Checklists

The lesson for all of us to learn is the details matter. We can never cover the details enough.

In 1981 there was a movie starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner called "Body Heat." Turner’s character, Matty, is married to a wealthy man named Edmund Walker and Hurt's character Ned is her lover. Ned Racine is a criminal attorney, single and is having a hard time dealing with the Florida heat in the summer. One night he meets Matty at a local bar, and they start an affair. After falling in love, they plot together to murder Walker and as the plan goes, intending to live happily ever after. Ned seeks criminal and murderous advice from one of his former clients played by Mickey Rourke. Rourke's character—Teddy Lewis is stunned by Hurt's questions and plan: 

"I got a serious question for you: What the F are you doing? This is not stuff for you to be messin' with. Are you ready to hear something? I want you to see if this sounds familiar: any time you try a decent crime, you got fifty ways you're gonna F it up. If you think of twenty-five of them, then you're a genius... and you ain't no genius. You remember who told me that?"

The lesson for all of us to learn is the details matter. We can never cover the details enough. As Teddy Lewis proclaims, thinking of half of the problems places you in "genius" status and many of us are not "geniuses." So how can we improve our attention to the details?  

A simple strategy is to create checklists for everything we do. 

In the book, "The Checklist Manifesto" by Atul Gawande provides the reader with a solid case for using a short, concise list to steer processes towards teamwork, increased communication, as well as routine personal and professional audits. In his case study, by providing hospitals with a checklist for operations, the death rate drops between 30–50%. Each time we get on a plane, we hope the pilot has completed his series of checks and balances, and we are safe to fly. So why not take the same concept into our daily life?  

Start with two types of checklists to ensure your attention to the details. 

DO then CONFIRM—You do everything from memory. Then you stop and check off all the executed items on your checklist.

READ then DO— You carry out the task as you read. 

Gawande also believes that there must be a different checklist for various sections of the business and organization. For example, a head coach should have a game checklist, practice checklist an overall team checklist for each part of the operation. 

An effective checklist should be:

1. Practical

2. Concise

3. Between 5-9 items

4. 1-page maximum

5. Reviewed each week. 

Teddy Lewis ended up being correct; Ned Racine was no genius. Start with your checklist today, never ignoring the details. 


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