Checklists are simple tools to make sure we finish our daily ToDo lists. Many of use tools like Asana or Apple's Reminders to ensure that we are completing our business and personal tasks.
Checklists can be so much more. Who would get on a plane if we knew the pilot had failed to work through the pre-flight checklist?
What most of us are missing is the power of checklists to successfully accomplish complex projects and activities.
In his book The Checklist Manifesto, author Atul Gawande applies the simplifying nature of checklists to modern challenges in healthcare. Simple checklists informed by strong process reviews and best practices have since reduced infections in hospitals and have made surgeries much safer.
When to use a checklist:
Recurring Risky Processes: Errors continue to happen in a situation or process that repeats regularly. Most finance departments have a checklist for closing a reporting period.
Large New Projects: Key objectives are clear, but there are so many complexities that implementation teams are bound to make mistakes. When creating checklists for these build in regular meeting for key stakeholders to focus on problems and missed items with the goal of improving the checklist and to modify practices going forward. Don't wait until the end and wait to see if it works. Know it is working.
Team Meetings: If your weekly or monthly meetings have business intelligence or project tracking elements in them, don't hesitate to add a checklist. It can ensure that the key responsibilities of the team (like owning fiscal results and being prepared to support the work of other groups in the company) are handled efficiently.
Checklist are protection to ensure that processes are adhered to. They are simple, yet powerful tools.
If you aren't using them now, give them a try. You might just find yourself sleeping better.
"No wise pilot, no matter how great his talent and experience, ever fails to use his checklist." --Charlie Munger