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Did I forget my coffee?

In the modern world we live in, each job is complex and requires a lot of things to be readily available or completed before starting, during and/or after the task. That is where a checklist comes in.

The checklist started after an air corp’s chief of flight-testing pilot forgot something and crashed the plane after take-off. When this happened the other pilots realised that it was stressful getting a plane to take off and that the stress made it difficult to remember everything that needed to be done. If even a seasoned pilot could forget something before take-off, what about themselves? Therefore, they created a list of things to check before proceeding to get the plane off the ground and this became the standard of aeronautics.

Who uses a Checklist?

Who uses a checklist besides pilots? Surgeons, machine operators, military officers and construction workers. What do they have in common that they need a checklist? The jobs that they do are hazardous to an extent that if they forget something, they could cause fatality or injury to themselves or someone else. In the case of the surgeon, it’s the patient. Military officers, it’s their subordinates.

Machine operators and construction workers, it’s themselves or their colleagues.

While there are checklists for small groups or individuals, there are also checklist used for the management of hundred to tens of thousands of people.

In construction a checklist is used to manage the activities of 10 to a hundred companies. The checklist may be mainly used by the top managers of a project and the developers, but copies of it are used by the subcontractors to minimise conflict. Imagine constructing a beam to support the building mall, then consider the electrical cables, the air ducts, the water pipes, sewage pipe, internet wires, telephone wiring and cooking gas. Do they go through the beam or below the beam? If they go below the beam will the ceiling height be affected? Will the pressure of the water drop? Sewage pipes cannot be designed to go up and down, the pipes will get stuck. A checklist of the activities of each day is generated and if delays crop up during the work, changes are made to prevent from going beyond the deadline of when the project should be completed.

Then we come to a far larger and more important checklist. Natural disasters can affect a lot of people. Imagine an earthquake, flooding, forest fire, volcano eruption or hurricane. People get hurt or killed when these natural disasters occur. One of the top prioritises in the checklist should be communication. When hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans. Tens of thousands of people were not rescued when the city was flooded even though the country had all the manpower, equipment and vehicles. This was because the hurricane damaged telephone communications. So, emails were being used to communicate of the devastation of the disaster. The people responsible for taking the necessary actions were not reading their emails when it was being communicated. This resulted in people suffering from hunger or thirst when the rescues were delayed. The Bush government were heavily criticised for the mismanagement. Checklists need to be drawn up to manage such disasters.

The Uncomfortable Truth

Th uncomfortable truth is we humans are flawed decision-makers with unreliable memories. Forgetting even some of the most basic things. Therefore, a checklist would help reduce the error in your work. Now I hope you are not so forgetful that you need a checklist to remind yourself to make coffee this morning.

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