Imagine what we could achieve in our businesses if we were able to spot potential problems in advance before they become catastrophic? Where we can detect problems ahead of time and solve them before losing too much money.
The costs and consequences of recalling faulty products from the market or the legal ramifications of failing to read the small prints on a contract or failing to pay taxes all can accumulate to millions, including the brand degradation associated with them.
In his book, Atul Gawande, a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School suggests that checklists can help most of us manage the extreme complexity of the modern world, regardless of the industries we operate in. He further states that in medicine, the problem is making sure they apply the knowledge they have consistently and correctly. He argues that failure or problems result not so much from ignorance (which is not knowing enough about what works, but from ineptitude (not properly applying what we know works). As a result, doctors often overlook or omit steps in the multitude of tasks they perform every day.
So, Atul Gawande introduced The Checklist Manifesto. For example, a five-point checklist implemented in 2001 virtually eradicated central line infections in the intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital, preventing an estimated 43 infections and eight deaths over 27 months. Gawande notes that when it was later tested in ICUs in Michigan, the checklist decreased infections by 66 percent within three months and probably saved more than 1,500 lives within a year and a half. So, whether running a hospital emergency room or running a fast-growing start-up, system failures or human errors are a perpetual risk.
While running a business might not be quite as dramatic as an open-heart surgery where an error may lead to the death of a patient, we still have to manage too many moving parts and complexities every day. Hence, it’s important to adopt the checklist manifesto.
I have seen many entrepreneurs get into serious trouble because they have neglected tasks like reporting tax, scanning and saving receipts, reading small prints before signing contracts or reviewing financials even if the accountant is responsible for preparing them. Remember, eventually you are accountable, regardless of who is responsible for these tasks. Sometimes you may forget to back up files or change passwords regularly for security purposes. While these may seem like tedious and small tasks, when overlooked over time they can lead to serious problems that ultimately impact your business. It is usually these small oversights that go undetected over time that come back to bite us.
So, it is critical that you write a checklist of all the things you need to do daily; the urgent and the important. Create a checklist that you and your team physically tick off for all the things you need to do daily, from when you come in the morning until you leave work. Some of the tasks may seem mundane at first but eventually they will benefit your business. For example, your checklist can include what to do when you get a new client, the basics you need to go over with a client so you don’t miss something or assume that their accountant or legal department has taken care of it.
Remember, repeated actions over time becomes habits and good habits lead to results.