Why Experts Use Checklists
Friday 8th April 2016
I’m just going to say this right up front in my very first blog, I love checklists!
You see, I’ve learnt over the many years I’ve been a training consultant and executive coach that checklists are a lifesaver – in more ways than one – and can have a valuable role to play in almost every job.
I know that those of you who prefer to be reactive and spontaneous are perhaps already switching off and thinking nah, not for me, but if like me you like to ensure you’ve remembered everything you need to without spending hours of preparation and planning, then I recommend you read on.
How Checklists Keep Us Safe
On a recent flight to London, I came across a really interesting article in BA’s Business Life by Ben Hammersley who, like me, has fallen in love with checklists! He talked about how checklists were introduced for almost every stage of flying by the US Army Corps in the late 1930s. For today's pilot everything from pre-flight checks, taxiing, take-off, all the way to landing and turning everything off for the night has a checklist, all of which are bound into a little book in the cockpit. The pilot and co-pilot follow the lists confirming with each other that every task has been done. You can even download most airliner checklists from freechecklists.net and play along on your next flight.
Checklists aren’t just used by pilots of course. As Atul Gawande wrote in #1 best-selling book; The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, doctors and medical staff are applying checklists to their own work, and finding amazing results. Gawande is keen to share the results from one experiment where applying a checklist to a single set of procedures in an intensive care unit meant that,“The proportion of patients who didn’t receive the recommended care dropped from 70% to 4%, the occurrence of pneumonia fell by a quarter, and 21 fewer patients died than in the previous year. Researchers found that simply having the doctors and nurses in the ICU make their own checklists for what they thought should be done each day improved the consistency of care to the point that, within a few weeks, the average length of patient stay in intensive care dropped by half.”
The thing that strikes me is that these aren’t unskilled, untrained people. They’re highly experienced qualified doctors and pilots who are able to benefit from a simple list of things to do. It’s not so much a crutch, as a time-shift thought. Do your thinking in calmer times, and you can follow along more automatically when all hell is breaking loose.
Do Your Thinking Once
This is why I’m a great advocate of the checklist. In the mega-busy, pressurised world that we all know and love, being able to separate the thinking from the doing is a very good way of staying in control – and remaining sane. I challenge anyone not to be convinced about using checklists more often – and be better off for it.
And, the great thing is you can use checklists for anything. For busy
leader/managers, it’s an ideal approach to help you deal with the increasing volume and complexities of your role in the 21st century. Do your thinking once, and then entrust your busy present to your wiser and clearer thinking past. It is a simple and effective way of empowering people at all levels to put their knowledge to use, communicate at crucial points, and get things done. It’s an idea that totally checks out.
Are You A Busy Leader/Manager?
So, if you’re a busy leader/manager and find yourself spending far too long preparing for a ‘challenging conversation’ with one of your team members when their performance has gone off track, why don’t you access my checklist below that will help you gather the crucial information you need in order to lead and manage a conversation that focuses on achieving a positive outcome.
My checklist will take you through how to prepare to :
- Open the conversation and set the scene clearly – without saying the wrong thing and getting the conversation off on the wrong footing
- Give constructive feedback that keeps the conversation on track and helps to avoid emotions running high
- Have a number of vital assertive techniques at the ready to help you deal with emotional responses that threaten to de-rail the conversation
- Move the conversation towards a positive outcome