Two Minute Tips  

Checklists, Ignorance and Ineptitude

Bill Barto | Contributing Author, RELIABILITY CONNECT

According to Atul Gawande’s excellent book “The Checklist Manifesto” failures only happen because of two things: ignorance or ineptitude.

Ignorance, in this context, is when technology or knowledge hasn’t progressed far enough to prevent the failure. For example, predictive maintenance technologies and the IIoT are quickly maturing but there are still failure modes and equipment problems that we do not know how to overcome.

Ineptitude, on the other hand, is when the technology or knowledge exists, but it’s not properly applied and the failure occurs. This happens when we have the right grease but forget to lubricate the bearing or when the new equipment is installed but not aligned properly.

Atul’s book presents lots of medical examples of ineptitude and how it has been overcome through the use of simple checklists. The checklists that he presents are simple, short documents that remind individuals of the important steps of a process. They aren’t intended to be step-by-step instructions and aren’t designed to be a substitute for training.

Below is a photo of one of my favorite passages from the book. It is an explanation by Boeing’s Daniel Boorman on the difference between good and bad checklists.

In my opinion, good checklists are an important tool and applicable in lots of places (e.g., startup/shutdown, routine maintenance tasks, downtime recovery). How do you use checklists in your plant/facility?

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