Processes and checklists should be treated like recipes
A Case Study by Peter Sergeant
The recipe is a classic content. Businesses that perform well can be likened to good cooks. They follow recipes and processes in order to get the best possible outcomes. It’s not uncommon for people to think that you need good cooking skills to be a good home cook.
However, after becoming a good home cook with minimal natural cooking skills, I found that this was not necessarily so. Rather, there’s one simple skill that has nothing to do with wielding knives selecting the right ingredients which can help even the least experienced person whip up a great home-cooked meal. That simple skill is being able to read a recipe.
Why would you want to try and reinvent something if someone with experience has worked out exactly what you have to do?
With an unending number of recipes available, there is no limit to the simple recipes for home cooks to rely on. Over the years I have accumulated over 150 books full of recipes, mostly about Chinese and Italian cooking which my family and I enjoy most.
In some business, there is an unending number of checklists and recipes to help guide every imaginable process. Sure, there are good ones an bad ones. But, there are just as many reliable checklists which are well-tested, written clearly, and can successfully walk the least experienced person through creating a simple but impressive outcome. You just have to know how to pick the right ones.
Keep your purpose, vision and objectives in mind
It is easy for a recipe or checklist to take you in the wrong direction and deliver outcomes you don’t really want. Ensuring that you choose the right process and matching checklists aligned with your direction will avoid any disappointment.
Start with what the recipe or process you know. Have you cleared your schedule to do something elaborate? Do you want to take on a challenging project to pass the time during a slack time? Or will you only have 20 minutes to make something work better?
Regardless of your skill level, you’ll do things differently if you’ve set aside adequate time to follow the process and to pull everything together.
Processes, checklists and recipes are not one-size-fits-all, even within the same organisation, project or industry. In one situation a specific process may work best, and in, then it may be more suitable to have a different one or even a hybrid one.
The same process is unlikely to work in the same organisation on all projects. A best practice is to create and implement a methodology for selecting processes and checklists to determine the best approach.
Find reliable processes and checklists to suit
Most people know what it means to improve a process, but which improvement methodology is best for your organisation? You need to choose the right process with the right checklists.
These processes and checklists should be repeatable, effective and efficient processes that help you streamline project activities. Because these processes, once developed, can be documented and repeated, they help organisations to spend less time focusing on how to execute a common project, and more time on the project objectives and deliverables.
Over time the processes you require must fully assess, document, and finally select the right methodologies for each project in much more detailed. This will be time-consuming and complex initially, but worth it in the end.
When looking for reliable processes and checklists, the first thing is to stick to reliable sources. Processes and checklists that have been developed and proven by reliable and practical people. They don’t necessarily need to be in your industry in order to provide you with good basic processes. You can adapt them to suit your particular business and keep improving them with your own experiences.
Some guidelines for choosing the right processes and checklists for your circumstance
- Don’t get too complex before you learn the basics
- Choose recipes based on your skills, as much as for their appeal
- Don’t get attached to the idea of a process, it can always be improved
- Look at the number of ingredients and avoid complexity
- When you need to go fast, choose recipes with fewer ingredients
- Survey the number of ingredients you have readily available
- Test the processes and checklists for appropriateness .
Sometimes you will have to become creative and build your own processes. When you shop for specific purposes be sure you have checklists to guide you, even if you have to produce the checklist yourself.
Consider the timing aspects of a process
Unless you have very good skills, recipes can take longer than you think to implement. This is why an implementation checklist id so valuable. Determine how much time you have available and always ensure your time investment will be worth your very best efforts.
Quickly scan any new process to assess the amount of time you’ll need, keeping in mind that some aren’t written in a way in which you can tell how much effort will be required to find the ingredients and implement the process.
With the right processes and checklists in hand, you’ll be amazed at the innovation you can create in your business and how your cooking will improve. And, yes, even if you think you’re a terrible cook, with the right processes and recipes, nobody’s can be so bad.
“Checklists remind us of the minimum necessary steps and make them explicit. They not only offer the possibility of verification but also instil a kind of discipline of higher performance”. Atul Gawande