1) Checklists work

Neil Armstrong’s lunar footprint is the ultimate evidence of the effectiveness of checklists. Right down to the final seconds, NASA launches run on checklists. 35 seconds and counting, second stage tanks now pressurised, T minus 15 seconds guidance is internal, T minus 10 ignition sequence starts, 6, 5, 4, 3… – you know the rest.

2) Checklists dramatically reduce error

But NASA isn’t the only organisation to recognise the benefits of checklists. In the time critical and intense environment of hospital intensive care units, life depends on separate teams carrying out multiple and separate processes in exactly the right sequence. Checklists have been shown to reduce deaths through complications by as much as one third.

3) Checklists clearly allocate responsibility

You’ll know the business epigram about everybody, somebody, nobody, anybody and the failed task. Anybody could have done it, but nobody did it because everybody thought somebody would do it. Often under pressure it’s the simplest task that, because of its very simplicity, is overlooked. A checklist with clearly allocated responsibilities stops this from happening.

4) Checklists identify problems early on

In cross-functional groups, it’s all too easy to carry on with “your” bit of the task even though something has gone wrong somewhere else. The multi-million dollar Hubble telescope initially failed because the wrong sized 20 cents washer was used. The error was ignored because people further down the chain knew they were doing their job properly and assumed previous readings were incorrect.

5 ways to make checklists work for you:

1) Don’t dismiss checklists because they seem simple

People object to checklists as mere recipes creating an additional admin burden, or too simplistic to be valuable. As experience in intensive care has shown, properly implemented, they’re neither.

2) Do fully understand the task.

Take the time to analyse the task and break it down into its essential steps. Not as easy as it sounds. You know how to tie shoelaces for example, but try writing a checklist that would explain how to do it to a complete novice.

3) Do understand your user

It’s no good expecting someone to do something that doesn’t fit with their worldview, or concentrate on two processes at once just because it suits your plan. Keep every task appropriate and sequential.

4) Do work out where you can create out-loops

Look to where you can create external sub loops that can feed back into the main process. For example you can create a sub-checklist for shoelace tying, because it is clear when the task is finished and ticked off. In relocation this is particularly useful for outsourcing skilled help outside your core businesses processes such as expense management.

5) Do look for transactional compression opportunities.

Finding processes that, whilst appearing different, can be implemented through essentially the same structure both reduces risk and saves time and money. Nature is brilliant at this; all mammals from the blue whale to field mice share the same amended skeletal structure.

Start today and start with the simple

Even though we firmly believe all relocation processes can be check-listed, issues like immigration can seem so complex that the whole process ends up in the box marked “too difficult”. So start with the more obviously transactional stuff involving costs, which, as it is more rules-based, is much more amenable to checklist processing. Perhaps you could start by making a checklist of how you’re going to do it.