How goals and projects fly using powerful tools.
Here is a paradox of thought. If you want a simple safe effective tool-make it complex! In this article I explore how complex systems can gain sustained success.
The most complex things sound to be the most items at risk of failure. Just try to juggle, sing and tap dance at the same time .The same applies to business and we often remind ourselves to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) a process or system.
Risk and reward
So why is it that most of us think nothing of boarding an airplane that will fly several miles in the sky at sub zero temperatures doing amazing speeds? At some levels we know that the airplane has been maintained, is looked after and is reliable. This gives us the confidence to board the flight and be more concerned about the menu at the hotel we are going to stay at than the fact we shall be traveling in a way that our bodies could not achieve without complex technology. Yet flying is possibly the most complex engineering item we interact with and have confidence in its systems.
The aviation industry has created trust, confidence and professionalism through many innovations. There is however a KISS principle used to create the robust performance from an exceptional complex system.
The extensive use of check lists for pre-flight, maintenance and during flights provides control and knowledge of the full operational system.
We can apply many lessons from creating robust check lists for many tasks. Within business I see physical actions such as machining, maintenance, warehousing, stock control etc may have good robust check list systems and yet in other areas such as projects, system administration, metric recording we see check lists less and less. Do you see this also at your business or business goals and KPI's? How about for your business intelligence project or your expansion of analytics use?
Examples of improvements
The improvements in performance, through extensive use of checklists has many reference points: Holland reduced death rates by 47% in operations since introduction of their use (see below video link to Atul Gawande). Microsoft recently made significant improvements to its Azure storage performance and scalability to clients through its simple check list.
Setting the correct stage for check lists
Check lists are often used for unfamiliar process's and are used as an educational tool. The use of check lists as a continual quality control process is less popular in an office environment, however remains very important. Leaders and managers may lack initial motivation to perform check lists as they are perceived as inefficient, redundant or lack added value. Employees may find the use of check lists as less creative to their process of work contribution. These attitudes and approach may provide short term benefits however the medium to long term consequences can prove costly to an organization through poor data, process change communication and preventative actions needed. These are important factors if you are seeking to make your business fly through improved results in business intelligence use and predictive analytics projects.
Dr Jim Taylor wrote an interesting article on his study of high performance athletes use superstitions and routines before they compete. Part of these rituals and routines are check lists but also mental preparation for high performance in their chosen field of excellence. Do you also have personal experience where a frequent task performed had a key step missing? It is a frustrating experience personally and also on a business level, one that can have costly impacts and consequences.
Create check lists that are clear, concise and visually pleasing. If possible have a "reward" note once the list has been completed. This can be a written statement of "Well done, let's move on" or a simple audible sound. This instant "reward" will act as a feeling of satisfaction and completion to the person using the check list.
- What project are you working on that requires a check list?
- Do you have old check lists that have not been used for a while? Go back and refresh them then see if it highlights some performance improvement areas.
- What are the key areas in project management or tasks that has variable performance. Could these benefit from a check list?
We see Hollywood movies where spacemen, pilots, rescue services, adventurers perform a check list before embarking on a high risk or serious endeavour. We see high performing sports people run through a ritual and checklist process before their competitive event. Why not embrace these leading examples more into the business environment and respect that their value will exceed the perceived time needed to perform the check.
Please send me any examples where you have found gaps missing in your need for check lists. Feel free to ask me at what point do we need check lists for the check lists! or any other view or point you wish to make. Let me know your experiences and challenges in this or other performance areas of your business.
For further reference take a peek at the below resources
- 4 step process for daily check lists
- Atul Gawande: The Power of Checklists in the medical industry
- A check list to evaluate which 3rd party logisitcs providers best suit your needs (link found from Steve Norrall)
- An article that includes a check list aimed for marketing operations. Metrics and Analytics
- For those still using Excel please see this short video with a tips on how to create a check list This is via Laura Patterson
- The SEAL's never go into battle without doing this first
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