checklists
The key success factors for the use of checklists are (1) to keep your system simple and (2) to keep your system flexible.
Simple means things like :
- Limiting the number of checklists you need to avoid losing yourself and spending too much time maintaining your system,
- Classify your lists in a logic, simple way to find them quickly when you need them
- Be very clear and simple in the words you use for the tasks/steps/information you put on your lists
- Spend enough time to design easily readable lists : you will save a lot of time when using them!
A flexible system means :
- Being able to adapt it quickly : when the outcome of action A can lead to action A1, A2 or B, have a checklist system where you can easily change the sequence of tasks to perform following the outcome of action A
- Being able to access your list whenever and wherever you are to complete them when you have a good idea (which is not per se when you work on the given mission)
What about you? I am curious!
- Do you use checklists?
- If not, do you consider it as a burden or something that could help you?
- What is your best trick to help make the best of checklists?
Don’t hesitate to send me your feedback about this topic, I would be delighted to read about your experience!