The 3Ws of Process Checklists

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"Why did not you follow the checklist ???" screamed the irate boss to his employee. "Do you realize that instead of spending a minute on the essentials we now have to waste hours rectifying the error?" This is a common scenario faced by many of us in our workplaces.

What is it that makes us take that flying leap and overlook the humble process checklist? Many of us pride ourselves on having worked upon a particular process for ages, that we do not need reminders on how to complete that task. We also consider it with disdain as a waste of time or a burden put upon us by the top management.

Not all of us certainly ignore it. In cases where processes are not documented, we complete half an activity and suddenly realize that we have missed out an important phase. Or otherwise we are so well versed in a process that we blindly follow the steps without figuring out their usefulness.

Let us go through the 3Ws of process checkslists to gain a better understanding of their usage.

What are process checklists?

Process checklists list out the items that need to be done in a particular order thereby ensuring no step is missed and providing a desired outcome.

Take the example of a health inspector who needs to certify a restaurant. The points to check out could be:

• Are the tables, chairs and cutlery clean and free from grime of any kind?

• Is the area free from vermin and insects?

• Does the staff wear hair nets, gloves and wash their hands after visits to the toilet?

• Is there a proper garbage disposal mechanism?

• Are the surroundings clean and free of litter?

With the help of the above, the health inspector ensures that all necessary areas are observed and on the basis of such an observation, he can doly certify the restaurant.

Process checkslists involved detailing the entire process flow, breaking it into multiple steps and noticing down the important items which must be performed. Usually each item can be noted as a one-liner and be self-explanatory. However, in high risk areas, it is preferred to be as detailed as required.

Why should one use process checklists?

The many advantages are:

• To standardize a process which has an established set of rules and regulations with little scope for deviation

• To serve as a reminder of the routine steps that we conduct and often take for granted

• As a guiding tool for new employees so that they are not overly dependent on existing employees

• To ensure quality and safety are not compromised due to miss out of activities

• To enhance productivity as steps have already been laid down

• Useful tool to evaluate the various steps, analyze their usefulness and improve upon them

• Source of documentation in cases of disputes

• To instill a sense of responsibility in an individual as he / she would be required to sign-off that particular transaction / activity

Who can use process checklists?

Process checklists can be used by anyone who wants to benefit from the above advantages, irrespective of the field they are employed in. It is highly recommended for anyone who is involved in critical but repetitive work like bank officers, project managers, even reporters who need to adhere to submission guidelines.

Eg In banking, the clerk needs to first verify the signature on the withdrawal slip before handing over the money to the requestor. If the order is reversed, the chances of a fraudulent withdrawal could be very high. This risk can be mitigated by using a process checklist which clearly outlines the order of the steps to be taken.

It also does not depend on your position in your organization. Form the typist to the top-notch executive; everyone can use a process checklist as desired.

Most of us use process checkslists in one form or the other without even realizing it. The most common one used is a recipe. Think about it! You need a list of ingredients and a method of preparation. It can also be tweaked to suit one's tastes. Many DIY projects require one to follow a list of steps to accomplish the project.

As someone who has spent over 4 years in banking operations, I can not stress enough the necessity of using process checklists. Many hours have been spent in rectifying errors and answering to the senior management. If only that process checklist had been adhered to …

In case all this looks overwhelming, you do not need to worry. It is not all that difficult to prepare your own checklist. There are many templates available on the internet to help you in choosing the right one. So go ahead and make your life just that one tad bit productive and easier!

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Source by Suchitra D Fernandes

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