The checklist manifesto in project management

The book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande has become a global phenomenon – a top ten on the New York Times bestseller list and number seventeen in the most popular books bought on

This is somewhat surprising given that its fundamental understanding seems so logical: compiling simple checklists and going through them before an activity occurs reduces errors and yields better results.

In the book, Mr. Gawande draws on his own experience as a surgeon to demonstrate how often small errors and omissions can have disastrous (and sometimes fatal) consequences, and shows how the use of checklists can not only reduce these incidents, but also almost wipe out. while improving the overall result.

Could the lesson about the importance of checklists, first learned the hard way in aviation and most recently in medicine, benefit project management?

The answer to this question is an overwhelming yes.

In the medical context, hospitals that have introduced the practice of surgical teams meeting before surgery to make sure they all know what to do and are well prepared have seen benefits in reducing errors and cost savings with reduced need for aftercare. At a hospital mentioned in the book, two years after the introduction of a simple checklist in the Intensive Care Unit, it was calculated to have prevented 43 infections and 8 deaths and saved the hospital in the region of $ 2 million.

Viewed from a project management perspective, this practice corresponds to:

  • The project team and all stakeholders understand and fully agree on their roles, responsibilities and responsibilities
  • The project plan or work schedule is reviewed in advance and agreed by all parties involved in its completion
  • All regular meetings during the course of the project are strict and consistent in handling agenda items
  • Activities designed to achieve a specific goal during the project lifecycle (such as the delivery of specific project products, board / end stage meetings, or the procurement of third-party services) are broken down into a granular level that ensures that all necessary tasks are performed. explicit, understood and assigned ownership

Research has shown that poor planning at the start of projects, weak execution during the life cycle and a lack of understanding of the requirements of their role on the part of project teams are the main causes of project failure, so it is easy see how some form of a checklist-based approach would bring benefits and reduce time and cost overruns.

Ace The Checklist Manifesto makes it clear that it is often not just the new or inexperienced people who should use checklists, but also the most knowledgeable, as over time it is all too easy for experts to tackle tasks that are perceived as minor or mundane. forget, ignore or ignore it. However, when these types of basic activities are not completed or slip, the knock-on effects can be disastrous for successful completion of the project within the agreed time, cost, scope and quality.

A simple and common example of this problem is the failure of the project teams to provide decision makers and stakeholders with the necessary information in the correct format to obtain the approvals needed to move the project forward. The result is delay because the correct information is being collected.

The Checklist Manifesto admits there may be resistance to adopting the approach – the use of checklists can be seen as a bureaucratic imposition or undermining the importance of a role. It can also be seen as a confession of weakness by the expert who feels that his knowledge and experience is too deep and broad to be reduced to items on a list. The book also notes that many people have a romantic view of their work: they would like to see themselves as the odd one out, the person who acts intuitively and gets results by not doing things by the book.

To overcome these perceptions it is only necessary to admit that we are all human; we all make mistakes and cannot achieve what we wanted to achieve. In times of crisis, it is sticking to the process that gets results instead of letting go and doing your own thing. Looking from a higher level, the benefits of the checklist approach are so obvious and so great that no meaningful case can be made against it.

In terms of project management, the kind of objections The Checklist Manifesto details can also be addressed by encouraging the experts to share their knowledge and act as recognized and recognized coaches and mentors for their less experienced colleagues.

Introducing the checklist approach to a company sounds easy, but ensuring consistency across all projects in a portfolio or program while maintaining control and proper governance poses some challenges. Using a checklist approach as a means of sharing knowledge and best practices adds an extra level of complexity.

With TOMA’s product, Coreca, companies can create checklist-driven models that can be configured for:

  • All tasks in a project – if necessary aligned with a standard project methodology such as PRINCE2
  • Specific tasks – to manage elements within a project, such as change control or post-project review
  • Specific results – to ensure and assure the quality of specific project products such as Business Cases or Project Initiation Documents

Tasks in a model are linked to specific outputs and tailored to a specific role.

Once the master templates are in place, they can be used as needed. When creating an instance of a model, a project team is assigned to each of the required roles, giving each member visibility of all the actions required of them through their own workspace.

Coreca’s unique knowledge-sharing features enable users to add tips and guidance to tasks and their output, meaning future users have access to gathered knowledge and best practices in the context and at the point where it is most useful to them.

Coreca can be operational within a few days and delivers tangible benefits within a few weeks.