The WHO has found that simple, low-tech checklists can cut surgical deaths by a third. The checklists ask simple, obvious questions that are often overlooked: Do all the staff know what procedure is about to be performed? Do they have the right patient’s chart? Routinizing these simple questions, unsurprisingly, prevents screwups.
Web services outfit 37 Signals is putting the idea to work in their business. Sure, the stakes are a little lower for web developers than surgeons, but the same principle applies:
“It’s the kind of stuff that we all know, but that we’ll often forget if we’re not being reminded about it in the moment. Thinking back to the mistakes we’ve made in the past, there are plenty of those that could have been avoided or caught much earlier if we had been using checklists.”
I could see this being useful in data analysis: “Have I recoded my reverse-scored items?”, “Have I screened for out-of-range data?”, “Have I checked for multivariate outliers?” The number of facepalm moments I could have avoided with a simple checklist…