Tomorrow's Engineer: The Benefits Of Checklists
Volume one of my library was a spiral notebook, which I still have, where I would write down rules of thumb, budget values, etc. Later, I began using a three-ring binder to store my checklists because it made good business sense to not try and memorize all of it. It was easier to collect, retain, and inventory the tasks this way.
Adding To The KnowledgeAs my responsibilities grew and I joined forces with others on projects, I was able to draw upon their expertise and experience to continue to create a wealth of business tool checklists.
Today, I have amassed a wealth of information that covers facility assessment, building surveys, design engineering, estimating, construction administration, and O&M. These time management and quality control documents have provided me with a means to train others by delegating work based on using these checklists to complete portions of the job. These technical tools also assist the individual in learning the process and providing a roadmap for the task at hand. They say, "a picture is worth a 1,000 words," and so is the application of a checklist. Here are a few of the benefits.
Benefit #1: The specific checklist sets the guidelines by which a task is going to be performed. With little instructions needed, the person can go about their job inventorying the work they complete as they go. A good example of this is the use of a drawing checklist to check off "title block completed," then "room names completed," and "duct sizes shown," etc.
A trick of the trade that I used before CAD software was to have a checklist of "non-think" work. What I mean by this is that I would have an inventory of tasks that anyone with a lettering drafting template could complete with little instruction. This would free up the designer to do design and allow a draftsperson to complete this work instead. Since I valued the draftsperson as much as the designer, I would recruit individuals in the administration pool to assist on the job, thus freeing up the draftsperson to do slightly more technical drafting. Frequently, secretaries would ask for this additional work and completed the job after normal work hours. This provided them with some additional money, and it offered them the opportunity to do something different and learn something different.
Benefit #2: Quality control is an integral part of checklist application. I frequently will tell people that with each of them using the same checklist to complete similar tasks or assignments, I know they are all proceeding in the same direction. I ask that people who have problems with this method to offer suggestions as to how we can improve on it. My checklists are continuously being enhanced and, with the help of those using the checklists, these business tools take on a consensus of many rather then the opinion of just one person.
Benefit #3: Checklists inevitably spawn new checklists as the work is standardized. One example is that my original HVAC drawing checklist has given birth to electrical drawing and plumbing drawing checklists. When using these documents, I found a sense of project completion and job satisfaction knowing that many mundane tasks were appropriately addressed with the same sense of urgency as the system design and sequence of operation.
Benefit #4: The "concept package" checklist, an engineering method introduced to me early in my career, has expanded into an 18-division checklist based on the industry standard specification format. This checklist process proved invaluable during my design-build engineering/estimating days. With this approach, we were able to crank out engineered solutions at a rate of one per day with a sense of completeness and competitive pricing. It was this concept that got me invited on to the Pentagon Renovation team, where we met the requirement that the D-B performance criteria for this multimillion-dollar project be documented in 16-pages or less.