The Surprising Power of (Project) Checklists

sssl_checklistInteresting (and life enhancing) project carried out by the World Health Organisation: Safe Surgery Saves Lives. Amazingly they found that the consistent use of a simple checklist lead to significant improvements across developing and (more surprisingly/shockingly) developed countries (see FAQ section):

“Q7: Does the Checklist apply to all settings? How does it impact developed and developing nations differently?

A: The most developed countries tend to have well established and codified guidelines for the process of care during the perioperative period, although these are often inconstantly applied. Other settings may lack clear guidelines and policies for directing the perioperative process. The guidelines and Checklist can help countries and facilities evaluate their own processes of care and improve surgical safety. Moreover, even in the developed world, there is variability in adhering to the six basic safety practices mentioned above.”

Checklists are a popular (and often derided) way of helping in the management of most projects. It’s probably true that the idea is basically fine, it’s just that if it’s ‘inconstantly applied’ (as politely described above) then errors will occur. Checklists obviously can’t take the place of thinking but can nevertheless be important reminders (if answered honestly).

“Q4. Don’t hospitals already use Checklists?

A: Many hospitals do already have checks in place, but their consistent use is dismayingly variable. Many developed settings perform a “Time Out” where the team confirms the patient identity, procedure, and site of operation. Teams are using this time to perform and expand briefing, but this has never been elaborated to the extent that the Safe Surgery Saves Lives project has done.”

Just replace hospital by company or organisation and patient operation by project…

Hopefully this change really ‘sticks’ whilst previously it obviously didn’t. Maybe something similarly fresh and invigorating would work for your projects?

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