Using checklists in your business
by Philip Scott
Todays newsletter is going to be a bit of a hypothetical discussion as part of it involves something that I havent tried ... yet! But I am busting to try it, if anyone is keen to implement please let me know ... but Ill get to that in a minute!
In typical fashion Ive not started at the beginning, so lets begin .. checklists!!! I love checklists ... they are so simple, yet so powerful, and we all use them. But do we all realise just how important they are to our business systems?
The most basic form of a checklist is a shopping list. Now I know a big percentage of our audience is male. And as a general rule us males need a list if we had to go shopping. Trust me Ive made a list with something as simple as tomatoes on it. Why? Because I knew that by the time I get to the shops I will have forgotten what I was supposed to get!
I have a perfectly valid excuse! I hate wasting time ... I use idle time to think and plan (it relaxes me I promise!) So on my drive to shop Im most likely thinking about some programming challenge I have, or simply just what I will be talking to you about in my next newsletter. My wife often says Im just standing there doing nothing (typically this may be in the kitchen). I dont ever do NOTHING ... Im thinking!
Anyway back to my list of tomatoes. Assuming you actually have more than tomatoes on your list, what do you do once youve got the tomatoes? You cross it off! Great system isnt it? In my example ... it helps me do something I dont necessarily do very often, it helps me do it without even having to think about it, and it ensures I dont forget anything!
I just realized I finished the last 3 paragraphs with an exclamation! Oops make that 4!
Apply it in your business, its perfect. I dont recommend giving everyone a piece of scrap paper to write a few notes down no ... it should be part of your systems. My process to do my jobs for the day. Now admittedly this does not apply to every role and every person, but theres definitely method to my madness here ... trust me!
Right now Im talking an A4 piece of printed paper with my pre-printed checklist that I can give to anyone with the necessary basic training to do the job. The benefit to me as a business owner or manager is that I know they will be following the process to the letter (or the list in this case). I can see everything is ticked off, and trust me, if I find that something is ticked off that wasnt done ... that would be grounds for instant dismissal.
OK now the fun part (my hypothetical bit). Sure I am a software developer (A South African one at that ... makes it relevant!) so I probably see everything in life as something that can be automated, but really I would imagine that each and everyone of you could see the benefit in having a clipboard that will always display the most relevant and updated checklist for my employee (or myself), but more importantly log every item that is checked off in the system. That way I can implement smart things such as dependencies (tasks that only become due once another task is scheduled), and generate reports! Besides I dont have to keep printing checklists and filing stuff ... I hate filing ... with a passion!
Now this is not all a dream ... totally possible and realistic. The majority of us these days have iPhones (if you dont ... stop resisting, youll love it), and maybe even iPads ... these are exactly what I described! An electronic clipboard! All you need is the right software ... and this is where the hypothetical bit comes in. Theres a brilliant piece of software call Things ... and believe it or not it looks awesome. OK yes I have not even used it myself. It is available for $12.99 from the App Store but it looks absolutely brilliant. I love love love these guys website www.culturedcode.com just brilliant. Check out the videos and see what Im raving on about!
The great part is that it has a feature that allows you to Sync your checkliststasksprojects that you create on the desktop version (thats about $70) with MULTIPLE iPhones andor iPads. So each of your staff probably have an iPhone anyway (otherwise make them get one, but you should at least pay for the app!) ... and they can therefore easily sync there checklists with desktop app (only available on Mac sadly).
99% of you are now questioning my sanity I know, so at 12:08am on the 18th of May 2011 let me give you a brief example ... visualise it as I explain it (Ive gone to quite a bit of effort here, so you owe me that at least!)
Lets say you have a mechanical workshop, and you require your mechanics to do a pre and post inspection of each car ... before and ...uhm . .after each service or repair. The mechanic grabs his iphoneipad and punches in the registration (sorry, REGO) number of the vehicle (not sure what greasy fingers do to an iPhone screen ... must look into that) and up comes all the details ... the colour, make, etc and it is in for. Based on the Jobs required there is a checklist including maybe noting the odometer reading. Straight away the main computer in the business is notified that James (?) is currently working on the vehicle (maybe even send an sms to the customer saying work has commenced ... now thats customer service!). As James completes his tasks these are automatically noted as completed so by the time he is done, Johnny is notified that another vehicle is ready for the car wash. Once he has ticked off that the vehicle has been washed the customer gets an sms saying the vehicle is ready. When the customer walks in the service report has been printed and all they have to do is pay the bill! Of course the customer will also automatically get a reminder notice when next the vehicle is due for a service ... our car wash is longing to be re-acquainted with your sleek silver BMW!
Hey Barry, we cant patent this can we?
If you have anything like this in place, I would love to hear from you. If you dont but you want to have something like this in place, I want to hear from you even more!