Much has been made in business about process improvement. Re-engineering processes has become the mantra for productivity increases. Whole teams, in fact, have been put into place to improve processes.
But I think a great, fast way to increase you and your department’s performance is through the simple checklist. Checklists, while humble in comparison to the powerful process improvement movement, can quickly up your work completion and reduce your stress while doing it.
The power of checklists is apparent in The New Yorker article called, simply, The Checklist and is a demonstration of the power of simple checklists used in emergency care to save lives and money. Specifically used in Intensive Care Units, the article explains how much complexity exists in that environment and how simple checklists help. It is a long article (8-pages), but so worth the read.
But before you simply write off the long article as not applying to all of us working in cubes, think again. There are plenty of opportunities to improve what we do through the use of this quiet tool.
Meeting Checklist. We all know that meetings should have an agenda, should have the type of meeting noted (decisions, learning, brainstorming, etc.), and next actions — but how many of us have a meeting checklist? Being ready for a meeting, especially for you as an organizer, is critical to getting things done.
Computer Maintenance Checklist. If you don’t have automatic IT in your company, having a checklist for your PC will ensure that you don’t forget to do all of the maintenance on your PC.
Testing Checklist. I am a beta tester for a ham radio contesting program and I test functions off of a list that I created for the purpose. Code writers out there could create their own unit testing checklist for their work to ensure all testing is done.
Repetitive Action Checklists. All of us in our positions do some things day in and day out; some repetitive functions that bore us silly. Those sorts of functions, though basic, are easily screwed up because we think we know everything to do in our head and then forget some step anyway. This is a perfect place for a checklist.
Complex Checklists. I’m reminded of the larger “release readiness” checklists before something goes live in our work environment. Your company may have a formal process for this type of work, but each individual can benefit from their own personal checklist for these complicated functions.
Time Based Checklists. Have a checklist to complete annual reviews. Budget creation. Project planning. There are many recurring events that take place in companies over the course of the year. Having a checklist to pull out and use gets you up to speed quicker.
Checklists are simple. This is not a project plan, but a list to make sure we have done all of our work for this function.
Checklists are easily accessible. Tough to do a routine task and spend 15-minutes trying to find your checklist, isn’t it? I have all my checklists stored in my Outlook Notes section. Easy to find.
Checklists are easily updated. Checklists evolve as mistakes are found and steps are missed. When you find your checklist needs something added, it needs to be easily updated. Electronic lists, such as Outlook Notes, gives you a quick way to easily update the list.
Checklists are built over time. The first time you use a checklist, you will see that when you actually follow the list and do the work that you have forgotten some pieces. Other things will be added as you do variations of what the checklist addresses. Plus, checklists are built for time of year events such as a checklist for doing annual reviews. So give yourself a good year to create and build a great set of checklists for your work.
Process improvement gets all the press and the glory. But humble checklists can really move your operation and work to a new level. Start building some and see for yourself.
Do any of you have checklists right now? Share them in the comments.