Culture change that sticks – the checklist…

August 28th, 2019 | By Laura Weaving, Managing Director at Duo

When helping our clients navigate culture change, one of the essential steps is codifying the elements of their culture that drive the most success. Often, these are either not detailed anywhere, or are buried in a “too big to read” manual somewhere. One of the keys to creating culture change that sticks – simplifying complicated processes into useable, actionable items that the whole team buy into and can use easily every day. Useable beats detailed every single time. 

In really successful businesses, there is a proven way to do things, that drives a particular result, and people know how to execute that proven process time and time again. Instead of embarking on a complicated over documentation of every process in your business, consider another tool – the checklist.

Atul Gawande wrote about the success of checklists across continents, industries and people in his book “The Checklist Manifesto”, with everyone from surgeons, to pilots, to business people, creating higher and more predictable levels of success through checklists. Take Warren Buffet as an example, one of the most successful and well known business investors, he uses a checklist to inform his investment decisions.

Gawande talks about even the simple addition to a checklist within an operating room of “everyone in the surgical team introducing themselves” led to 35% reduction in complication and death.

A great way to get started with checklists is to look at your “high performers” – it is usually “how” they do something that sets them apart. Put together a work group of these people and have them look at different elements of your business and culture that are essential in driving the right results. They could look at everything from lessons learned from a recent project, to assessing any reoccurring issues that seem to keep coming up, or simplifying any essential policies & procedures. When creating your checklists, consider a few key points:

  • Only document the critical moments – what are the defining moments in something either working or not working? Aim for no more than 5-9 items.
  • Where will the checklists be accessed? Even the best checklists are of no use if no-one knows where to find them. Consider where to store them for easy access – it could be in a google doc, an online hard drive or a project management system like slack, and would ideally be something your team accesses regularly.
  • They need to be tested – often a checklist is great until someone who wasn’t involved in writing it tries to use it and can’t. Have your team test the checklist with several different people and refine until it feels fit for purpose.

This is part of a series on tools for culture change, for more insight directly to your inbox, sign up for our blog updates. If you are struggling with making culture change stick, you might also find one of our free 60 minute insight sessions useful!