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Vinay Pantakar

Process Street

CEO

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A checklist saved your life

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I love checklists. They’re simple. They help you remember the milk, build a bridge or even save a life.

Discipline is hard–harder than trustworthiness and skill and perhaps even than selflessness. We are by nature flawed and inconstant creatures.”- Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right

Checklists – the missing link?

Human beings are by nature an undisciplined species. Discipline is something that we all must work at and checklists are a great way to do this.

Checklists are a tool for humans. They are purely practical and precise. They are simple to use, easy to understand and fast to implement.

Checklists are not useful tools because we’re deficient beings, but because we’re becoming inundated with an ever increasing bounty of knowledge and data. We run the risk of overload. We simply can’t handle it.

Checklists are a way of managing that knowledge and creating actionable steps to minimize human errors. In the book, “The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right” Atul Gawande mentions how checklists have become a crucial part of some of the most important industries in society.

The most notable perhaps is in aviation. Pilots have a checklist of things that they must go through before they even start the engines of the plane, this process was implemented by Boeing after a checklist saved them from bankruptcy. They must check absolutely every single thing on that checklist in order to fly safely. It’s without fail the most important part of a pilot’s job.

Has a checklist saved your life?

There was a time in history when a surgeon would wear a bloody apron like a badge of honor. The more blood meant the surgeon had performed more surgeries and had more experience, thus the bloodier the apron – the better the doctor.

This was all fine and dandy until someone realized those bloody aprons were carrying deadly bacteria that actually reduced the success rate of surgery significantly.

It eventually became apparent that something needed to be done and it wasn’t long before a checklist was developed to increase the hygiene in surgical operating rooms around the globe, resulting in a significant improvement in mortality rates.

By developing a simple checklist, countless lives were saved. Maybe even yours.

Boost your business with checklists

Imagine the savings if you could decrease the number of human errors, the number of wrong items sent out or the number of dissatisfied customers. Even if you could just reduce the time and cost by a small fraction, how much would that boost your bottom line?

Well that is what a checklist can do for you and your business. Checklists are a simple and powerful way to unlock new-found profitability!

Getting started

The easiest type of checklist to get started with is a task checklist. A checklists that covers a particular task your business does on a regular basis. This can be used for you personally to ensure completion of all required steps (creating a welcome package for a new employee) or a checklist to help other members of the organization complete tasks accurately (onboarding a new employee).

To build your first checklist, write down a list of the most common tasks in your organization, then ask yourself these questions against each task:

  1. Does the task need to be done over and over?
  2. Is this a highly valuable or complicated task?
  3. Does the task have a specific start and end point with repeatable steps?

If you answered yes to all of the above, chances are that is a good task to map out as a checklist.

Start making a checklist by going through the task a few times yourself or shadowing someone else, writing down each step as you go.

Once you’ve created your checklist, try and have someone else follow the steps and see if they can complete the task by following the checklist. Do not help them! Just watch them and note the points they struggle with. Those are additional checklist points you may need to include. 

Track the results

Once you’ve created the checklist, try and track its results. Pick a core metric (can be harder than it sounds sometimes) and measure before and after the checklist has been implemented. If the results are positive, keep using it and make more!

I have avoided a number of serious mistakes by following a simple checklist process. Hopefully you can too.

Do you use checklists? 

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