Regardless of the intelligence, skill of experience of the person in question, we inevitable make mistakes . No matter how much we might believe that we’ll remember something and regardless of how many times we’ve completed the task at hand we are still prone to forgetfulness and to human error.
In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande explains that the use of checklists in our professional lives can greatly reduce mistakes made by human error.
Checklists force us to go through step-by-step and not only prevent us from forgetting tasks, but can prompt other ideas and steps. It’s important to note the a checklist isn’t just a list of tasks, it’s a process and eventually develops into company culture or “that’s just how we do things here.” A well designed checklist can elevate the performance of entire teams and spread across many departments.
It’s important to note however, that to be effective, they must meet a few criteria. They must be concise, clear and collaborative.
- Concise – A long checklist with no more than 9 pointed per section will eventually be discarded and steps skipped.
- Clear – Only the important points need to be included, you don’t need to outline every step in the process.
- Collaborative – At any point, anyone in the team has the authority to halt a project or process if the checklist hasn’t been adhered to properly.
They have been used by airline maintenance crews, pilots and surgeons to great success. Checklists can provide a safety net for our inherent cognitive biases and mental flaws (memory, attention, thoroughness).
The premise of the book is simple enough and the many examples Gawande shares help to really drive home the benefits and effects of using checklist. The Checklist Manifesto is a great read and filled with actionable information – a rare find.