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The power of a checklist

Would you get on a plane if the pilot didn’t go through the pre-flight checklist? Would you be happy for a surgeon to operate on you without using the checklist recommended by the World Health Organisation?

I didn’t think so – most people on the receiving end of an important service would prefer the person delivering the service to use checklists.

Checklists are very powerful. A simple five step hygiene checklist was tested in an Intensive Care Unit in 2001. The results were amazing – after 12 months the 10 day infection rate was down from 11% to 0% and after 15 months it had prevented 43 infections, 8 deaths and saved £1.3m in post infection costs.

Checklist is something every small business can use to grow and get a competitive advantage but it’s not to implement easy.
Many people (especially experienced) don’t like checklists because they don’t think they need them and/or they don’t like feeling controlled.

Here are some strategies to help implement checklists in your business.

- Share your company’s non-financial purpose so your team buy into your vision. Link the use of the checklist to the outcome you want to create in the world

- Explain that it’s not about the checklist; it’s about the culture of discipline and teamwork

- Remind yourself and your team that the most intelligent well trained people in the world, like surgeons and pilots, use checklists

- Start with key systems and grow the number of checklists

- Get your team to build the checklist

- Celebrate the impact of checklists

- Explain the cost of not using systems and how this impacts everyone financially and non-financially

- Make sure systems are available at the right time in the right place

If you’d like to find out more we recommend reading The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.