“I don’t need these stupid checklists… because I know this stuff already.”

Simon Beechinor Inspection management, Safety data, Safety management 0 Comments

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Do I really need this stupid checklist, Boss?

You may think that you don’t need to use checklists because you already know what to do or because you’ve done it a hundred times before. But even though you may have done so yourself or you’ve told other people what to do, it’s only human nature to make mistakes or to try and take short-cuts. Those mistakes or short-cuts could hurt your operations in many ways and cost you money.

We know it takes time to create and then use checklists properly, but when there is a repeatable set of procedures, the time saving over the longer term far outweighs any cost. If we don’t have a written checklist that is to be followed on every occasion, sooner or later you’ll suffer inconsistency, operational failure and poor customer service. That’s a fact.

When such failures do occur the root cause then exists between ignorance or ineptitude. Our ignorance is, arguably, forgivable when our mistakes are caused from a lack of knowledge. We cannot be expected to do better when we don’t know better. But ineptitude, however, is a different matter. With ineptitude, the knowledge clearly exists and we know it, yet we fail to apply that knowledge correctly.

This argument applies to everyone in any sector and it doesn’t matter if you’re an airline pilot, shop-floor worker, steel-worker or medical surgeon – the argument remains the same.

Checklists are designed to limit the impact of our ignorance or ineptitude. Ineptitude, like ignorance, is not a permanent attribute. It is a momentary state and can occur for many reasons, most importantly for very human reasons. The distractions, beliefs and stresses of modern life could almost excuse our ineptitude or ignorance, except for the real consequences of those mistakes.

If you still think that you don’t need checklist we’d love to hear from you!

Help! If anyone else knows how to do this, I can be replaced!

Simon Beechinor Inspection management, Safety data, Safety management 0 Comments

No blog series on checklists can be complete without addressing the resistance that some (many?) people will have to using them. It’s one thing for you to be convinced of the merits of checklists, but if your colleagues don’t think they’re a clever idea, then you’re going to have a struggle on your hands.

We need to look at some of the most common excuses that people give, and it’s good to remember that some of those excuses will ALWAYS remain unspoken. Even if our checklist is clearly needed and well-designed so it meets that need, there can still be considerable resistance to its use.

Implementing innovative ideas is always challenging but you’re going to have to overcome all the objections to their use. In this blog, we discuss the most common objections, the first of which is “If anyone else knows how I do this task, I can be replaced.” This concern will rarely be voiced and will remain unspoken, so it’s important to understand that it’s probably the most powerful objection of them all.

It’s quite common in any organisation for an employee to worry that if they share too much knowledge or information, then they’ll lose status, influence or even their job. A special status goes with being the only one who knows how to do something. People can worry that if their job is seen to be easy when the checklist is introduced, then a cheaper person could do it with obvious implications for their own position.

In a situation where someone is having difficulty sharing their special knowledge, it can be good practice to reassure them that good employees aren’t easily replaced. Employees are usually valuable for more than one set of skills or knowledge. While it can be useful for them to develop knowledge in a substantive area, simply having that knowledge without any other features of a good employee will not protect their job.

If more people can be taught how to complete a task then that task can be accomplished no matter who is there to do it. This can free up the so-called ‘go-to’ person or others to do more challenging work that is perhaps more in line with their career ambition or interests. It can also help them to take time off or go on leave without worrying that their ‘in-tray’ will be a metre deep upon their return. Ultimately however, you’re going to have to explain that it’s unacceptable to maintain a situation where only one person knows how to do something or where only one person can know the status of a task or project. If the ‘go-to’ person can’t or won’t accept that, then it’s going to become a clash of wills that can only have one outcome. In which case, THEN they’re going to need to draw their own conclusions about their long-term prospects.

We’ll look at other objections in our following blogs, but in the meantime it’d be great if you would share your own experiences with us…

‘Experts’ are sometimes the biggest obstacle…

Simon Beechinor Inspection management, Safety data, Safety management 0 Comments

Certainty Software Industry

‘Certainty Software’ can be used in any industry

Sure, there are some disadvantages to using checklists which we’ve touched on in the preceding blogs. But the far biggest obstacle to their successful implementation is the ‘expert’ who’s offended at the thought of ever needing a checklist. That ‘expert’ can be anyone in the organisation. The expert will give any number of reasons checklists are a waste of time but none of those reasons really stand up to scrutiny.

The use of a checklist WILL help improve efficiency by minimising mistakes. Checklists provide a written trail detailing what’s been done at every stage of a project. Checklists can be created and used on paper or online. They are as good for making time-critical decisions as they are for methodically going through a step-by-step procedure. They work equally well in any industry or field that requires a process— from hotel management, education, manufacturing and auto repair to the practice of medicine, aviation, oil, gas and the shipping industries.

The ideal checklist should be precise, efficient, easy to use in any situation and straight to the point. All the items on a good checklist should be actionable and grouped by category. You can get started easily and create a checklist quickly and simply yourself by using WORD or other software. In WORD, for example, you can create two kinds of checklists:

  • Lists with check boxes or check marks instead of bullets or numbers. Use boxes if you plan to print the list, for example, and check off each item you complete, or
  • Lists you can check off in Word. This involves adding a content control from the Developer tab, but you don’t need to be a developer to do it.

Just check out the Microsoft support page here:

If you’re still not sure if a checklist will improve the performance results of your current or future projects, just have a think about the different purposes they can have.

  • Step-by-step Procedures: Checklists that take a person through a complex procedure to minimise errors.
  • Verification and Inspection: Checklists allow someone to check that a task has been done correctly for inspection purposes.
  • Evaluation: Checklists allow the user to assess a person or a product. For example, whether someone is a good match for a job or whether a product has all the required components.
  • Troubleshooting: Checklists can be used for finding a technical or mechanical error when it lists ways to troubleshoot common problems.
  • Observation: Checklists delineate a set of possible behaviors an observer can check off when trying to understand an individual’s performance.

So, if you still think checklists don’t work or are a waste of time, please be sure to let us know and we’ll see if we can help persuade you otherwise.

Checklists don’t work….do they?

Simon Beechinor Inspection management, Safety data, Safety management 0 Comments

1 – Because everyone already knows what we need to do!

You may think that everyone knows that to do because they’ve done it a hundred times before. But even though we’ve told them what to do, people often don’t listen and frequently try and take short-cuts. Those short-cuts could hurt your operations in many ways and cost you money.  We know it takes time to create and then use checklists properly, but when there is a repeatable set of procedures, the time saving over the longer term far outweighs any cost. If we don’t have a written checklist that is to be followed on every occasion we’ll suffer inconsistency, operational failure and poor customer service. That’s a fact.

2 – Because the checklist is on scraps of paper

Dog-eared bits of old paper or ‘post-it’ notes stuck to desks just look awful so don’t expect them to be used! Checklists should be vital components in our businesses. They’re needed so you and your staff can provide a consistently repeatable service each time. When they’re used well, somebody who knows nothing about your business could undertake the task just by following your checklists – and that saves the business time and money.

3 – Because the checklist items have no time-frame

Performing a basic task such as sending a welcome letter to new clients a week after they’ve joined you, or maybe not if you don’t remember, is NOT a good advert for your business. Perhaps there are legal requirements in your industry to action certain items within specified time-frames. When creating checklists, work out exactly when each task needs to be done and set specific time-frames for completion. We suggest doing this by way of ‘offset’ rather than date. For example, on Day One a welcome letter is to be sent. On Day One plus 1, an email requesting the client’s account information is sent. On Day One plus 5, a chaser for any outstanding information is sent.

4 – Because the checklist has no reminders to act

It’s all very well having a checklist but if you forget to revisit it nothing is going to happen. Paper records and diary notes to chase something up just overwhelm people and are easily overlooked altogether. Set reminders, preferably using a tool like ‘Certainty Software’ that requires no action on your part to initiate the alert, for each task on your checklist to ensure it is done and on time.

5 – Because the checklist is incomplete

Tasks that should be completed in a sequenced process need to be recorded. Missing a crucial step because it wasn’t listed is inexcusable! Ensure every step is recorded and ensure your checklists are updated when you devise new or improved ways of managing processes.

6 – Because the checklist isn’t always completed

We all get distracted by email, phone calls or by personal callers. We usually don’t mean to fail to do something, but things do get missed and those missed tasks could be important. We tend to justify behaviours to ourselves with remarks like “in this case it doesn’t matter” or “the Client will understand” but we should never allow ourselves to miss items. For a business to work brilliantly you must be consistent. If you find yourself taking shortcuts, revisit the checklist and decide whether any of the items are not required. If they’re not needed then remove them. But if you can’t remove an item then clearly it is essential they are completed!

7 – Because the checklist gets ignored when too busy

Checklists must be aids rather than an inconvenience. We all get busy and shortcuts can get taken. If people think they can ‘get away with it’ or see something as unimportant they will very often try to ignore it. It’s important to make checklists a vital and essential part of a business. If checklists are time-savers and aids rather than ‘jobs to do’ in themselves, they will be embraced and make your business run much more smoothly.

8 – Because there’s no accountability for completing the checklist

If there’s nobody assigned to undertake any specific tasks on a checklist then there is no accountability for its completion. And then the task just doesn’t get completed! Everyone needs to know the extent of their responsibility and by using checklists as guidelines everyone understands their tasks and what to do. If there are tasks that must be completed by certain individuals then those jobs must be assigned to them and steps taken to ensure the completion of those tasks. If they’re not completed, the person responsible must know that they will be held to account.

9 – Because the checklist isn’t monitored

If nobody checks to ensure tasks are completed on time then the checklist is useless. An unused checklist is pointless. To ensure control, simply create an over-riding task to monitor each checklist (hourly, daily, weekly etc. – as may be appropriate for your business needs) and then follow up with anything that’s overdue or outstanding.

10 – Because the checklist is never reviewed to ensure its completed

Assumption is the Mother-of-all-Mistakes. If there are six tasks to be completed during the process of integrating a client into your business you’ll want to know that each step has been properly completed. Never assume that everything’s been done. Just assuming things have been done ‘because they’re on the checklist’ is a recipe for disaster. As a manager, you undoubtedly want to keep on top of what is going on in your business. So set aside time each day to check the progress of all checklists. Ensure anything that’s overdue or incomplete is investigated and sign off each checklist when it’s complete. For audit purposes, and to avoid doubt later, it’s a great idea to keep a record of when each task is completed and by whom.

Checklists are a vital element in systematising and streamlining your business… if you follow these 10 points you’ll find that your checklists do work after all!

The 6 Step Process To Create A Checklist

Simon Beechinor Inspection management, Safety data, Safety management 0 Comments

We’ve talked about Atul Gawande before and his book ‘The Checklist Manifesto‘ and, at this early stage in our blog series on checklists, we think it’s worth hammering home some of the points he makes.

Boeing, NASA and other large organisations have entire teams dedicated to creating checklists. Fortunately, you can capture significant improvements using checklists even if you are working on your own. The following six step process is designed to help you create and use your first checklist. Once you become confident with the process, you can develop checklists for other important activities in your life and work (e.g. preparing for an international trip or launching a product).

One note of caution before we proceed. Resist the urge to create a complex checklist with dozens of steps. After all, a checklist only produces value if it is used. As with any other skill, it makes sense to walk before you run.

Step 1: Identify “Stupid Mistakes” That Cause Failure

Understanding the most significant causes of failure is the first step in creating a helpful checklist. For this blog post, I will use the example of creating a corporate financial report. Two of the common causes of failure are data source problems and model performance errors. Addressing these mistakes will form the focus of the checklist.

Step 2: Seek Additional Input From Others

With most types of work, there are other people in your organisation who either do similar work or who use the results of your work. Ask these people for their ideas on the common causes of failure or what they would suggest checking. I have found that many people are willing to offer some thoughts and observations, especially if they are impacted by your work.

Step 3: Create Simple “Do” Steps

‘Do’ steps are exactly what they sound like – reminders to do a specific action. In the case of a corporate financial report, you could check the structure and size of the data source files for validity, using previous reports as a baseline. Likewise, you can check data connections in the model to ensure that data is flowing through the model correctly.

Step 4: Create Simple “Talk” Steps

This step comes from Gawande’s example of a checklist in the operating room. In his example, he created a step on the checklist where everyone introduces them by name and role. In the project management context, ‘Talk’ steps are even more important. The ‘talk’ steps selected for the checklist are designed to prevent the major causes of failure. In the case of a financial report, one could schedule a short meeting with the stakeholders to review the draft report before it is approved for release.

Step 5: Test The Checklist

Following the above steps, you finally have the chance to put your checklist into action. Expect that your first checklist will have some gaps. Simply take note of those gaps and continue working through the process. In the example of producing a financial report, a gap might be to validate the currency and foreign exchange factors of the source files.

Step 6: Refine the Checklist

Based on your experience in Step 5, it is time to refine and improve the checklist. Continuous improvement is the name of the game in checklist development. As you improve the quality of your work with checklists, consider sharing your findings with other professionals.


A checklist for checklists? ….why not?

Simon Beechinor Inspection management, Safety data, Safety management 0 Comments

Management Solution - Agriculture, Mining & Aggregates

Management Solution – Maritime, Oil, Gas Renewable Energy, Agriculture, Mining & Aggregates

We’ve previously blogged about Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto and also draw your attention to this site which is a great help for the medical sector. We suggest you make yourselves familiar with both, but here is a great ‘checklist for checklists’ that’ll help you get started whichever industry you’re in. Just use this as a clear, simple and general guide to get yourself started.


Do you have clear, concise objectives for your checklist? – Is each item:

• A critical safety step and in great danger of being missed?
• Not adequately checked by other mechanisms?
• Actionable, with a specific response required for each item?
• Designed to be read aloud as a verbal check?
• One that can be affected by the use of a checklist?

Have you considered:

• Adding items that will improve communication among team members?
• Involving all members of the team in the checklist creation process?


Does the Checklist:

• Utilise natural breaks in workflow (pause points)?
• Use simple sentence structure and basic language?
• Have a title that reflects its objectives?
• Have a simple, uncluttered, and logical format?
• Fit on one page?
• Minimise the use of color?

Is the font:

• Sans serif?
• Upper and lower case text?
• Large enough to be read easily?
• Dark on a light background?
Are there fewer than 10 items per pause point?
Is the date of creation (or revision) clearly marked?


Have you:

• Trialled the checklist with front line users (either in a real or simulated situation)?
• Modified the checklist in response to repeated trials?

Does the checklist:

• Fit the flow of work?
• Detect errors at a time when they can still be corrected?
Can the checklist be completed in a reasonably brief period?
Have you made plans for future review and revision of the checklist?

Checklists?…. where do we start?

Simon Beechinor Inspection management, Safety data, Safety management 0 Comments


Before we get into the detail of industry specific checklists and the issues involved in their design and operation we should remind you about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA’s role is to assure the safety and health of America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health.

Other countries have similar organisations that do the same sort of work as OSHA and the guidance each offers is very similar too

Let’s start off small. OSHA produce a handbook for owners, proprietors and managers of small businesses. Please note that the entire text of the Small Business Handbook is available on OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/smallbusiness/small-business.pdf*.

Now the point of us telling you this is that there are large number of great checklist examples for you to use in this booklet. Download it and check it out.

We suggest you use these templates as a base from which to start designing your own that are specific to your business. Let us know if you need any help. The handbook should help small business employers meet the legal requirements imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and achieve an in-compliance status before an OSHA inspection. An excellent resource to accompany this information is OSHA’s Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines, which is also available on OSHA’s website.

Do you need help working with checklists?

Simon Beechinor Inspection management, Safety management 0 Comments

Do you need help working with checklists? Do you struggle to design the right checklists for your business? – Talk to us and see how we can help, for free*! We can help you find templates to use, ‘sense-check’ the templates you think you’d like to use or even design new templates from scratch – just ask, see how we can help and what we can do for you – completely free*!

The use of checklists is integral to many industries from manufacturing, aviation and maritime transport to oil, gas and renewable energy businesses, and increasingly the field of medicine. Though the benefits of checklists are well known, those benefits depend on the checklist being properly designed, tested and used. We welcome the use of checklists in any sector, but it’s essential to customise each checklist tool for its specific purpose. It’s sensible to take advantage of the literature from other domains to create usable and successful checklists.

Using checklists is a simple and remarkably effective strategy for ensuring safety and accuracy in performing many routine and complex tasks. Checklists have long been used in industries such as aviation but are only recently making headway in other sectors such as medicine. The reluctance of many professionals to adopt checklists is often a reaction against accepting ‘even more paperwork’ or due to a disbelief in their effectiveness. However, there’s now substantial evidence in their favour and literature that offers help establishing many best practices in checklist design. YOUR business stands to benefit.

Checklists aren’t a panacea for mismanagement and mistakes in managing safety. Any system has the power to complicate or help—it’s the design of the checklist determines its utility. A poorly designed, complicated or lengthy checklist can harm performance just as easily as a good one can improve it. Fortunately, there are plenty of guidelines for checklist design available.

If you’d like help finding or preparing checklist templates for your business, we’d be pleased to help – just let us know. If you have any questions about how checklists can help your business just ask us, it needn’t cost you anything!

(*) Subject to a previously agreed scope of work

Do we really put ‘Safety First’?…. quite possibly not

Simon Beechinor Inspection management, Safety management 0 Comments

Safety thirdWe often SAY that safety is our number one priority and we’d probably like it to be. But if we drill down into our business we’d probably find that not everyone agrees with us. We may have signs and slogans plastered all over our walls shouting ‘Safety First’ but in real terms our behaviour probably indicates that ‘getting the job done’ is our number one priority. ‘Safety’ is not a priority which can change according to external factors, it’s a core value which must be considered in every action and task that we undertake.

We probably don’t mean it but there are many ways we demonstrate exactly where ‘safety’ is on the management priority list. An example of this probably starts with our board meetings… where does ‘safety’ appear on the directors’ board agenda every month? It may well be down at the foot of the page and is the last thing to be discussed after all the interesting stuff has been debated, everyone’s tired and wants to go home. If safety really is our top priority, perhaps it should be the FIRST topic of conversation on the agenda? Other examples might include spending hours in operations planning or production meetings but only a few minutes on safety or tool-box talks. Failure to do what we say we do sends a powerful message about safety to all our people. It’s our inaction and lack of belief in our own rhetoric that sends a far more powerful signal than any slogan we’ve got posted up in the office or out on site.

A good question to ask is why do our managers and people who really should care deeply about safety behave in ways that contradict their supposed values? We need to look closely at how safety is measured. Incident Rate, Lost Time Rate and other indicators can be poor measures of safety. These indicators may tell us how many people got hurt and how badly, but they don’t tell us how well our business is doing at preventing accidents. This is because these indicators can be a poor gauge of prevention because of what statisticians call ‘natural variation’. In other words, it is a statistical fact that if the number of unsafe conditions and behaviours in a period of, say, a year were held constant, a business could experience a different number of incidents during the first half of the year and the last half. Thus, incident rates can get better or get worse with absolutely no change in safety conditions or behaviours being made. The result is that a business can go for long periods of time without accidents, despite having an unsafe work environment. This situation mitigates against making safety a priority when managers may do nothing about safety for a period yet their behaviour can be reinforced with a good incident rate. This is probably what contributed to the concerns of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) which we referred to last week.

In the case of measuring productivity and quality for example, we find that those measures tend to be provided with more frequent and sensitive measures and are therefore more visible and immediate and therefore likely to change management behaviour. So it’s easy for ‘safety’ to find itself on the back-burner. When an incident rate is apparently low, we might assume all is well with safety and focus on other priorities.

If we really want to make ‘safety’ a priority, we need to use various measures to quantify it. While Incident Rates are necessary and important measures, it should be used along with others. Other measures should focus on employee behaviour such as tracking what people are doing every day to prevent accidents. When there are measures of what we really do on a regular basis to prevent accidents, we can ensure those activities do occur. For example, a business that has a behaviour-based safety process in place has records that track our regular activities aimed at improving safe conditions and behaviour. Daily and weekly responsibilities will ensure that safety is elevated to an equal footing with other business measures and really help make safety a priority for everyone.

A view from the Maritime Union of Australia…

Simon Beechinor Safety management 0 Comments

A interesting counter-view of the benefits of Behavioural Based Safety systems is raised here. It’s an aged article and produced by a controversial labour organisation, The Maritime Union of Australia… (c’mon guys, your views have been considered ‘strident’ on occasions in the past…) Nonetheless we think it’s a valid comment and would welcome your own comments and experience, if you have any counter-views too. We should make it clear though, we here at Certainty Software think that management DO remain accountable FULL STOP

For example, there’s been considerable comment blaming the loss of ‘Costa Concordia’ on the Master as a function of a Behavioural Based Safety approach… once again, we take the view that however it gets sliced, the Master may have been the man on the spot, but it’s still management that still remains accountable.

What do you think of the MUA’s views? – let us know…