A Pattern For Procedure

Checklists and procedures seem to go hand in hand. We all seem to have them, lists that outline the key points to cover at that first client interview, to perform when handling a real estate closing, to cover when closing a file, etc. The elements of standard procedure reduced to bullet points and checked off one by one as the task is performed. The problem with checklists is that they are really designed to be used by two people – one to read the list, the other to perform the action. Running a randomly ordered checklist solo is inefficient – sure you can cover all the points, but ask yourself: how many times did you lose your place, or have to back up a step or two just to be sure?

Now for the good news, there’s a way to improve checklist efficiency. Its the flow concept and comes from aviation. The idea is to accomplish a task through the use of specific patterns. A flow simply structures an important task so that every element is completed in the correct order and nothing is missed. Think of it as a Gantt chart you perform.

The basic concept is to:

  • arrange the flow so that items are performed in a natural, logical sequence so that step B builds from step A
    • memorize the “killer” steps – those things that have to be done even if everything else is forgotten
  • interact with the steps in the flow
    • touch the physical item a step refers to
    • verbalize each step as it is accomplished
  • follow up with a single run through of the checklist

A good flow acts as a type of mnemonic, allow a procedure to be accomplished smoothly, naturally and efficiently.