Validation for the Checklist!

While at the helm in many of the areas of my life, I have been chided for my constant use of lists – checklists to be more specific.  Okay, chided may be a bit harsh, but on more than one occasion it has been suggested that my behavior is a bit anally retentive which is basically being accused of being orderly, punctual, detailed, conscientious, etcetera – all good traits if practiced in moderation, right?

These traits have been a great help in my service to clients, management of teams and overall leadership of companies and I would have to say that the use of checklists or at least technology to create a checklist has been key to staying on track on not letting any of the details, whether big or small, slip through the cracks and go unnoticed.

This may all stem from my early days in business (I would call them my formative business years) when I bought into the Franklin Planner System (now Franklin Covey) and began to learn how to list all of the tasks that needed to be accomplished and then prioritizing those tasks with A, B or C depending on what should be done first – leaving the less important tasks to last as they would have the least impact if not completed.

Sort of like the story of the teacher demonstrating a point of how to squeeze more into your life or daily schedule (maybe this was a homework lesson).   You have probably all heard of the big rocks analogy about the order of things in our lives, but essentially it is this – if you start to fill your jar with the grains of sand and then the pebbles, and then the small stones and then the big rocks most of the big rocks will likely not fit.  The key is to put the big rocks in first, then fill the small stones and settle them down in, followed by the tiny pebbles and then the grains of sand.  You can even then pour water in and find still more room in the jar – hence the moral of the story is that if you prioritize things correctly there will always be a little more room for you to squeeze something else in.

So, why do I say validation for the checklist?  While listening to National Public Radio this week I heard a great article on Atul Gawande – Surgeon for Harvard Medical, Writer for The New Yorker, and now Author of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.  I listened in appreciation as he stated how even someone at the top of his profession can see a marked improvement by following a checklist of procedures to increase the success of any process.  Interestingly, he stated that many professionals do not want to use lists.  When asked why he thought why these professionals felt that having a checklist was not a good idea, he stated “Partly I think we have a hard time admitting weakness,” he says. “And one of the things we have to grapple with is that we have to assume we are fallible, even as experts.”

We all want our pilots to use their tried and true checklist before takeoff and landing, and surely our healthcare system can benefit from a checklist of proper procedures, so why can’t we all benefit from a checklist for the tasks that lay before us?  Whether at work or at home or in any facet of our lives – the checklist can be the gentle reminder to get things done.  Thanks Atul!

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