My motorsports hobby runs on checklists. Checklists provide three essential functions before and during a race weekend: communicate work instructions, provide visual confirmation, and increase my available bandwidth. That’s quite a bit from a few sheets of paper on clipboards!
Here are three of my most valuable checklists:
Race Weekend Packing List. It takes a lot of parts and tools to operate a race car, even a relatively simple one like a Formula Ford. The Race Weekend Packing List, of course, lists everything that is to be loaded into the trailer. Every race weekend is a little different, so an “Added Starters” section allows for flexibility: extra sun screen and Gatorade in July, sweat shirts and hot chocolate mix in October. The primary purpose of the Race Weekend Packing List is to ensure that nothing is forgotten. It is so much easier to check these boxes in the shop than to be at the race track without something!
Lola T-540 Checklist. This comprehensive, three-page checklist organizes the preparation of the car. Unlike the Packing List, the Lola T-540 Checklist has multiple columns. In the shop, everything is checked off to ensure that the car is race ready. At the track, not every nut and bolt must be checked before each session. Line items that must be checked off (lug nuts, tire pressures, fuel, body fasteners, etc) are left blank, those not needing attention that session are hashed out. The work content in each column is different, reflecting required maintenance frequencies. Across the columns and down the rows, the Lola T-540 Checklist outlines the maintenance plan for the weekend and visually confirms the readiness of the car. This example from the FF50th took on quite a bit of rain…
Hewland Mk9 Gear Change Checklist. Every so often, the decision is made to change gears at the race track. No need to panic. The long column of the left lists all the parts and supplies that will be needed. The other four columns outline the steps required to disassemble the gearbox, sub-assemble with the new gears, and then put the whole thing back together again. Included in the assembly instructions are torque specs and error-proofing steps. This checklist facilitates teamwork and provides detailed, sequenced work instructions, both very welcome when time is short. With an exploded drawing for reference, everything is under control.
Can you use checklists in your plant, office, or clinic? Almost certainly. I use them in my day job, too. One that comes immediately to mind is the 30-question checklist I use to perform operations assessments. Here’s a quick checklist for checklists:
Do you need to ensure that essential items are not forgotten?
Do you need to ensure that critical tasks are not missed?
Do you need to provide detailed, sequenced work instructions?
Do you need to coordinate multiple people?
Do you need to know the status of work in process?
And how do checklists increase my available bandwidth? Thinking is done back at the shop. At the track, my team knows what to do, when to do it, and has the parts, tools, and supplies needed. A quick glance through the checklists and I know all is well. I can focus on driving the car. You will enjoy the peace of mind, too.
Want to learn more about checklists? Here’s a great book: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.