Check your checklist

How often do we turn to a checklist to ensure that we have the right things done at the right time? I’m glad that pilots and co-pilots religiously follow their pre-flight checklists before taxiing for takeoff, aren’t you? In the project, and turnaround and routine maintenance program, environments checklists are, likewise, an excellent way to ensure that you have your bases covered for any process where a series of checks is necessary. Subject-matter experts (SMEs) can set up such checklists, get them approved by team leaders and management, and require team members to follow them. Spreadsheets are easily configured to help them manage these checklists. However, what’s missing, from a spreadsheet, is a way to audit how well a checklist was followed, should such an audit prove necessary, such as in the case of an unplanned incident, for example. Such an audit trail would be invaluable to a forensic analysis of events leaning to such an incident. Such an analysis, would, as in airplane incidents, lead to better checklists for use going forward, leading to non-repetition of unwanted incidents.

OK, so we know checklists are great. And that spreadsheet checklists, while easy to start, don’t deliver an audit trail. While there likely are plenty of ‘auditable checklists’ apps available (there’s an app for virtually anything, in 2017!), it would be useful if your checklist was completely, seamlessly and silently sewn into your project and program management solution. This would mean that, as your team member is busy completing their assignment, they would simply bounce to a checklist screen to see what remains to be done – and, if required, sign off that item or communicate with an associate about it.

Such a checklist should be attachable at any logical point in your solution and serve the purpose simply and unobtrusively.

As an example, in Maintenance environments, work orders are created, by Operations, to get work done on equipment assets in the plant or facility. Once these work orders are entered, or imported, into the planning and scheduling solution, each needs to be screened. Each company will have its own screening rules. One such set of rules for a ore-processing facility is shown here:

Each entry is time-stamped and the solution retains the team member’s signature (login). You can even set the checklist to remind you that it has not yet been completed, by having the system send you a ‘nag’ email or notification after a day.

Once the work order has been screened, it heads over to Planning for detailed estimating and planning, as the planner follows a Planning and Estimating Checklist! You can be sure that they will not be wasting precious time on working on something that has not passed the rigorous screening process.

In summary, if it is important that each team member does the ‘right thing’, then providing a simply way for each person to know what the ‘right thing’ is in a checklist is a great help. An added bonus is the silent (no place to hide!) audit trail that ensures that what needs to be done, is done and at the ‘right time’.

Checklists ensure that you succeed! Be on the lookout for ways to get these in the right place to leverage your team’s efforts.