For 12 years, I’ve had an ad on my desk that says “Are you afraid to think?” to push myself to consider new points of view, new ways of doing things, new possibilities, rather than sticking with only what I know. When I read Heroic Checklist in Fast Company, it reminded me of this ad. Why?
As described, people think that checklists are “basic”, “routine”, and “dull”. I would have said the same. And, while I loved the stats that Chip and Dan cite, like:
When Michigan ICUs put the checklist into practice over a period of 18 months…[snip] saving the hospitals an estimated $175 million…[snip] Oh, and it saved about 1,500 lives.
…what this article made me realize is that checklists actually free you to think. You no longer spend your time remembering steps, but rather noticing what is happening around the steps in your specific situation. Following a checklist does not make you dull or routine, it presents you with time and freedom that can be used for knowledge work — where you are more valuable.
TIP: The authors of this article are Chip and Dan Heath, who wrote Made to Stick, which I’ve blogged on already. While I find Fast Company to be a top quality magazine, generally, I’d subscribe to Fast Company for their column alone. It is that good.
Let me give you a checklist example close to my heart right now. Last year, I did my first Half Iron triathlon. I had a flat. I started to fix it and realized that I was too anxious to remember all the steps quickly. I ran my bike back to the start. While the official race saviors fixed my flat, a woman told me that she puts a checklist in her flat pack. Honestly, at the time, I thought, “Isn’t that cute? I don’t need no stinkin’ checklist. I just need more experience.”
Now, as I face my first IronMan (t-10 days and counting), a checklist for a flat is what I want in my flat pack. I know I can change the flat, but I need to pay attention to details to do it quickly and notice any issues that could cause problems later. I don’t need to spend time second guessing if I put air in the tube before or after putting it in the tire. I do need to notice if the tire is not seated correctly. A checklist would free me to think, rather than remember. Brilliant!
Based on the recent launch of a cool ad campaign of Holiday Inn Express (take a quiz and possibly win a free shirt that express your breakfast identity — powered by Spreadshirt), I recommended a “shop launch checklist” to our sales team. Nothing went wrong with the launch that prompted this, but I saw it could have been easier on the team. Creating multiple shops (for free t winners and non-winners) — each with many details and the strenuous tracking requirements of a contest — would have been easier if the team could have only focused where their thinking would add value, rather than the dull routine work of remembering when to dot an i and cross a t.
So, what is on my shirt today?
humbled by simplicity
A special request for my friends and family:
In 10 days, Evan and I are attempting our first IronMan. There is a terrific report written by an IMBrazil 2007 finisher that covers how lonely this course is. I wondered how we could take the spirit of you with us, and I had an idea. You know I’m addicted to personalized shirts now, as I love this form of expression. I’m asking that you to go to the Spreadshirt Designer, design a shirt that would inspire you (a quote, a graphic, a saying, one word), order it, take your picture in it, and email me the pic. We’ll take them with us on the 112 mile bike ride for when we need a boost. For free standard shipping, enter goeggers as the coupon during check out. You should order by Sunday to get the shirt in time. If you can and want to do this, thanks for giving us this special boost for the tough miles!
[For my EU friends, by late morning, goeggers will also work for free standard shipping in the EU Spreadshirt Designer. The .com coupon works now.]