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Value Creation Blog

Where Checklists Are Important

Posted by Josh Patrick

Key Metrics

The short answer to the statement above is everywhere.  W Edwards Deming, the great quality control elder often said, “don’t look at the individual, look at the system.”

But, here’s the problem with checklists: If they’re not easy to use they won’t be used.

One of my early mentors, Shields Harvey, had a great term: Operationally doable.  I’ve used this term ever since I first heard it over thirty years ago.  Very simply if something isn’t operationally doable it won’t be done no matter how much you cajole others.

The easier to use you make your checklists the higher probability they’ll be used.  You often don’t need to have a checklist of every part of a process.  Instead your checklist might be where the truly important activities lie.  You’ll find that on airlines the checklists the pilots go through are simple.  This is because the really important things are monitored.

Using a checklist is a group activity.  Some operating rooms have developed great checklists to go through before a patient actually goes under the knife.  One of the advantages that’s reported is the group that reviews the checklist together develops trust and understands each other’s competencies.

Reviewing a checklist with more than one person helps make sure things are done correctly.  You have more than one pair of eyes looking at a particular issue.  If there is a mistake you will have a chance to correct it before starting your activity.

Using a checklist can save money.  The act of putting together a checklist is one where you have to think about the processes of a particular activity.  This thought process could help you discover waste as well as steps that might need to be added. 

Going through the discipline of putting together checklists around important processes in your company will allow you to examine what you do.  This is a great opportunity to get those who actually do the job get involved.

I believe that those who are doing a particular job are experts at their jobs.  Having them work developing a checklist will increase the probability that the checklist will be used.  In addition there’s an ownership factor when front line employees help make a checklist.  It becomes something they’ve developed and not something that’s handed down from on high.

What are your thoughts about checklists?  Do you find them useful in the work that you do?

A checklist is only one of many strategies you can pursue to run a better company.  We've put together a Periodic Table of Business Planning Elements that has 56 items on it.  Click on the button below to get our Periodic Table and see how many other strategies would make sense for your business.

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Topics: key metrics, for business owners, Focus, Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

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