Why is it difficult to introduce checklists into the daily activities of an organization?

Checklists provide benefits for quality and consistency in the organization. However, people tend to dislike them. Reflections on the phenomenon.

Why is it difficult to introduce checklists into the daily activities of an organization?

Suppose that you want to straighten out the processes in your organization or team by using checklists. What kind of problem are you likely to face? The problem of false mutual disrespect.

On the one hand, people who are invited to use checklists in their activities will feel that their mental abilities are belittled, and thus they are themselves belittled and disrespected. For the same reason, these same people will not respect the checklists offered for work.

But why did I call this mutual disrespect a false one? For the reason that the true disrespect here comes only from a person to the lists. The lists themselves are a symbol of respect for the complexity of the world that we have to work with. Checklists have no disrespect for those who work with them. The most skilled people make mistakes due to ignorance, forgetfulness, fatigue or for other reasons. There is nothing disrespectful about using a checklist.

The apparent simplicity of a list is its Achilles heel. Some things are difficult to express in natural language, and some are so easily expressible that this easiness dilutes the complexity of the discussed topic. Let's take a look at the example, simple phrase: “Build a spaceport.” Just three words, but how much work is hidden behind the built spaceport! It is easy to say to those going for a walk into a forest: “Do not eat unknown mushrooms and berries.” But the price of this knowledge, this list of poisonous berries and mushrooms, for humanity is hundreds of lives.

The checklist is a helping hand from the past from those who have thoroughly understood the issue. Occasionally, it’s even your hand. And if this list was refined over time by different people, then this is already the help of a whole team of researchers on a certain issue.

However, the real mutual disrespect comes if the managerial plan is to hand out the checklists to subordinates, and ignore this tool for own work, being “better than that”.

It cannot be said that the checklists, in other words, the standards, are completely inapplicable because of the mentioned problems. Approaches to their appliance will be described in other posts.