Modern construction is a perfect example of how checklists can help us manage the complexity of modern life. In today’s complex and interdependent world, failure to communicate is the cause of most of our ineptitude. Different people or teams have different bits of knowledge to complete a project, but failure to communicate that information between the various groups and individuals can cause big-time breakdowns that lead to setbacks, or abject failure.
I started to brain storm other areas that checklists could be beneficial. In the construction industry, Gawande explains that checklists are used so that key points are discussed between those in different aspects of the building process. For research, are there things that you always need to talk about with other experimenters or your supervisor when it comes to a study? Maybe a checklist can help there too. Also, when editing manuscripts or proofs, you could have a structured set of points to assess such as, “check to make sure data in tables/figures is correct” or “make sure reference list is up to date”. These all seem so basic, but if taking the time to go over them and know that once you’ve handed in the manuscript that these things have definitely been checked, it could prevent you from having to submit an erratum due to something like an improper figure.
3. Decide if you need a “communication” checklist. Most checklists are likely procedural (they lay out things you need to do), but some tasks or projects are so complex that communicating with others becomes vital to managing all the moving pieces. In such a case, create a dedicated communication checklist and make sure it includes who needs to talk to whom, by when, and about what.
3. Checklists instill discipline. Checklists continue to play a vital role in aviation. Every time pilots and co-pilots take off and land, they verbally go through a checklist. A lot of what they review is of course the stupid simple stuff, but it’s important stupid simple stuff. When you’re responsible for the lives of 120 passengers, you have to have the discipline to make sure you do even the small things right. If there’s ever an incident in air, investigators will go back to see if the pilot and co-pilot went through the checklist. There’s no fudging with it. You either did it or you didn’t.
6. Saving lives: Checklists can literally save lives. When the U.S. Army Air Corps introduced the B-17 bomber during WWII an experienced aviator crashed the plane during its second demonstration flight. After this tragedy the Army required that pilots use a checklist before taking off. This is the same type of checklist we see pilots use today that helps to avoid crashes.