“Good checklists, on the other hand are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They 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. Good checklists are, above all, practical.” -Atul Gawande, American surgeon, public health researcher and author of the critically acclaimed bestseller The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
In our fast-paced world of instant gratification- ‘the here and now syndrome’- and no, nothing is sacrosanct anymore, be it work, family, or our other affairs, things or processes can be overlooked, with attendant grave consequences. No doubt, you have come across the horror story of the surgeon who left a scalpel inside his patient, or the dentist who extracted a wrong tooth, or the lawyer who found himself defending the wrong client in the wrong courts, or the air force pilot who crashed an expensive piece of hardware because he forgot to extract the landing gear… we could go on and on.
It is on occasions such as this that a checklist comes in handy, if not as a lifesaver, at least as an assurance that the client is getting value for money in regards to the quality of your products or services.
Why a checklist? You might ask. Because…
A checklist saves time
Think of the couple of times you spent the night at a friend’s house, or you had to go back to the office to retrieve your house key or your cell phone… With a checklist, you could have ticked off the items and saved yourself the trip to the office. Now, replay the same scenario in regards to a particular aspect of your production cycle, say a brochure with some missing products that was needed for a launch, which said products were only found missing 30 minutes prior to the launch.
A checklist saves money
In the case of a print-job, missing paginations on a publication might require a print re-run to correct the anomaly. Think of the cost implications if you were doing a 1000 books. Or even 10. With a checklist, not only would you have captured and corrected this in a timely fashion, you would also have saved yourself the embarrassment of doing a re-run for a client you fought tooth and nail to get and to keep.
Habit vs complacency
Routine procedures or jobs and how there are executed can translate into habits, with one doing said procedure or job operating in auto-pilot. As such, a checklist ensures that complacency does not creep in where habits have set-in, more so in what is considered as mundane in the production cycle.
In professional careers such as medicine, engineering, accounting and the like, much is at stake- including loss of life, disability and loss of life’s savings- in regards to negligence. And when it does happen, negligence can be a career stopper or can cost your organisation millions in terms of compensation to the aggrieved party- which monies would otherwise have been spent to expand your organisation.
Standard Operating Procedure
A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a compilation of the procedures or protocols to be observed in the production cycle as a means of quality control and quality assurance. As an SOP, a checklist is easy to understand and easy to track in regards to ticking off the appropriate procedures when they do occur or whether they have been met in the production cycle.
That said, a checklist is only useful to the extent that it is implemented- earnestly. Which means that it must be implemented each and every time, without fail.