How to create a good checklist
Mar 16th, 2012 by Joca

I already mentioned about “The Checklist Manifesto” book in two previous posts, one explaining how important it is to use checklists, and another one on using checklists to deal with the unexpected.

In this post I’ll reproduce some of my highlights from the book. These highlights provide advice on how to create a good checklist:

Pilots nonetheless turn to their checklists for two reasons. First, they are trained to do so. They learn from the beginning of flight school that their memory and judgment are unreliable and that lives depend on their recognizing that fact. Second, the checklists have proved their worth—they work.

There are good checklists and bad, Boorman explained. Bad checklists are vague and imprecise. They are too long; they are hard to use; they are impractical. They are made by desk jockeys with no awareness of the situations in which they are to be deployed. They treat the people using the tools as dumb and try to spell out every single step. They turn people’s brains off rather than turn them on. Good checklists, on the other hand, are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything—a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps—the ones that even the highly skilled professionals using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.

No matter how much thought we might put in, a checklist has to be tested in the real world, which is inevitably more complicated than expected. First drafts always fall apart, he said, and one needs to study how, make changes, and keep testing until the checklist works consistently.

The checklist cannot be lengthy. A rule of thumb some use is to keep it to between five and nine items, which is the limit of working memory.

You must decide whether you want a DO-CONFIRM checklist or a READ-DO checklist. With a DO-CONFIRM checklist, he said, team members perform their jobs from memory and experience, often separately. But then they stop. They pause to run the checklist and confirm that everything that was supposed to be done was done. With a READ-DO checklist, on the other hand, people carry out the tasks as they check them off—it’s more like a recipe.

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Using checklists to deal with the unexpected
Jan 2nd, 2012 by Joca

I mentioned earlier about “The Checklist Manifesto” book. The post was originally written in Portuguese but you can find a Google translation here. In this post I mentioned about the use of checklist in surgeries and other medical procedures and how we could use checklists in the IT environment.

I was reviewing my Kindle highlights for this book and found this highlight:

Surgery has, essentially, four big killers wherever it is done in the world: infection, bleeding, unsafe anesthesia, and what can only be called the unexpected. For the first three, science and experience have given us some straightforward and valuable preventive measures we think we consistently follow but don’t. These misses are simple failures — perfect for a classic checklist. And as a result, all the researchers’ checklists included precisely specified steps to catch them.

But the fourth killer — the unexpected — is an entirely different kind of failure, one that stems from the fundamentally complex risks entailed by opening up a person’s body and trying to tinker with it. Independently, each of the researchers seemed to have realized that no one checklist could anticipate all the pitfalls a team must guard against. So they had determined that the most promising thing to do was just to have people stop and talk through the case together — to be ready as a team to identify and address each patient’s unique, potentially critical dangers.

Dr. Gawande found out that in order to address the unexpected, checklists should not only include task checks but also communication checks. Dr. Gawande got to that conclusion visiting a 700,000-square-foot office and apartment complex construction site with between two to five hundred workers on-site on any give day managed by a man called Finn O’Sullivan. The volume of knowledge and degree of complexity O’Sullivan manages is impressive and it was as monstrous as anything Dr. Gawande had encountered in medicine. Here’s the explanation:

It was also a checklist, but it didn’t specify construction tasks; it specified communication tasks. For the way the project managers dealt with the unexpected and the uncertain was by making sure the experts spoke to one another — on X date regarding Y process. The experts could make their individual judgments, but they had to do so as part of a team that took one another’s concerns into account, discussed unplanned developments, and agreed on the way forward. While no one could anticipate all the problems, they could foresee where and when they might occur. The checklist therefore detailed who had to talk to whom, by which date, and about what aspect of construction — who had to share (or “submit”) particular kinds of information before the next steps could proceed.

The submittal schedule specified, for instance, that by the end of the month the contractors, installers, and elevator engineers had to review the condition of the elevator cars traveling up to the tenth floor. The elevator cars were factory constructed and tested. They were installed by experts. But it was not assumed that they would work perfectly. Quite the opposite. The assumption was that anything could go wrong, anything could get missed. What? Who knows? That’s the nature of complexity. But it was also assumed that, if you got the right people together and had them take a moment to talk things over as a team rather than as individuals, serious problems could be identified and averted.

So next time you design a checklist, remember to include not only task checks but also communication checks.

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Interesting stuff
Feb 19th, 2011 by Joca

  • Customers shouldn’t be the ones who define your products; they should be the inspiration for your products definition. (via @sjohnson717)
  • In general I think that anger is a sign of weakness and tolerance a sign of strength. (via @DalaiLama)
  • Very good article by @simonsinek: Good Marketing vs. Bad Marketing – http://bit.ly/f4kuna
  • …people spend most of their time either jumping to conclusions or else taking no notice at all of facts. (via http://bit.ly/guRxQw)
  • Different modes of behaviour on the part of the wise are to be regarded as due to differences in individuality, not of quality. (via http://bit.ly/guRxQw)
  • Anyone “software professional” who is not humble about the software business is is not actually a professional. (via @JerryWeinberg)
  • Really beautiful REAL Google Earth FRACTALS! But missing Brazil though… http://bit.ly/hja6PX (via @cristobalvila)
  • Interesting notes on entrepreneurship: http://bit.ly/dNS8ga
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Under pressure
Feb 7th, 2011 by Joca

Jason Yip just reminded me about the “under pressure” situation:

When people are pressured to meet targets they have three ways to respond:

  1. Improve the system
  2. Distort the system
  3. Distort the data

Fonte: Jason Yip’s blog

Yip is reading what seems to be a very good book on variation, Understanding Variation: The Key to Managing Chaos. In this book the author Donald J. Wheeler, according to an Amazon.com reviewer, “provides managers a rational way to look at daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly figures and tell whether the actions they take have resulted in improvement”. It seems to be a very interesting book from what Yip’s been posting:

Understanding Variation

Understanding Variation

Well, another book for my future reading list. Hopefully it will have a Kindle version soon.

Under pressure

Going back to the “under pressure” topic:

When people are pressured to meet targets they have three ways to respond:

  1. Improve the system
  2. Distort the system
  3. Distort the data

Fonte: Jason Yip’s blog

That’s a good way to see the possible outcomes of a group of people under pressure.

I like to use balloon as a metaphor to help understand under pressure situations.



Here’s why:

  • there’s pressure from inside and from outside.
  • pressure from inside and from outside needs to be balanced.
  • to much pressure from the inside or to little pressure from outside and balloon explodes.
  • to much pressure from the outside or to little pressure from inside and the balloon explodes unless it is one of those balloons where the more outside pressure it gets the harder it is to explode.

Lessons learned

  • There’s no such thing as “no pressure”. A group of people needs pressure from outside (the goal, the target date, lack of resources) as well as from inside (motivation) to exist and do things, just like a balloon.
  • Inside pressure and outside pressure needs to be balanced with some tendency to have a bit more pressure from the outside.
  • Under pressure, a group of people either explode or get stronger.
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Sobre gestão de desenvolvimento de produtos de tecnologia
Oct 7th, 2008 by Joca

Esse post é só para fazer um link para um texto muito interessante do Akita sobre vários temas que ele e eu temos conversado ultimamente sobre gestão de desenvolvimento de produtos de tecnologia:

Off-Topic: O Manifesto Ágil, ou Como se Tornar o Google

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Poupando tempo com audiobooks
Sep 27th, 2008 by Joca

Akita recentemente me deu algumas dicas muito legais de livros:

Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
The Misbehavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin & Reward

As dicas todas vem do post Off-Topic: Matando a Média do blog do Akita.

Tem a ver com temas como caos, complexidade e emergêngia de comportamento organizado em sistemas complexos, temas esses que têm aplicação em áreas tão diversas como mercado econômico, origem da vida, administração de empresas, organização celular, sociedades, entre outras. É muito fascinamente. Há até relação entre a teaoria de sistemas complexos adaptativos e as metodologias ágeis. Outro texto sobre essa relação não está mais disponível no endereço original, mas sobrou uma cópia no cache do Google.

Mas enfim, esse post era para falar sobre audiobooks, então vamos lá. Com tantas coisas interessantes pra ler, o difícil lé achar tempo. Foi quando Akita me deu a dica de usar audiobooks. Estou ouvindo o livro Linked e realmente é ótimo. Dá para aproveitar momentos em que não se consegue ler por limitações físicas, por exemplo, quando se está no tr^nsito, ou quando se está comendo sozinho. Esses são excelente momentos para o audiobook, e de quebra, damos oportunidade para nosso ouvido praticar ouvir inglês.

Fica a dica para aqueles que querem ler mais do que conseguem! 🙂

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