Where’s your checklist?

Does this scenario sound familiar?
We recently had a spate of critical updates for a client going live, and in the fray our teams lost their composure and produced solutions that were sub-par. Our efforts to satisfy quickly were disastrous – we nailed the new functionality, but we missed simple things like tab order, security rites, and help files.

The sprint-end demos were awful, the mistakes and gaps were instantly obvious to everyone. Yes, we had jumped forward quickly to address our customer’s urgent needs – but we were forced to delay the release of our updates by one week while we crossed our T’s and dotted out I’s. It was a painful and sleepless week for many.

Create a checklist.
A few years back I read Dr. Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto (Amazon) and latched onto the idea of a checklist (I think we all did after reading it) and how they can be used to reduce errors. From the disaster I compiled a list of everything we missed, and used it to produce what I am now calling our “Pre-flight Checklist”. Here’s the curious thing though, after the disastrous demonstrations and mad scramble to get everything right, people are resisting the checklist!

Why resistance?
I see two possible reasons right now (I’m sure there are more)

  • Ego: Checklists can help us, but that means someone other than myself is calling the shots
  • Competition: The checklist is better than me, it can do my job, I don’t need a crutch I can do my job

Rather than thinking of a checklist as a crutch, I like to think of it more like a map. A map for everyone that has all the dangers highlighted, allowing everyone to achieve the same results no matter how hurried, tired, distracted we are.

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