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2 March 2011

Checklists are good

Army Guard Father, Son Fly TogetherIn recent months I've been making the recommendation to people to improve the quality of their through the use of checklists.  Checklists are useful for a number of reasons.

In the first instance checklists help us be complete and help us avoid mistakes of omission.  Our work is complex and we are often working under the pressure of tight deadlines or dealing with many concurrent parcels of work.  In these circumstances the complexity of our situation can present many many opportunities to make mistakes.  In this scenario checklists help us ensure we cover the basics and make sure we handle the basics effectively.

Taking this one step further, and filling in a checklist on a form, and even better - verbally running through it with a colleague - elevates the quality of the checklist because your peer or reviewer can help you by challenging you and keeping you focused (a little like a deadline.)

And thirdly, the act of creating a checklist - or improving an existing one - is great because to create one you need to research and learn from your peers in the industry.  If you as an individual or as a group of team mates construct a checklist, you have researched, formed opinions, evaluated alternative ideas and then made judgments about what is appropriate to your situation.

So, having gone through the act of giving this advice so many times recently I discovered The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande.

(I haven't read it yet, but it's in the backlog.  Right behind Capers Jones Applied Software Measurement and Jurgen Appello's Management 3.0.)