We have been talking about planning as a prerequisite for sustained efficiency and quality. The systematic planning makes us more agile and we can deliver quality work in minimum time frame. Here is an example of how failure to plan has lead to a big chaos. You may have read a few days ago that Maharashtra Chief Minister’s flight could not take off from the airport because one of the officials accompanying him on the international tour had forgotten to take along his Visa papers! The Chief Minister along with the rest of the passengers had to wait till it was retrieved from his home.
The common sense answer to avoid these lapses is – the checklist. Mere planning is not useful unless it is executed flawlessly. The checklist serves as an effective tool – Plan. Do. Check whether the things are happening as per the plan. If not, Act i.e. make the necessary correction. This is called the PDCA Cycle. This is the foundation of ISO 9000.
We often tell school children that they must keep ten minutes at the end of the exam to go through the answer sheet and to make sure they have attempted all the questions. Another very common example in our daily lives is we check the taste of a recipe before serving it to people to ensure that it is upto the expectation. What we are doing here is simply checking if all the ingredients have been added, and in the right proportion to give the right taste. Once we are sure of it, we are ready to enjoy all the compliments that come our way as guests relish the dish!
If we use this ‘checklist’ in so many activities in our daily lives, why not in our professional lives. A company manufacturing auto spare parts had to dispatch parts in lots of 8, 24 and 72. The client would randomly check the number of parts in the boxes and if any one box had a shortage, it was presumed that all boxes contained the same quantity and he used to deduct the payment on the entire consignment causing substantial loss to the supplier The company, then, started a system wherein they sent parts in multiples of the lot number to the packing department. So for the lot of 8, they sent 800 parts for packing, no more, no less. This way, as the parts got packed in boxes, in case one or two remained, it meant that some box had been filled with a wrong number of parts and it used to be checked immediately. The loss to the company was averted as with systematic packing of job there was no chance of delivering the wrong quantity. The point is, to accomplish excellence in quality and to maintain the consistency the job/product needs to be checked at various stages. Dr. Atul Gawande’s book ‘ The Checklist Manifesto’ underlines the importance of regular checks on processes to prevent damage or loss. He has related his observations of the American hospitals where lapses in following protocol in examinations led to spread of infections. The book lucidly explains the cause and effect of the problem and how it was overcome by observing a strict protocol and following it.
We often avoid following PDCA Cycle referred above. You will be amazed to know how much difference this little checklist can make while presenting the final, flawless product. It not only gives you the opportunity to rectify errors but also enhance the final effect of the product, service or process and to enhance Customer Satisfaction.
Author: S.R. Joshi
The author is a director at deAsra Foundation. deAsra Foundation is a Section 25 company, a not for profit association formed to contribute to social welfare by enabling entrepreneurship, which will create employment opportunities.