Leadership Mints Series Sampler On Championing Checklists

Emergency! Emergency! When an emergency situation erupts, you can be suddenly thrown for a loss.   You’re frozen in fear. You’re paralyzed in uncertainty.

So disoriented, you’re looking but not seeing. Everything seems so barren, so vast and so vacant. You’re sure you been banished to a terrifying tundra of oblivion.

But then off in the distance you see a campfire flickering. You find your bearings the closer you get to the light. There you will find other wanderers like yourself seeking the same refuge, seeking others to band together –and even bond together—to better cope with and eventually overcome this crisis.

That campfire burning brightly in the cold tundra of an emergency situation could become a meaningful metaphor that champions the value and vision of your emergency procedures checklist.

Then you’d leverage your checklist from the tactical  
(how-to)  to the more strategic (way to).

For example, with a checklist thoughtfully-developed and communicated to all concerned, you will have a proven WAY TO overcome the hierarchial blind spots that could have prevented the deadliest accident in aviation history in 1977.

A checklist could have provided a WAY TO prevent 583 passengers from being killed when two airliners collided on the runway. The pilot was sure he heard the tower say his plane was cleared for takeoff. The co-pilot heard the opposite. You guessed it: The co-pilot was right. On takeoff in a fog over the Canary Islands, the Boeing 747 crashed into another Boeing 747 that had just lifted off in the opposite direction.

A checklist would have clarified and coordinated roles and responsibilities so the pilot and the co-pilot working together could efficiently regain and maintain stability collaboratively (who’s doing what) and compatibly (right people doing the right things).

Without a checklist in place for this particular emergency,  the co-pilot “never believed he had permission, let alone the duty, to halt the captain and clear up the confusion,” notes author Atul Gawande in his book The Checklist Manifesto.

That’s why a checklist is a Way-To snap everyone to attention to what really matters NOW  –no matter how blank and bleak your view from that that terrifying tundra. And of course no matter how stunned and shocked you are when an emergency slaps you in the face and leaves you feeling so raw, so vulnerable and so very empty.

A checklist is a Way-To thaw that tundra IMMEDIATELY to minimize mistakes and maximize creative and inclusive problem-solving with a snap back into reality.

FLY THE AIRPLANE screams Item #1 on the checklist when an air plane engine shuts down in mid-flight with only one pilot aboard. Without that checklist, disoriented pilots then get so busy trying to restart the engine and checking fuel pumps and valves they lose control of the plane and it crashes.

A check-list is also a WAY TO engage and empower a team notes surgeon Jan Newman. Each member of the surgical team is first acknowledged. Then all have to agree on the procedure, on the identity of patient and on the specific location of the surgery (e.g. right or left leg), especially when they are forced to operate under the proverbial light of a campfire. Even in the vast nothingness of a tundra.

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