When Checklists Fail - THINKERS Notebook

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When Checklists Fail

How do you leave instructions for other people when you are not around?

It sounds like a simple problem to solve doesn’t it?

Write out a note or send them an email.

But that doesn’t really work that well.

Paper notes and emails get lost and are not great for conveying complex information.

Maybe you could use an app, but that is a lot of hassle for everybody.

And worst yet, there is no reliable way to know if they actually followed the instructions, unless you go there in person.

It turns out that easily leaving instructions for other people to follow is a really hard, and interesting, problem.

A problem that I have spent more than a year thinking about.

The Challenge Of Communicating Instructions

With all the advancements in technology, from our phones to our connected devices to thousands of apps, it is still very difficult to easily leave instructions for other people.

Consider the following scenario.

You have a trusted friend coming to stay at your home for a week while you are away.

You are not going to be available for a call so you decide to leave them instructions on everything they need to know while they are staying at your house.
  • How to turn on the TV or access the Wifi.
  • What they need to know about using the washer/dryer or other appliances.
  • Or how to use that outdoor grill or your fancy jacuzzi that no one seems to understand how to turn on.
You get the point.

In this one simple scenario, there are countless questions that your guest would have that you could easily answer if you were there!

But you’re not.

So what do you do?

Write them all down? Maybe; but for a lot of these questions you would need to include pictures and complex checklists, wasting a lot of time and paper!

Or maybe you take out your phone and capture some videos and email them. But now you have to hope that all those large file attachments get through.

Even worse, they still have to hunt & search on their phone for that one piece of information they need, right now.

As I examined this problem in more detail, I came to the same conclusion - every solution available today requires a lot of work for both the person creating the instructions and the person receiving the instructions.

Basically, leaving instructions for others takes a lot of effort!

And even if you go through all the effort required, there is still not a reliable way to know if they even read the instructions and followed them.

So what is the answer?

You would think that in our modern world, we would have a technical solution ready to go. One that is fast, easy, and affordable. A solution that anyone could use on their phone (which most people have) without being technologically proficient.

I spent over a year trying to find a solution.

And I didn't find it.

So I created it.

How? I’ll tell you.

A Framework for Creating Solutions To Problems

I have always felt solutions are easy to create if you truly understand a problem. But too often we fail to take the time to analyze problems thoroughly. Instead we rush to find a solution.

Afterall, problems can be painful and, like most people, we would like to avoid pain. So we quickly review problems so that we can immediately deploy a solution.

However, by not analyzing problems properly, our solutions are often ineffective or worse, cause more problems than we anticipated.

In the next email, I will share with you a framework for analyzing problems so that you can easily create your own solutions.

And to help you, I will demonstrate how I used this framework for creating a solution to the problem of leaving instructions for other people.

I think you will find this framework useful.