The Power of Checklists

Aviation and medical professionals have at least one thing in common: they rely on checklists to ensure consistent, positive outcomes. In these professions, too many lives are at stake to rely on a single person’s memory, so they require systematic use of checklists, including verbal confirmation by a second person that each step has been carried out.

Checklists are ideal for routine work processes that have many steps; require the same steps in every identical situation; and/or have steps that must take place in a specific sequence. For a checklist to work effectively, there must be a way to physically document – check the box – that each step has been completed. If the team conducting the process gets interrupted or distracted, they can quickly identify where they left off by reviewing what boxes they have already checked. This process ensures that nothing gets overlooked.

There is a famous story that the rock band Van Halen inserted a clause in their performance contracts with music promotors that stipulated the backstage area had to have a bowl of M&Ms – but no brown M&Ms. This clause was buried in a long series of clauses that ensured the safety of the band on stage. The band didn’t care about M&Ms – they wanted to know definitively that the promoter checked off each item on their safety list. If there were brown M&Ms in a bowl backstage, they knew the concert promoter had not complied with every item on their list.

Another benefit of checklists is that they are great onboarding tools. A new employee has to take in a lot of new information at one time; breaking down complicated processes into clear, repeatable steps will accelerate learning.

Think about where you might use checklists in your business to ensure consistent, positive results. This simple tool will make work easier for you and your employees.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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