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ASQ’s recent video featuring the use of checklists for organizing grocery lists and improving shopping productivity has us thinking about how useful this quality tool really is.

“A checklist is a list of items required, things to be done, or points to be considered, used as a reminder. It is used so as to help one not to forget information or jobs meant to be done. It can also be referred to as a type of informational job aid used to reduce failure by compensating for potential limits of human memory and attention.”

We use checklists quite often.  However, while the checklists we use internally are comprehensive and part of our standardized internal processes, the “lighter side of quality” and its application in our personal lives is also worth mentioning.

Our favorite checklist sites for organizing everything from travel to finance includes:

You can even make your own checklist with little effort at all

Want to know more about why you need checklists and how to make good ones? Atul Gawande has written “The Checklist Manifesto” for just this purpose.

The book tells the story of a checklist to prevent common surgery mistakes, which Gawande created and implemented at the request of the World Health Organization (WHO). Gawande also shares what he learned from leading checklist makers and users in other industries – in particular airlines and construction, but also finance/investing, cooking, disaster recovery, and more.

In the process, Gawande makes a compelling case for checklists. Pick any industry, he says, and you’ll see “the same balls being dropped over and over, even by those with great ability and determination.” It’s a natural outcome of an increasingly complex world. Checklists help us combat these patterns of failures by:

  1. Making us smarter, more systematic decision-makers
  2. Creating a culture of discipline and teamwork
  3. Getting the dumb stuff out of the way

Tips for creating useful checklists include:

  • Keep it short and simple.
  • Focus on what’s important.
  • Evaluate how effective the checklist is once in use and incorporate continuous improvement efforts to fine-tune it.

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