How to do things right

In info age, you are flooded with know-how; why then frequent failures? In healthcare, government, law, or recent episodes in financial industry.
It seems you do not have enough ability to manage the volume and complexity of knowledge. You are not able to do it consistently, or correctly.

Whether building skyscrapers or flying sophisticated planes; medicine or investment banking, cooking, or for that reason all kinds of professions – you need checklist for doing thing right, consistently and correctly.

In construction projects of long duration have succeeded using checklist; or, surgery to be completed in minutes.

Checklists are used effectively everywhere.

Pilots have met challenges of aviation, with checklist.
When you get on a Boeing aircraft, cockpit crews follow Boeing’s ‘flight philosophy’. Their routines, use of automation, manual operations, or emergency procedures – are governed by checklists.
As a matter of fact, the aviation checklist was evolved since the days of a single card for taxi, takeoff, and landing.
Today, there are checklists to cover wide range of flight scenarios.

Manufacturing plant – you have checklists for Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, instrumentation (Civil, MEI) erection; and then for commissioning, and startup activities. Checklists help to maintain Time, Quality, Costs (TQC), and Risks.

Cooking – celebrity chefs are making news!
How do they do things right?
Recipe is their checklist. Chef makes sure that staff follows the recipe. Staff tries to skip few steps – they have made this dish number of times by now. And, this is how lapses are made n mistakes committed.
A good chef assures that Recipe in transparent sleeves is visible to staff.

During epidemic of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in Singapore (year 2003), all citizens were educated through various media for measuring body temperature, washing hands thoroughly, or food hygiene.

It reminds me of an experiment conducted in a town near Karachi in Pakistan.
To control diseases, people were advised to use soaps.
Washing of hands after going to Toilet, is well accepted practice in South Asia.
However, important was to educate people on frequency of washing.
They were told to wash hands not only after toilet, but before and after food, cleaning the child, cooking, etc.
Checklists are useful in such situations. It is a reminder, for not forgetting.
Checklists were effective in situations both in Singapore or Pakistan.

Real life cases are reported of saving lives or mitigating the risks in medical surgery – thanks to checklists. You cannot run at last minute in operation theater for sudden requirement of additional quantity of blood or accidental power failure.
Checklists ask you to prepare and ensure for all critical items in place.

In every team, whether in medical field or other industries, there are members with different level of discipline – cannot rely on human nature.
You should have checklist for doing things right consistently.

Checklists can have many formats to suit industry or individual styles.
To Do List
Do Not Forget

An event planner has good experience of following the checklist.

In Asian countries, it is an observed weakness for lack of documentation. It is all stored in head of the leader. So, when she/he leaves the company, everything goes with her/him. And, the newcomer will have her/his own ways of doing things. Consistency is lost.

Whereas, in Western part of the world, it is a good habit of documentation. There are checklists for construction, erection, commissioning, and start-up for a project. They also have similar To Do Lists for maintenance. I remember there was a labor strike in Korean port, and one of our equipment was delayed excessively. European erectors were not ready to come during Christmas holidays. Asking Asian managers to do the job was risky – they know ‘’everything’’. No need to follow the detailed checklist. It will delay the completion. They know the short-cuts. This is dangerous!

Thanks to IT evolutions – now, there are software solutions available for managing the checklists. Online delegation and monitoring/follow up of tasks delegated can now be done.

So, Do the Right Things.

Suresh Shah, Managing Director, Pathfinders Enterprise

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