Back in Week 48 I talked about the power of systems and how simple checklists for each and every task in your business can help tremendously with the entire service or product delivery process. This month in Fast Company Magazine, the authors of Made to Stick highlight some amazing benefits of a simple checklist - here's an excerpt:
The holy grail of checklists may be the one created by Dr. Peter Pronovost of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Intensive-care units (ICUs) often use intravenous lines to deliver medication, and these lines can become infected, causing nasty health complications. Pronovost, frustrated by these preventable events, compiled a five-step checklist.
The checklist contained straightforward advice: Doctors should wash their hands before inserting an IV, a patient's skin should be cleaned with antiseptic at the point of insertion, and so forth. There was no new science and nothing controversial--only the results were surprising.
When Michigan ICUs put the checklist into practice over a period of 18 months, line infections were virtually eliminated, saving the hospitals an estimated $175 million, because they no longer had to treat the associated complications. Oh, and it saved about 1,500 lives.
Amazing right? Simple right? The same Dr Provonost goes on to say:
People fear checklists because they see them as dehumanizing. Maybe that's because people associate them with the exhaustive lists that let random teenagers successfully run fast-food chains. They think if something is simple enough to be broken down into discrete steps, a monkey can do it. Well, if that's true, grab a pilot's checklist, and try your luck with a 767.
Even if you're sold on the value, beware checklist creep. A checklist doesn't mean huge binders full of obsessive and likely counterproductive ISO 9000-style process documentation. As Pronovost says, "One mistake I've seen in health care is that people will produce these 200-page process guidelines that nobody ever reads." You're not trying to create a high-resolution photograph of the status quo. In fact, if the status quo worked perfectly, you wouldn't need a checklist, you'd need a bonus.
Checklists simply make big screwups less likely. "We wanted people to standardize on the mission-critical elements--the areas where we have the strongest evidence," Pronovost says. "And these things that are mission critical, we've got to do them every time."
Where could your business benefit from a checklist?