..."while our jobs are not about saving lives, it seems to me we would all benefit from having a checklist or two, especially if it creates efficiencies and improves outcomes."
There seems to be a complexity to our lives that wasn’t there before and this is a statement coming from someone who doesn’t have any kids! I’m not exactly sure when it started and have my doubts as to if it will stop but all of it, personal, professional, family, aspirations, taking care of the home, starting new projects, keeping the old projects going, commitments, solutions, has me seeking more simplicity.
I think that’s why my antennae really perked up when I heard about “The Checklist Manifesto” a book written by Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School. I immediately listened to the audiobook. And I have to share that it made a profound impact on how I look at simplifying. You see, I am a checklist kind-of-a-gal in the first place and I venture to guess that many of you, especially if you’re meeting professionals, are as well. After listening to Dr. Gawande I have a new appreciation for the power of a checklist.
Checklists are not a one and done kind of tool. The checklists I’m talking about are not of the grocery checklist variety. Rather for reoccurring activities that I do multiple times, checklists have proven to reduce anxiety, eliminate unnecessary thinking, put me into action and minimize any emotional overrides that lead to procrastination.
My earliest checklist was for tailgating. My sister, Irene and I would be so proud of ourselves for producing an event that impressed our less organized guests and we constantly improved upon the checklist after every tailgate, complete with obvious items like the grill, charcoal and matches, but also items we tended to forget a lot like a trash bag, metal spatula and matches (try flipping a burger without a spatula). This then evolved to creating a checklist for when I hosted a party, including tasks like cleaning the front door, predetermining what foods were going to go in which serving dishes which avoided the last minute pulling out the ladder to bring down those platters in the middle of guests arrival. You get the picture. By following my checklist, I am confident I have all the bases covered and can actually enjoy the party as the hostess with a checklist.
Then as my career progressed and I began to travel often, I created the packing checklist and admittedly it sounds kind of a silly thing to do. But when I’m busy, which is ALL the time, packing is one of those things I don’t like to do. So begin a task with a poor attitude and see where it gets you. Most likely arriving somewhere having to hunt down a CVS or Radio Shack for something you’ve forgotten. But the checklist helps me remember to take an evening bag, gloves, or the special adapter for my laptop.
I think the New York Times Freakonomics Blog summed up Dr. Gawande’s book the best. “No matter how expert you may be, well-designed checklists can improve outcomes.” The aviation industry has perfected the art of creating a well crafted checklist such as the pre-flight checklist and aren’t we all grateful for our pilots who follow them. And Dr. Gawande walks us through his journey of creating checklists for pre-operations…and while our jobs are not about saving lives, it seems to me we would all benefit from having a checklist or two, especially if it creates efficiencies and improves outcomes.
Some checklists that come to mind that we could collectively share and perfect include:
- Pre-sales call checklist
- RFP checklist for all the necessary elements
- Site inspection checklist
- Post-event checklist
- Before opening registration checklist
What are some checklists that you’re using and let me know if you’d like to share them!