The Gawande Method of Designing a Checklist
In The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, he gives advice on how to design a checklist. The main problem? It's buried within the text. So I took the liberty of creating a checklist of my own. Ah, so meta.
Identify the "Pause Point"
The first thing you have to decide is what the trigger will be for you to consult your checklist. Where you put it depends on whether you have a Do-Confirm checklist or a Read-Do checklist
- A Do-Confirm checklist mostly memory-based, and when you're finished, you consult your checklist to make sure you didn't miss anything.
- A Read-Do checklist is like a recipe. You consult it, do the step, consult it, and move on to the next step
The Rules of Thumb:
- No longer than 5-9 items. After 60-90 seconds, people start short-cutting and the checklist becomes a distraction.
- Focus on the "killer items." They're the most dangerous if missed but in spite of that they're sometimes overlooked.
- Language should be simple and precise.
- The checklist should fit on one page, free of distracting fonts and colors.
- Use a sans-serif font and standard typography. ALL CAPS DO NOT MAKE IT EASIER TO UNDERSTAND.
The Golden Rule:
You must field-test your checklist.
Use Your Checklists Religiously
"When surgeons make sure to wash their hands or talk to everyone on the team, they improve their outcomes with no increase in skill. That's what we're doing when we use the checklist." (emphasis mine)
Shanna Mann is kind of geeky about creating SOPs and checklists. She writes at Change Catalyst, and teaches clients to design systems from which to trust their instincts. No, the two are not mutually exclusive.