In our daily business coach meeting, yesterday, we were going over our key performance indicators (KPI’s) and discussing a win that one of our clients had experienced. This particular client has a window cleaning business and is quite successful, with many different locations. We have been working with him for a while and one of his biggest limiting factors has been navigating a 5 week needed training time that he claims is required to get a new employee developed to the level that they need to be so they can work in the field. As we asked more questions and began to delve deeper into the why behind this long 5 week training period, the main reason was that each new person was required to memorize a lot of information. In this man’s business, you have to be careful with the chemicals that are used to clean windows, and there are chemicals that can be mixed and ones that can’t.
As we began to dissect this predicament, his coach, Andrew, began to suggest the idea of taking the time to create a checklist for all of the things that a new person was required to know before they could be put to work. This suggestion was, of course, met with push back and hesitation. As so many business owners think, how could a simple checklist possibly solve this complex problem. Andrew expressed his understanding of the man’s perspective but pushed back, as every good business coach must do, and insisted that they took the time to create the checklist. Reluctantly the owner agreed and they went about creating this checklist. In our business coach meeting, we were able to celebrate that this man had successfully hired, trained, and got his employee working in the field in 3 days. That is unbelievable and yet so believable. This window cleaner was able to take the training time for a new employee down from 5 weeks to 3 days, simply by taking the time to make a detailed checklist of everything that the employee needs to know.
Clay says they he never wastes time memorizing anything that can be put on a checklist or within a system that will allow him to still be successful.
This is life changing and business changing. As Clay Clark has taught us many times, checklists are a roadmap to acceleration. Clay says they he never wastes time memorizing anything that can be put on a checklist or within a system that will allow him to still be successful. An example of this is the fact that Clay has no idea when his kid’s birthdays are. I am serious. If you were to ask him today when his children’s birthdays are, he would reply that he has no idea. In fact, he doesn’t even know the middle names of all his kids. Now, this is not because he doesn’t love them, but it is because this information is stored on a calendar or on their birth certificates and Clay knows where to find the information if he needs it. As he likes to say, “Intelligence is not about memorization, but about your ability to access information.” When this window cleaner allowed his employees to be able to know how to access the needed information instead of memorizing it, he empowered their training period to be cut significantly shorter.
Unfortunately, our current schooling system is set up to support the opposite approach. While in school you are not taught how to access information, but you are taught that memorization is the key to your success. Perhaps this is why our schooling system is so ineffective in so many ways. In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande talks about how creating a checklist for doctors at one specific hospital dropped the death rate by 47%. No longer were doctors and nurses required to make decisions by memory but was instead empowered with the ability to access the information, and the results were significant, to say the least. As he says in his book “The study began in the spring of 2008, and the business coach results were startling. Without adding a single piece of equipment or spending an extra dollar, all eight hospitals saw the rate of major postsurgical complications drop by 36 percent in the six months after the checklist was introduced; deaths fell by 47 percent. “In every site, the introduction of the checklist had been accompanied by a substantial reduction in complications,” he writes. “In seven out of eight, it was a double-digit percentage drop. This thing was real.””
The power of a checklist is undeniable.
Whether you are reading this to find ways to help your business or even your personal life, this is a principle that can change everything for you. “Intelligence is not about memorization, but about your ability to access information” create systems in your life and business that allow you and your employees to access the information they need, when they need it. Right now, pause what you are doing and write down the areas of your business or life that create the most stress. Next, ask yourself, do I have a checklist for this area? If the answer is “no” then you need to take the next block of time and change your life by creating this checklist. Just like in the hospital and with the window cleaner, the results just might be more significant than you ever expected.