Are you getting the most from your checklists?

A checklist is a great way to ensure things get done.   Pilots use them to ensure safety.   Supply chain uses them to ensure proper inventory levels.   I use them to make sure that I get everything I need from the grocery store.

(If you are one of the few who haven’t yet, check out Atul Gawande’s book, ‘The Checklist Manifesto”:

But a checklist does not guarantee efficiency or effectiveness.  There is more that is needed.

Always remember this:  a checklist is not your process.  

If you lead a business and implement checklists to ensure that key actions are completed – congratulations, you are off to a great start.   But defining your process will be the difference between just getting the tasks done, or getting them done correctly, efficiently, and effectively.

One bag or Two?

If I’m going on a vacation and making a checklist for things I need to accomplish before leaving, “Pack my suitcase” might be one of the items on my list.

But smart travelers know that there’s a big difference in efficiency (how much space I take up) and quality (how wrinkled up my clothes are when I arrive) depending on HOW I pack my clothes.

Do I roll them?  Fold them?   Toss them in a heap?

The end result may vary drastically, even though each decision will check off the box.

Service with a smile

“Answer the phone” might be the first box on your sales checklist, but the devil is in the details, as they say.

HOW do you want your staff to answer?   If they all do it differently, your customers will have different, and thus unpredictable, experiences.   How are they to document the call and relay that information onward?

Is it safe?

Even safety checklists can be performed differently when the process isn’t well understood.

If a restaurant has a checklist for closing at night that includes, “store sharp objects such as knives and blenders out of reach”, this leaves a lot to interpretation.

A shorter employee might choose to climb on a stool to put a set of knives on a top shelf.  Not exactly a picture of safety!

One hour for ten items?

And as mentioned before, I use a checklist at the grocery store.  But my process still stinks.   Sure – I get everything I need.  But without a good process, I’m not efficient with my time.

I bounce from isle to isle.  I backtrack, forget things, and retrace my steps.

Do I get the job done?  Sure.   My checklist is always complete.   But am I efficient?   No.  Do I get frustrated?  You bet.

Does this sound like your business, perhaps?

In the end, checklists are wonderful tools that can be utilized more in the workplace.  They help make sure activities that are routine get completed.  They also assist with completing processes in emergency or otherwise stressful situations.

But without a good understanding of the PROCESS behind the checklist, a checklist may not be the solution you are hoping for.

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