Phil was frustrated. He had done everything as requested, nevertheless, he was told that he could be fined because they lacked a checklist. The administration didn’t seem to bother with their ability to perform well and preserve employees from being at risk. They only seemed to care for the presence of a checklist.
It didn’t make sense to him. And it made him angry.
He didn’t like the idea of using a checklist, to him, it felt like lacking competence to be seen using one.
I remember how my father had such a checklist for his sailing and summer holidays. To this day I’m impressed that he had such a list and never developed that habit myself. For him, it was a matter of convenience as well as necessity. He knew that to have a safe journey on a sailing boat a missing detail could jeopardize the trip. And being several days at sea meant that he couldn’t get whatever was missing. His first list hadn’t been perfect, over the years he had updated it, transforming his list into a summary of past experiences. He wanted to be reliable and had learned to appreciate the safety the list created for him and the crew. This experience also made it accessible for him to use such a list for his convenience. The list he used for summer holidays made it easier for him to stick to routines he liked and were independent from the rest of the family.
When it comes to risk management checklists serve yet another purpose. They are there to allow people to be nervous or not totally present and still do a good job.
When performing routine tasks like checking an airplane before take-off, people may lose their attention for a bit. The checklist helps them find their concentration again and give their full attention to the things that need to be checked instead of becoming worried that they might have forgotten something. It eases the mind’s workload. In situations of urgency, the mind is rarely clear as it is bothered by the felt urgency. There again, the checklist provides an anchor to stay on track.
For someone like Phil, competence aligns with having a mind constantly performing at its best. Checklists remind them that this might not be the case.