Category Archives: Business

Getting Value out of Checklists for Quality Improvement

Pre Trip Checklist By Oregon Department of Transportation, via Wikimedia Commons

Pre Trip Checklist via Wikimedia Commons

Just finished reading the excellent article, Amazing Checklists by Ian Whittingham, PMP over at projectmanagement.com. Ian gives a brief history of checklists used in business and then tracing them back to early checklists found in the palace of King Minos at Knossos for regulating the palace’s administrative processes. Ian then brings us a great case study about using checklists for patient care in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients, patient safety and prevention of secondary infection prevention due to use of catheters. The Keystone Initiative, the results which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that the use of checklists saved an estimated 1,500 lives and approximately $175 million in costs in the first 18 months of operation. Amazing results when you consider that we are talking about saving lives, not delivery of products.

I’ve seen both the PM and SQA value of checklists, but the when I started into Health Informatics the value went off the scale in terms of patient safety and risk mitigation.

What I’m curious about is how many organizations adopt the “right kind” of checklist that really reinforces quality control instead of just being quality assurance focused. This is of particular interest in non-manufacturing industries. It seems to me that there should be a blend between checklists for quality control and quality assurance. The reason for needing a blend is due to the very real danger of creating a bureaucracy created to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline. It’s when checklists are designed to reinforce the art and science of the crafts within each industry that I see the biggest improvements of quality and process adherence.

So there are several “smells like” tests that I’ve run across that could be used by business leaders to determine where on the spectrum of process adherence focus vs. value delivery focus your checklists are.

The organization is likely creating a bureaucracy if any of the “smells like” tests are true:

  • Checklists call out the structure of process supporting documentation instead of the quality of the content of process supporting documentation
  • Checklists are being used and there is no understanding of the purpose of the checklist by the checklist user (e.g. just checking the box because that is what will get the product or service delivered).

The organization is likely using checklists correctly if any of the “smells like” tests are true:

  • Checklists call out that the work product has met the threshold of the definition of being a quality product and has met the acceptance criteria created by the user of the product
  • Checklists are being used to prevent risk of major defects or errors when implementing the product or service (e.g. Process steps were followed).

The latter should be used judiciously. A good rule of them is to determine if using the checklist causes more that a 0-3% in efficiency.

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Starting another blog for Business Management advice

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Image via Wikipedia

I decided to start another blog for capturing all the management consultant observations and wisdom that comes to me throughout my life under that sun. My initial hope was rather self-serving: create a place to dump my brain that connects all the places on the web where I draw upon as a person body of knowledge (PBOK). As I work on the content more and more (as yet unpublished), I realize that inadvertently I may put a toe-hold on fulfilling my goal finding the people I want to mentor and those who would mentor me: in short, leaving a living legacy.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” — John C. Maxwell

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Silly software licensing models

I recently stumbled upon a situation where I violated the terms of my software license agreement. Following that, I almost bought another piece of software where I would have inadvertently broken the terms of my license agreement there, too.

What gives?

What would cause me to violate the terms of my software license agreement? A bad software license agreement. In both cases, one from the most well-known software company and one from a shareware developer. What they have in common is a two-tier software license model where you can purchase a license for personal use or a license for commercial use at a significant premium.

So here is the scenario that caused me to violate my software license agreement: I purchase the “Home and Student” version of a well known office suite. In the fine print is a clause that states I cannot use the software for commercial work. I assume that means I cannot create work products that are sold to someone. A colleague sends me a document at home which I open, review, edit and send back to him using the restricted software. Bingo. I just broke my license agreement. Or did I? Where does personal use end and commercial use begin? If I create a document and post it to my personal website and then, using the Creative Commons License model, allow for a derivative work with attribution with royalties… did I just violate my software license agreement? Isn’t the content what was being licensed and not the file format?

If a lawyer wants to pipe in on this, contact me. I’m sure that in communist, er… socialist democratic (gotta be P.C. these days) countries there are probably some kind of tax implications I’m ignoring such as valuation of software as an asset, etc.

The entire thing is silly. One price and quit jerking me around, please. As a side note: I’ve since found “free”, open-source replacements for both products. Not only are they viable alternatives, but is actually a step-up.

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