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Why ready-made checklists do not work
09.07.2019

We all know the saying about reinventing the wheel. This is a reasonable, rational approach — before you deal with this or that task yourself, you need to look for the ready-made solutions. For example, find samples of checklists for audit of a clothing store or a fast food restaurant, download them and start working. Judging by the number of free checklists posted on the Web, all entrepreneurs should have introduced them and improved their business long ago. Sadly, that doesn't happen and we know why.

How to implement a ready-made checklist

At first glance, all the stores look alike. Each of them performs the same routine operations (e.g. opening/closing of a store) that can be controlled by a standard checklist taken from the Internet. Here is an example.

Facility

Question

Explanation

Adjacent area

Clean (YES / NO)

There is no garbage, snow is removed in winter, approaches and entrances to the shop are free

Facade

OK (YES / NO)

No damage, no unauthorized inscriptions, ads

Signboard

OK (YES / NO)

At night the sign is illuminated, if technically possible, during the day the sign is switched off

Rubbish bins

Clean (YES / NO)

Clean outside, clear around the bins.

Empty (YES / NO)

Empty before opening;

empty in the daytime — not more than 1/2 full;

at rush hour — not more than 2/3 full

Vestibule

Clean (YES / NO)

No debris or other impurities, clean dirt-proof carpet at the entrance

Front doors

OK (YES / NO)

Doors are in good condition, open easily, clean

Bag closet

OK (YES / NO)

Drawers are clean inside, doors are in good condition, locks are in working condition, keys are available

 

What's wrong with this example? Not all the questions might be right for you. For example, the vestibule clause states that it is necessary to check the presence and cleanliness of the dirt-proof carpet. Now let's imagine that your store is located in a shopping center, which means that it does not have a dirt carpet nor a vestibule. It turns out that this question will have to be excluded or modified. 

Of course, for such a simple operation as opening a store it will not be difficult to do, but if you try to use a sample checklist of a more complex business process, you will find that you will have to change the good half of the questions. And yet this is only half bad. Once you've implemented a checklist like this, you'll soon see that the practice isn't as effective as you'd expect.

Checklist use results

For example, you found a checklist to check the layout of the goods and decided to use it to evaluate your retail facilities. You collect the results and find that all the stores are displaying the goods wrong. Then you look at the real picture and see the goods neatly laid out. Why?

Most likely, there are two reasons:

  1. The checklist you downloaded was compiled based on different standards.

  2. The auditors did not have any explanation of the issues and samples of the correct layout. 

Because of this, the results of the audits did not correspond to reality.

What is the right checklist?

That question can be answered in one way or another: individual.

That is, in the best case, you can use checklists from the Internet only as a model to build your own. Ideally, you should do everything yourself based on your company's standards. In other words, you need to have a clear understanding of how the business process should run, in accordance with the company standards and this understanding should be reflected in the control questions. 

It is also desirable that the preparation of the questions should involve subject experts in this business process. Otherwise, in practice, there will be persistent inconsistencies that hamper and delay the work of all audit participants.

Obviously, it may not be possible to make a working checklist even based on the sample at the first time. It's not easy, because we need to take into account a lot of nuances, as we wrote the whole article "Use checklists efficiently". If you encounter difficulties and your own expertise is not enough, you can always ask us for advice.

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Tags standards control , process management
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