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The Joy of Checklist

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When you think "checklist", what's the next word that comes to mind?

"Joy" isn't usually it. Here's why it was for me here this week (and should be more often elsewhere, too).

In many parts of my life, my decision-making and my process flow are not exactly linear. (This is the point at which I can hear my husband snicker ever so politely). Upside: my random path is often filled with creative adventures. Downside: if I'm also anxious for results, and concerned about wasting precious resources, a structured approach is my friend.

When I make decisions piloting an aircraft, I often have just two choices: Nose up, or nose down? Power on or power off? Left rudder or right rudder? If I guess, I have 50% odds of being right every time. But the consequences of guessing wrong are...um, pretty serious. A structured approach -- my checklist -- is not just a friend. It's a lifesaver.

Did you know? Pilots have not one but multiple checklists, for different tasks and parts of the flight.

Careful use of checklists let me give maximum attention to what's going on around me. I can anticipate the next thing I need to do in my flight plan. And, possibly most important: I have spare capacity to deal with the unexpected.

My checklist means that I can proceed to each step, from pre-flight and takeoff through climb, enroute, and that gossamer-smooth landing, with confidence that I haven't forgotten anything. I eliminate distractions.

That lets me take on a full range of situations, build skills and competence, and fly with confidence. And joy...which is what you see here.

When we're doing things with big consequences -- whether flying an airplane or pursuing federal government business opportunities, for example -- stakes are high and resources are finite. A checklist doesn't guarantee success. But it can drastically reduce failure!

In what part of your business is failure most costly?

How could a checklist help you?

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 10:25am

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