I’m a fan of using checklists to improve results. Checklists are powerful tools for jogging your memory, reducing stress, and sharing know how.
Fighter pilots use checklist effectively to eliminate task saturation, take away workload, and avoid forgetting something critical. Many businesses use checklists to train new hires as well as run everyday operations.
In the book Flawless Execution , James D. Murphy writes about how fighter pilots use checklists to get results.
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:
- Checklists help reduce task saturation. Task saturation is too much to do and not enough time. Checklists help you reduce task saturation.
- Checklists lower stress. Checklists minimize forgetting something. This relieves the stress of worrying about forgetting (especially when consequences are very bad).
- Checklists free the mind. You don’t have to waste your prefrontal cortex on mundane things. Basically, checklists free you up to worry about higher level issues.
- Normal procedures and emergency procedures. Pilots have two types of checklists: normal procedures and emergency procedures. The normal procedures are how to do everyday things. The emergency procedures are for life threatening situations. Pilots have very specific emergencies that are very well researched because lives depend on a fast and accurate response. Emergency checklists seem unlikely to be useful to most people since you’ll either have time to think or the emergency happens so fast you won’t be pulling out a checklist. It depends on the context.
Get Pilots Pointed in the Right Direction
Checklists turn experience into results. Murphy writes:
“I’m sure you’re familiar with checklists, but let me tell you how pilot’s configure theirs. For them, a checklist is a condensed portion of the flight manual — the standard operating procedures. It’s a memory jogger. It’s based on training, people’s experience, and the standard operating procedure of our company. It’s designed to get pilots pointed in the right direction by taking an action that pulls them through task saturation.”
How To Do Everyday Things
Normal procedure checklists step you through everyday things. Murphy writes:
“The normal procedures checklist is pretty straightforward. It’s how to do everyday things — how to start the engine, how to configure the aircraft for takeoff, the air-refueling checklist, the landing. … No matter how many times they’ve landed, they go through the pre-landing checklists because it takes away a big hunk of the workload and saves them the stress of forgetting something critical.”
Memory Joggers and Actions
Emergency procedures step you through life threatening situations. Murphy writes:
“The black-stripe pages are known as the emergency procedures section. This is the checklist that comes into play when the problems are life threatening. These are the one-liners that can be read in an instant. Pilots go right to a page that fits the problem and they see memory joggers and actions to solve the problem quickly.”
Checklists are an Absolute for Training
Checklists help you share best practices. Murphy writes:
“Training is an area where checklists are an absolute. Do you incorporate a checklist in the training of a new hire? When you’re training a new store associate, do you have them walk along with your favorite manager in the hope that they’ll pick up good habits? But is that person really learning the operating procedures of your store, or is he or she picking up the good (and possibly bad) habits of that person they’re training with.”
Photo by Kenneth Hynek.