Get things done right the first time, every time
One of the simplest, least expensive, and most effective tools you and your team can use to get things done right is a checklist. There’s no upfront investment, no training courses, and no updates — yet the tool works without fail every time.
Checklists ensure consistency and quality. Industries like aviation, construction, and the medical profession rely heavily on checklists to avoid human error in complex projects and procedures.
Checklists differ from “to-do” lists. Once you’ve crossed items of your to-do list, you’re done with that list forever. But checklists are reusable: you repeat the same steps in the process every time you do it.
Checklists aren’t “how-to” manuals, either. “Checklists do not try to spell out everything–a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps–the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss,” writes Atul Gawande in his book, The Checklist Manifesto.
Here are some tips to boost the power of checklists to get things done right.
Break down big steps into small steps
Once you’ve identified a routine process in your business, jot down the steps from beginning to end. Note each interaction that takes place, what questions that should be asked, and which tasks must be preformed in a certain order. Be sure to include any advance preparations and followup activities.
Analyze each step carefully to leave no stone unturned. The more you examine the process and describe the right way to perform the steps, the more effective the checklist will be.
Group similar items together
Clustering your steps into categories that correspond to phases of the work makes it easier to work through a long checklist and gives the user a sense of where he or she is in the overall process.
Take a test drive
Run through the process using your checklist and see if it accurately captures every step. After you’ve tested it, have a couple team members test the checklist and provide feedback.
Make sure every team member has the checklist
Choose a way to distribute the checklist that will work for your team. You can create a document and shared it as a printed piece or attached a PDF to an email; create a laminated card that fits into a wallet; or put together a binder if you have multiple checklists.
Make using the checklist a part of your business culture
Emphasize the importance of using the relevant checklist with every customer, every time. You can create a catchy name and look for your checklist to make it more memorable.
Keep the checklist up-to-date and modify it when your process changes
Make sure your checklist always reflects the current situation. If one item becomes out of date, the entire checklist loses its usefulness.