Get Tangible Stuff Done- Importance of Checklists
“Success in life is about project management. Determine deliverables, make milestones, and always pursue the critical path.” ― Ryan Lilly
“What’s your biggest idea to accomplish within the next two years? Break it down into smaller more manageable parts until you know what you must do this week to reach the next milestone.” ― Richie Norton
“Good intentions aren’t enough. People have good intentions when they set a goal to do something, but then they miss a deadline or other milestone.” – Harvey Mackay
“Don’t die without embracing the daring adventure your life is meant to be. You may go broke. You may experience failure and rejection repeatedly. You may endure multiple dysfunctional relationships. But these are all milestones along the path of a life lived courageously. They are your private victories, carving a deeper space within you to be filled with an abundance of joy, happiness, and fulfillment. So, go ahead and feel the fear. Then summon the courage to follow your dreams anyway.” – Steve Pavlina
“The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” – C. S. Lewis
“Progress is measured by milestones. What many good people lack are markers that might tell them how they are actually doing. Goals can become a ritual or a fetish, but in the right measure they can give us some much-needed reference points. No wonder some seem discouraged! Minus such milestones, we often feel minus in our lives” – Neal A. Maxwell
“Without a plan, even the most brilliant business can get lost. You need to have goals, create milestones and have a strategy in place to set yourself up for success.” – Yogi Berra
Tangible results are the heart of the matter. Begin with the end in mind. This is a very important concept in life. When you have a vision of, what you want to do and be, then work on it. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
This is where goals and milestones come in. Milestones are very important, they are key achievements/steps in the journey to that goal.
We read and hear talks about roadmaps. These are the key progress steps or markers that clearly delineate/highlight the direction we want to take. Knowing our overall direction is very important.
Writing down our goals, listing the steps to achieve them- ‘CHECKLISTS’ and working on individual activities to reach those goals is critical.
Those individual activities we undertake and execute are tangible results. It’s the journey that really teaches us not the end result. Those moments we are sweating and toiling to get to those milestones are crucial for our development. That’s the core of goal achievement and vision attainment.
Why are Checklists/Milestones Important?
Any project/activity that is of vital importance to an individual, community, organization, society or nation usually has key and important milestones. These act as important checkpoints of progress towards the overall attainment of the overall objectives of any project.
Whether it’s setting up a nursery, construction of a road, construction of a school, setting up a farm, construction of a factory, construction of a hospital, organizing a community event, setting up a business etc. there are important milestones/steps in each and very activity we undertake.
Without awareness of the important milestones in any activity we undertake, we set up ourselves for failure in the long run.
The Importance of Checklists Examples
Surgeries: Reference Atul Gawande – Checklist Manifesto
We would not think that having a checklist of steps is very important in a surgery but that had not been prevalent in the medical field until the advent of the 21st century. Dr Atul Gawande in his seminal book, the Checklist Manifesto, highlights surgeries that almost went wrong. Patients narrowly survived and this was simply caused by missing a crucial step.
In his first case study citation, a patient named John had been stabbed in his stomach. When brought to hospital it seemed like a normal stab wound with a normal knife. The doctor’s key assumption was that the medical team could take their time to treat the wound but the patient’s condition changed rapidly. His blood pressure started dropping down and he lost consciousness.
On rapid intervention in the intensive care unit they realized the patient John had been stabbed by a bayonet which had actually ruptured the aorta artery in his heart. The patient was bleeding to death. No one had bothered asking what weapon had been used during the incident.
With the advent of technology in the medical field the degree of complexity in all medical sub specialties has increased. The number of machines in an ICU unit can be overwhelming. Various technical specialists are required to monitor these machines.
The chief surgeon has a role like a symphony conductor to ensure that all these specialties are working in tandem, carrying out the correct steps at the right time to ensure the survival of the patient. Checklists and detailed rigorous practice are key requirements in these fields.
Pilots and Air Travel
An aeroplane is one of the marvels of human creativity and imagination. It is a modern machine that has a lot of inbuilt complexity. Flying a modern aeroplane may seem like a simple task but many lives have been lost to get to the current state of air safety.
A modern aeroplane has a mix of manual and automated controls. Pilots have to undergo rigorous training and study before they are allowed to fly any commercial jets. In the course of this study one area they have to master is the use of preflight and post flight check lists.
The failure of a critical component in a car is usually mitigated in time but the failure of a critical component in the air is worse. You rarely have time to react in time. This is why getting all systems right in an aeroplane is very important.
Apart from pilots the maintenance ground crew and other supporting roles have to ensure that they have their act right. National Geographic Aircraft Investigation should be a must watch for all individuals involved in the management and execution of air operations.
The majority of accidents are caused by simple errors of negligence and omission. Checklists are important in every aspect of flight. From the actual operational state of the plane, airport radar, weather radar, communication systems, firefighting stations, security on ground etc.
There are massive checks and routines to ensure that every single flight is successful.
Conducting and planning war is a life or death matter. The lay man or individual does not realize the level of preparations and planning to make any army or mission effective. Like any other activity conducting war requires skilled soldiers who are trained adequately, have the right support and tools to conduct the war effectively.
The right and functional weapons, functional and effective communication, functional logistics and supply are critical in the conduct of any battle mission. To understand the importance of every element in war the Second World Ward – D-day Allied Landings in Normandy France in 1944 were postponed due to weather conditions.
The weather had to be right to fly the paratroopers to Normandy in France. This caused the delay in launch of the overall landings.
4 Key Elements of Getting Tangible Stuff Done
1. Know Your Priorities
The key to unlock life is to focus on priorities. Priorities are literally our key goals, tasks and our ultimate vision. Do not lose focus on your key goals, keep them in sight every day. Knowing our key priorities is vital every day.
The achievers, best organizations know this simple habit. They keep track of their key goals every single day. Some have laminated pocket cards with their goals written in them. They do this so the key goals are burned in memory each and every hour they are awake.
Knowing our key priorities matter whether in the role of a parent, CEO, employee, family, community, nation or global body. If we do not know our key mission we are always doomed to failure in the long run.
Work from priorities is what is hammered down from multiple self-help books and biographies of major achievers. Never get distracted just focus on your key priorities.
Real achievers also limit their key goals to one but less than three major goals at a time. This is to ensure that they do not get distracted in the process of achieving these goals. By keeping this simple habit of singular focus, they are propelled to act on these goals until they are completed.
Build focus and concentration in the execution of your key activities.
2. Reconnaissance/Research/Doing your Homework
Reconnaissance or intelligence gathering is a very important activity before undertaking any endeavor or major project. Do the appropriate research, due diligence, feasibility studies and necessary back ground work before under taking any project.
Most activities which are hurriedly rushed are doomed to failure. Take the time to do your homework. Simply ensure you understand what is vital to ensure any project succeeds. The best investors, doctors, engineers, lawyers, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists always do their homework.
The best performers always benchmark their activities. They search and consult those who have had experience in previous projects they plan to undertake. They work to avoid potential pitfalls and plan for any eventualities before they arise.
An illustration can be event planning. The event planner always has to consult the host of the event on their specific needs, likes, dislikes before they even start budgeting for the event. They have to dig deep and also ask friends and acquittances of the host so they really understand what the host considers a perfect event.
With this background knowledge they are almost guaranteed to host a memorable event for the host. Background research and planning is vital and key to the success of any project activity we undertake. It applies to any activity no matter how small it may be.
It avoids waste of time and resources when good planning is carried out.
The core and heart of any project is building a list of activities to be performed, the sequence of how the activities will be executed until project objectives are realized.
Program managers, project managers live by checklists. Checklists highlight all the vital steps/milestones to perform any activity. They also help align resources for the performance of these tasks.
Project performance is always corelated to how well checklists were designed and how the execution of the key milestones were performed.
What separates winners and losers is just execution of tasks. Winners are driven to execute their tasks no matter what. Their mantra is ‘Whatever it takes’ they will endeavor to keep promises to themselves and other parties.
Honoring our promises always translates to execution of these promises. When we have the big picture and internal integrity in play, we will execute our goals, honor our promises to family, friends, employers and employees.
Complete the tasks assigned, knock them out one by one on that checklist. You will ensure that your key priorities are part of your calendar. Build them into your calendar and do the tasks.
Contracts: Real performers have contracts with themselves. They always endeavor to honor their goals, obligations and promises to others. Gain a reputation of execution it’s the best reputation to have in the long run and does wonders for you.
More Examples of Getting Stuff Done
Climbing a mountain
The best analogy of achieving milestones is climbing a mountain. Mountain climbing is not an easy task but anything worthwhile in life does not come on a silver platter. As with any task/project you have to prepare accordingly.
You need to consult experienced mountain guides, tour agents, friends, acquaintances who have performed this task before. They will advise accordingly on the fitness, health standards, hiking, camp equipment, food and water resources, first aid kit, number of hours/days to reach each elevation in the mountain.
They will draw up an extensive checklist for you. This checklist will act as your guiding pillar for a successful attempt at reaching the peak of the mountain. You will then have to do the hard-preparatory work. Carry out the recommended exercises to get to the fitness levels for the mountain climb.
Actual mountain climbs are spread out over 3 to 4 days depending on the complexity and height of the mountain involved. Each elevation reached is a milestone in the climb. Designated rest points and camping sites are marked at each point.
If you respect the task at hand and give it the necessary preparation and due attention it warrants it will turn out to be a memorable event for yourself and loved ones
Building a house, skyscraper or any building
Construction of a house or any building requires prior detailed planning and preparation. Extensive checklists are made by the architect in consultation with other specialized engineers depending on the complexity of the building.
The Bill of Quantities is the first significant document that comes out of the entire planning process. This document outlines in detail all the resources required for each significant area in the building from civil works, plumbing, electrical to mechanical aspects of the project.
The architect will also prepare a detailed schedule that estimates the duration of the works to completion. This will start from the foundation all the way to roofing and the last aspects of painting the building.
This schedule outlines significant milestones in the process. Foundation construction, wall to beam construction, roofing, interior finishes till the hand off to the client. These detailed checklists help guide on the resources required in terms of money, time and the labor required to complete the job.
Farming is the oldest activity known to man. A farmer understands the need for planning to ensure they have a reasonable chance of getting the necessary harvest or crop output. Farming in most parts of the world is a seasonal activity under the mercy of optimum weather conditions.
It is thus necessary for a farmer to have a calendar that guides their activity during the planting season. This calendar will mark significant activities from land preparation, seed planting, fertilizer application, weeding, irrigation and the final harvest.
A proper checklist of activities is required to ensure that execution is carried out seamlessly. Most of the farmers who plan well and execute well usually reap bountiful harvests.
Setting up a Business/Startup
Setting up any business is not an easy task. There are key tasks/milestones that are essential to ensure that any business survives in the long run. First and foremost is deciding the nature of the business, the licenses required, the tools and equipment required, the labor required, the location, marketing plan, accounting system, customer service, insurance, legal support etc.
Consider a business as a system with essential sub systems that feed into the whole ecosystem. This is why it’s vital to have a checklist before you plunge into the set up of a business. Consult other business owners who will explain the obstacles you will face and the necessary activities to have a successful business running.
At the end execution of critical milestones is essential in the launch and operation of any business set up. Missing a critical milestone increases the probability of business failure. Following a checklist which is properly mapped always increases the odds of business success
Get stuff done and use checklists wherever you can. This reduces the odds of failure in any project or major activity you undertake. Checklists help map and accelerate your progress towards the finish line. Plan, Execute and Succeed. (PES)TM
The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right – Atul Gawande
Project Management Basics: How to Manage Your Project with Checklists – Melanie McBride
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge- PMBoK Guide 6th Edition– Project Management Institute