How to Make a Simple Checklist a Powerful Tool

Last week, I told you about a book I just finished called The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Atul Gawande.  I read this book in one sitting.  It was so fascinating.  It’s all about how the simple idea of a checklist can take away the complexity of our lives and have a huge impact on how efficiently and safely we can accomplish tasks.  Atual Gawande is a doctor, so the majority of the examples and stories in the book are from the medical field and how adding checklists can literally save lives and reduce healthcare costs.  The idea of adding a checklist somewhere in your business is so simple, yet so powerful.   A larger discussion of what checklists can do for any business seemed appropriate.  So here goes …

On the surface, checklists seem overly simple.  As smart business owners, do we really need something as simple as a checklist to improve our overall business performance and better serve our clients?  We sure do!  If someone told me they had a tool that was simple for all my employees to use, yet ensured accuracy and consistency across our processes, I’d say, sign me up!  And the best part is … creating a checklist requires time, but it’s totally free.

So why are we so skeptical of checklists?  If they’re so effective and useful, why don’t we use them more often in business?  Why do we overcomplicate things or try to create fancy multi-colored flow charts in PowerPoint?  This is one of my favorite sections of the book found on page 177.  I think it sums up any checklist skepticism and also explains why checklists can be so effective:

“The fear people have about the idea of adherence to protocol is rigidity.  They imagine mindless automatons, heads down in a checklist, incapable of looking out their windshield and coping with the real world in front of them.  But what you find, when a checklist is well made, is exactly the opposite. The checklist gets the dumb stuff out of the way, the routines your brain shouldn’t have to occupy itself with (Are the elevator controls set?  Did the patient get her antibiotics on time?  Did the managers sell all their shares?  Is everyone on the same page here?), and lets it rise above to focus on the hard stuff …”

So basically, incorporating checklists into your business won’t give your employees a pass on thinking critically.  The opposite happens—once employees no longer have to worry about the many details of a simple process, they can actually work towards solving more complex problems.  Checklists provide a structure to complete simple, everyday tasks leaving our minds free to focus on more complicated matters.  But do they really work?

This week, my manager, Emily, created some checklists for all of our front desk associates to ensure they are never without a project during their time working in the studio.  I’m interested in learning the following:

  1. Did the checklists simplify any of our daily tasks?
  2. Did more work get accomplished?
  3. Did we sell more?
  4. Did we retain more clients?
  5. Did I hear any compliments from clients about my employees going above and beyond?
  6. Did the employee have a better understanding of what work to complete?
  7. Did the employee feel more empowered to help our clients?
  8. Did employees pick and choose which tasks to complete?  Why?
  9. Could the checklists be improved?
  10. Was anything missing from the checklists?

Since I employ several different personality-types in the front desk associate role, I’m very curious to see if we will need to create individual checklists or if we can create something that works well for everyone.  I’ll give it a few weeks and report back.  In the meantime, start thinking about how you can incorporate checklists into your business.

The best businesses solve problems that matter—have you ever thought about whether solving a problem that’s been holding you back, could help your clients?  On Thursday, I’ll discuss just that:  how solving my own problems with consistently working out and eating healthy led to some big changes at my studios.

On Friday, I’ll share my newest life hack—how to make a smoothie without bananas or avocados.  I am allergic to bananas and avocados, which makes smoothie consumption pretty difficult—but I finally figured out how to substitute those elusive fruits and now feel like I’m winning at life—or at least breakfast.

Until then, stay on your toes!

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Atul Gawande

 

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