In The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right, author Atul Gawande reveals statistics that demonstrate the startling difference simple checklists make when employed across a variety of industries. Gawande, for example, explores how a simple five-step checklist reduced infections at one medical facility from 11 percent to zero (preventing dozens of infections and saving the medical facility $2 million over just a two year period). Additional checklists are shown to deliver even greater results.
IT pros, especially consultants, are well-served by checklists. Who'd have thought simple, low-tech forms could make such a difference? But they do.
How to implement checklists
Wherever your consultancy is struggling -- whether it's spending too much time deploying new desktops, forgetting specific steps for a particular client with unique needs, or failing to properly monitor remote servers for which it's responsible -- checklists can help. It only takes a few minutes to write a simple five-step checklist and implement it, but the dividends are significant and last as long as the checklist is maintained and used.
If you want to implement checklists within your organization and reap the numerous resulting advantages, follow these steps:
- Make the checklist. Write the steps in a simple Word document. It doesn't need to be fancy or win any graphic art awards; it just needs to list the steps necessary to properly complete a task, a routine, a process, or a job.
- Share the checklist. Place the checklist on a network drive and make sure staff can access it (use DropBox, network shares, or thumb drives, if necessary).
- Require compliance. Require employees to take a copy of the checklist when they go on client sites. If necessary, make technicians return completed copies, bearing their signature, when finishing projects.
- Update the checklist. As processes, tasks, and procedures change, update the document to ensure it's relevant.
Basic is better
You can only realize a checklist's benefits if you actually use it. So don't let a desire to create the world's prettiest checklist, or one with the fanciest artwork or most innovative design, slow the process. Default to simple black-and-white forms, complete with squares for checking off tasks as they're completed. Your office will miss fewer steps, reduce call backs, and become more efficient (which means your office needs less time to complete common tasks). All of this translates to increased client satisfaction.
Download TechRepublic checklists
I keep these TechRepublic checklists on the laptop that I take on site for field work:
- Desktop Migration Checklist (This is a TechRepublic Pro download.)
- The TechRepublic Spyware Removal Checklist
- The Ultimate Windows XP OS Preventive Maintenance Checklist (This is a TechRepublic Pro download.)
- Virus Prevention Checklist (This is a TechRepublic Pro download.)
TechRepublic offers additional checklists that are useful for IT consultants, including:
- An IT consultant's end of year checklist
- 10-point cleaning checklist for keeping equipment healthy
- 10 things that should be on your new-user checklist
- Troubleshooting Backup Routines Power Checklist (This is a TechRepublic Pro download.)
In the near future, I'll publish a checklist that IT consultants can use when they get a new client.Get weekly consulting tips in your inbox TechRepublic's IT Consultant newsletter, delivered each Monday, offers tips on how to attract customers, build your business, and increase your technical skills in order to get the job done. Automatically sign up today!
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.