My interest in general checklists above and beyond the detailed lab notebook began after reading The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, a surgeon and Harvard Professor (he also is the author of a New Yorker column on the same subject). The purpose of this book is to describe how a basic checklist can help us perform complex tasks consistently, correctly, and safely. Much of the book is told from the point of view of eliminating errors during surgery, but Gawande also draws on stories on how checklists have benefited those in construction, aviation, and investing.
Perhaps, we have a complete picture of leveraging checklists in such industries as aviation or manufacturing. However, how has this tool proved itself in a more complex workflow - software development? In fact, software teams that follow Agile methodology appreciate the implementation of lists as acceptance criteria solutions, definition of done, progress tracking tools, etc. Moreover, each separate development process has its own advantages.
Now when you go to the hospital, you can have several teams taking care of you. Nurses, nurse technicians, radiologists, dieticians, oncologists, cardiologists, and so on and so forth. All these people have the know-how to deliver top-notch healthcare, and yet studies show that failures are common, most often due to plain old ineptitude. For example, 30% of patients who suffer a stroke receive incomplete or inappropriate care from their doctors, as do 45% of patients with asthma, and 60% of patients with pneumonia.
We may not like to admit it, but many of us can describe a time when we’ve made a mistake during the progress of a study. These mistakes can range from mixing up wires or forgetting to turn on an amplifier to forgetting to collect an essential piece of information that either requires additional processing time or prevents you from analyzing a certain variable altogether. Increased computing power and technological advancements have also made it easier than ever to collect data.
Perhaps, we have a complete picture of leveraging checklists in such industries as aviation or manufacturing. However, how has this tool proved itself in a more complex workflow - software development? In fact, software teams that follow Agile methodology appreciate the implementation of lists as acceptance criteria solutions, definition of done, progress tracking tools, etc. Moreover, each separate development process has its own advantages.
‘Non-boldface’ checklists form part of the normal framework of ‘job aids’, which might also include mnemonics and other rote learning tools, task visibility, context-sensitive help functions, decision support and instruction manuals. Mnemonics (such as ‘ABC’ for ‘Airway, Breathing, Circulation’ in resuscitation), for example, are sometimes used to retrieve procedural items where participants are likely to be subject to high cognitive load; however, mnemonics are more critical in situations where there is no later access to a physical checklist for confirmation.
Checklists make it easy to delegate tasks if someone offers to help you. If you are lucky enough to have assistance, you can refer to your list and know what to ask them to do right away. You can even share your list with them and let them pick what appeals to them. The disadvantage to delegating in this way is losing control when other people choose what they want to do. If you are concerned about giving away easy tasks and getting stuck with the challenges, keep your list to yourself.
You can leverage checklists in various areas of life. Are you going to get married? There is a wedding checklist. Is a business trip coming up? A travel checklist will help. Other options include inspection, security, packing, invitation, moving, shopping, etc. Most things are like that,  your next or current project will definitely benefit from using this sort of process management tool.
Clinicians have long relied on an analogous form of decision support such as lists or algorithms for differential diagnosis. When a patient presentation is unusual (non-normal but not emergent), differential diagnosis lists (whether in old-fashioned textbooks or new-fashioned handhelds) support clinical performance by serving as a cognitive aid. The practice of reviewing a complete differential helps overcome anchoring and confirmation biases and can be a forcing function to ensure that every critical, and treatable aetiology is ‘ruled out’. Unlike non-normal checklists that are built into cockpit workflow, differential lists are often not well-integrated into clinical workflow and this may undermine their use.12
NO, I don’t. I call them “to do” lists. LOL! They’re very helpful, they keep me sane and keep stress away. For many years now, I keep a daily list prepped the night before; and a weekly list that’s prepped every Sunday. Keeps things smooth-sailing all the time. So at the end of the day, if all items are crashed-out (as in “done”!), I feel so good about myself. :)
×