The fear of flying can really take over some people’s lives. They do everything they can to take any other mode of transportation. They have to take pills. Go to therapy. Learn hypnosis. But should flying really be considered terrifying and dangerous? No. Why? Because of checklists.
The Rise of the Checklist
If you follow me on Facebook, I recently posted about the latest book I read, “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande (which I highly, highly recommend). It covers the incredible power, influence, and life saving capabilities that a simple checklist can have. Sounds ridiculous I know, but it’s true. And you know one of the top industries that embrace checklists, and as a result have extremely low failure rates? The airline industry. One of the reasons that flying commercially is extremely safe, is because of their incredible use of checklists. Every year the big airplane producers, Airbus and Boeing, work religiously to come up with the most useful and necessary checklists possible to use with each one of their airplanes. These checklists then become part of regular training in simulators, and are both installed digitally into the airplane, and printed and left in paper form within each airplane. And pilots wholeheartedly embrace them, and rely on them.
Now, why is using a checklist so powerful? For the airline industry, and any other industry? For a few reasons. One, it’s a reminder for steps in a process that are crucial, but so “simple” that we sometimes forget to do them. Two, as a backup system for emergencies. When something goes really awry and becomes an emergency, it’s a way to follow a standardized procedure to get yourself back to safety. The checklist keeps you from shutting down and panicking, and can basically “think” for you. Allowing you to still be successful even in a high stress situation. And third, because it encourages communication. A checklist reminds teams to communicate about what the situational goals are, what the concerns are, and that everyone is there to work together and make sure thing everything goes smoothly. Even in the massively famous Hudson River/Sully incident, Sully recognized that their success was not a result of his genius and heroism. It was in fact a result of the crew working together to methodically work through a series of checks that allowed them to land the plane safely.
Checklists and Interior Design
So, what does all of this have to do with interior design? Well, a lot. Interior design has a lot of steps. A LOT. And the projects are months long, sometimes years. With so many steps, and so much time, it’s highly likely that things will go awry. Mistakes will happen. Something will be forgotten. So, what to do? Create checklists.
Create a checklist for every “typical” situation first. If you have a standard procedure for your first client contact (and you should), write down the steps and turn it into a checklist. Then print it out and have a copy on hand for yourself and any employees you have. Maybe even laminate it, or put it into a spreadsheet for each client you have and check off each important step as you go along. If you have a standard procedure for your first meeting (again, you should), write down the steps and turn it into a checklist. Then stick it in your bag and refer to it throughout the meeting, and at the end. That way you ensure you don’t have to call or email them later to say, “Oh, by the way, I forgot to ask you…” As that can really delay projects, and payment.
Next, create a checklist for your typical “uh oh” situations. It doesn’t have to be every possible disaster. That would take forever, and would be impossible. But, start with the top four or five, eventually you could write down your top 10. Like if a product doesn’t show up. Did an email get overlooked stating a backdate? Did the correct address for the receiving warehouse get sent? Did the payment go through? Before you pounce and start yelling, it’s best to go through the most likely reasons that you’re experiencing the disaster and do some research. Plus, if there’s a standard procedure to be followed, it’s easy for you to give the list to your assistant and have her look into it. Rather than having to stop everything you’re doing to take care of every disaster.
Now, the last step? Communication. Whether it be before every client meeting, or before every installation, review your checklist of expectations with your team. Let them voice their concerns for the situation, their worries, their possible solutions. And you do the same. It’s a reminder that you’re a team, you’re all there to make sure the project succeeds, and that there are as few disasters as possible. And most importantly, that everyone’s thoughts and opinions are valuable.
Embrace Checklists to Experience More Success
So, embrace the checklist. I know I have. It’s why I created the action plan checklist for my client service consultations. The checklist is one of the most revolutionary, and helpful, things about the client service consultation. Because it lets you know exactly what you need to be doing, in every step of your design process, to lead you to service success. You don’t have to waste time and brain power wondering, where do I start with all of this advice? Where do I end? Have I gotten each step right? A checklist lets you know quickly, yes or no.
But as you start to consider the idea of using checklists, try not to take part in what Atul Gawande recognizes as the biggest failure of a checklist, people’s rejection of them. People reject them because they seem too simple. Or because they feel they’re above something so elementary as a checklist. They think, “I’m too smart. Too creative. Too in control for something like a checklist.” It’s simply not true. From Dr. Gawande’s research, even top level surgeons were able to drastically reduce their incident level in surgery from simply reviewing checklists before, during, and after surgery. But even with incredible results, many surgeons simply refused to use the checklist. Because they just didn’t think they needed them. Don’t do the same thing. Let the checklist save you time, money, and stress. Accept the possibility of it being revolutionary. Let a checklist simply, keep you and your business in check.
If you’d like even more ideas on how to provide the kind of client service that gets you higher fees and profits, go to the Services page to find out more!