Great Advice for Process Implementation in Your Company

Process implementation is a necessity in any company. Set procedures standardize your operations and allow you to deliver your product consistently. Between one task and the next, they also help you and your teams ensure no one forgets the basic yet fundamental steps inherent in any procedure.

Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto (public library) presents a compelling case for using checklists in companies. He explains why procedures are so important, when you should use them and how to implement them. Throughout his book, Gawande provides useful advice on how to best work with checklists. He stresses the importance of formatting and how to present the content properly, for instance, which will help you get the most out of the processes at your company. The guidelines that Gawande describes will help you implement or improve upon your company’s processes.  

[Photo: Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash]

[Photo: Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash]

A Balancing Act

No, the real lesson is that under conditions of true complexity—where the knowledge required exceeds that of any individual and unpredictability reigns—efforts to dictate every step from the center will fail. People need room to act and adapt. Yet they cannot succeed as isolated individuals, either—that is anarchy. Instead, they require a seemingly contradictory mix of freedom and expectation—expectation to coordinate, for example, and also to measure progress toward common goals.

The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande

You will not be able to add every action in a company to a process. Because we work in complex environments,  including every single task is impossible and also not a good idea, as there must be plenty of room left for working with the unpredictable. Many different players interact in these environments, and they affect the work of one another. It is both not feasible and undesirable to try to script a large proportion of what occurs at work.

Therefore, processes should be a combination of both checklists as well as space for collaboration and thinking. They should take care of everything that must be done recurrently or automatically when a certain event occurs. Design them to ensure you do not omit any of the necessary basic steps to achieve the company’s objectives. But also allow room for analysis and communication.

[Photo: Jean Philippe Delberghe/Unsplash]

[Photo: Jean Philippe Delberghe/Unsplash]

Good Checklists and Bad Checklists

To learn more about how to assemble procedures, Gawande interviewed Dan Boorman, a veteran pilot at Boeing who specializes in assembling the company’s flight checklists.

All of Boeing’s aviation checklists—the company issues over one hundred per year, either new or revised—are put together meticulously. Boorman’s flight operations group is a checklist factory, and the experts in it have learned a thing or two over the years about how to make the lists work. There are good checklists and bad, Boorman explained. Bad checklists are vague and imprecise. They are too long; they are hard to use; they are impractical.

The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande

Long procedures can often be a problem, especially when considering a crucial operation within the company. If the procedure has too much content, it is less likely to be used. The opposite is also a problem: if your lists are not thorough or specific enough, they will not be helpful since they won’t have the necessary information.

Good checklists, on the other hand, are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything—a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps—the ones that even the highly skilled professionals using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.

The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande

Practical procedures should be easy to use without unnecessary text. When you and your teams are putting together the company’s checklists, it is always a good idea to revisit the first draft and take out superfluous wording or steps that are obvious. The lists are for trained professionals who know their discipline, and they are meant to provide reminders so that they do not overlook important steps. Establish a balance between setting out all the necessary steps and making the lists functional and practical.

[Photo: Bruno Abatti/Unsplash]

[Photo: Bruno Abatti/Unsplash]

Formatting and Adaptation

The wording should be simple and exact, Boorman went on, and use the familiar language of the profession. Even the look of the checklist matters. Ideally, it should fit on one page. It should be free of clutter and unnecessary colors. It should use both uppercase and lowercase text for ease of reading.

The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande

How the procedures are formatted is key: try to standardize them so that the user doesn’t waste any time trying to process anything other than the content. Each user should be able to find what he or she is looking for easily. Through trial and error, you can find what works best for your company. At our company, Celaque, we use a coding system to identify each procedure by department and type, uniform titles, and formatting guidelines. We also save each process in folders by user and department so that they are easy to identify and find. For more on how we format our processes, please read Configuring Processes to Gain More Efficient Results.

But Boorman was adamant about one further point: no matter how careful we might be, no matter how much thought we might put in, a checklist has to be tested in the real world, which is inevitably more complicated than expected. First drafts always fall apart, he said, and one needs to study how, make changes, and keep testing until the checklist works consistently.

The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande

This last point is one of the most important ones yet an easy one to miss. Checklists need to be tested to ensure they work. I have found that the only way to make sure a process works is to try it out in your company. Each organization is different, so adapt your procedures to your company’s reality. Even if the processes work, they should always be refined, adjusted, and improved as the company evolves.

Gawande, Atul. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. First Edition. Metropolitan Books, 2011. Hardcover


Pamela Ayuso is an author and the co-founder and CEO of Celaque. She is a real estate entrepreneur and developer who has executive leadership experience in two of the most successful real estate developers in Honduras — managing operations at Alianza and leading Celaque. Celaque develops office and residential buildings and manages a broad portfolio of properties. Pamela’s focus is on growing Celaque into a model for the 21st-century company.

In addition to her role as CEO at Celaque, Pamela is the author of Amazon best-selling book, Heptagram: The 7-Pillar Business Design System for the 21st Century. She offers practical business and personal development insights for other entrepreneurs and business leaders on her blog and LinkedIn. Her husband and her three wonderful daughters inspired the story of her first children’s book, Alicia and Bunnie Paint a Mural.       

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