Checklists

Checklists! Do you make them?

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My dear friend Vijay, sent me a book by Dr. Atul Gawande, “Checklist Manifesto” and I read it right away. Dr. Gawande thought of the idea about the book, based on the errors/ mistakes that happen during surgeries. http://atulgawande.com/book/the-checklist-manifesto/

These errors are sometimes avoidable, or some steps are simply missed out. Then there are some issues/problems that may crop up unplanned, during or post-surgery. In our lives also, such things can happen. But in my experience, I have found that issues/problems can crop up also because “problem statements” are not defined correctly.

Dr. Gawande has also discussed examples from construction industry as well as aviation industry. As usual, everywhere when humans are involved actions, decisions and reactions become too individual. Different persons react differently to the same problem. Additionally, real experts in any field can have large egos and/or may be over confident, about their abilities to take “correct” steps or decisions than those suggested by others. This sometimes leads to disastrous situations. In surgery for example, in rare cases it does happen that wrong patient may come on the table, wrong side of the patient may get operated upon, left instead of right! Dr. Gawande felt that such and many other errors, mistakes are avoidable by introducing “Check Lists”.

How to define a Check List? A Check List, is a list of items required, things to be done, or points to be considered, are used as a reminder; this is to be checked in sequential manner. In anything and everything that we do, there can be a check list. What is the need for this, you may ask! It is needed or not needed based on one’s view point. I am an expert in my field, I have been doing this for ages, why do I need a check list? But we forget that this is not the only thing that we do in life. Sometimes we may be in a hurry, sometimes we may be doing a few additional things in parallel! Sometimes we may have some other important stuff going on in our mind. All this can lead to avoidable errors. Ok! Check List may not be cure all for all the problems in the world! But they do help.

During surgery, many a time, antibiotics are given to the patient. The correct time for it to be effective is sixty minutes before start of surgery. It can so happen that correct procedure is followed, and the antibiotic is given 60 minutes before the starting time of surgery. But Surgery can get delayed sometimes as previous one may not be over. 60 minutes can become 120 minutes! So, the checklist for giving antibiotics during & before Surgery says, ask this question before patient is given anesthesia! This means that patient is already on the table and chances of delay are minimal! 

In every situation Professional, Personal, home, office or for that matter anywhere, problems do crop up! Creating check list for anything and everything may not be necessary but can be useful. When we work, we do create our checklist for things to be done and how to do. We have our own methods. With computers and cell phones creating and managing check lists has become much easier.

I can tell you that in today’s times why check list is essential. Maybe in day to life checklist maybe same as to do list!  We are now expected to link our Aadhar card to Bank Accounts, Credit card Account, Cell phone numbers, Investments and so on!  It is mandatory to do so before 31st March. Linking these is not as easy as it sounds. So, making a check list for these makes sense. We have passports, licenses, paying the bills and many such things to do. Wont check lists help us tracking them?     

I will share an incident where not having proper check list, could have led to a disaster. A Boeing was flying on Toronto- Ottawa-Vancouver route. When it got down at Ottawa for quick check for the long-distance flight, dip stick was used to check fuel volume as an additional check since pilots had some doubts about instruments on board.  Thumbs up was given and flight took off. At approximately half the distance, the fuel alert indicators started buzzing for all tanks. The theory is that a plane can glide 16 times the height at which it is flying, without fuel. The pilot sent Mayday signal. They were flying at the height of 7 miles. Luckily, he was from the same area where this incident took place. He remembered an abandoned airport about 70 miles away. He took the clearance for landing and was cleared asap. It was a Sunday and at the airport some fun stuff was going on including car rallies. Suddenly, the guys below saw a huge plane coming in for landing. People ran helter-skelter and somehow moved out of the harms way. The expert pilot managed to land safely. Inquiry was conducted, and it was found that there was an error in using dipstick. Those were days when people were just switching from FPS to MKS system. Dipstick was FPS but people measuring thought that it was MKS, so they gave green signal to the flight. Hence the issues started at midway distance of the flight! Checklist about type of dip stick to use would have avoided this error.   

I feel that in life there are two types of lists, checklist and to do list. It is possible that we may swap these two lists in personal life. Check list is detailing of to do list. Or it could be doing certain procedure or following a process; we need to have a checklist. I have seen an accident almost happening in front of my eyes, while working in factory. An electrician was working on a 440-volt circuit. I asked the electrician, who was working on the issue, if he had followed the checklist. He said of course. He used a big screw driver to open a screw in the box; in an instant the screwdriver melted fully. Though he told me that he had followed the check list he had not done it. There is a simple check; when working on high voltage circuit, remove the fuses for that area and keep them in your pocket. This can avoid such incidents. The electrician almost got electrocuted.

Check lists followed are mainly for safety and to ensure quality of work. I am sure women know how to mentally use them during  cooking. Though cooking looks easy, it is the proportion of ingredients, timing, sequence, temperature and many variables that need to be checked all the time. Ladies look to do things automatically, but they do have their checklists.

Friends, in our day to day lives also, we have many things which we should follow. There are birthdays, anniversaries. Then there are marriages, opening ceremonies. There are events galore in our lives. There are deaths and funerals. Of course, we are busy with our work and family and our financial planning. So, it is a good idea to have to do lists/ cum checklists. All of these points may not be life threatening but they do have effect on relationships. Ultimately, series of mistakes and errors with same group of people can lead to catastrophic results. Try forgetting your wife’s  birthday for two consecutive years! You know what I mean!

Author: panvalkarpramod

I am an engineer by training and run my own business. I like to blog but do not yet get enough time.

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