The Checklist Solution

  • Michael Cunningham
  • Foreman
  • Rafn Company

In Atul Gawande's article in the New York Times, The Checklist, he talks about the complexity of modern medicine and how everything must go correctly for a positive outcome. "The degree of difficulty in any one of these steps is substantial. Then you must add the difficulties of orchestrating them in the right sequence, with nothing dropped, leaving some room for improvisation, but not too much." And while construction professionals do not face the life or death implications that doctor’s face, our work incorporates many of the same steps and processes to get to that successful outcome.

In the world of occupied renovation construction projects, it often seems that workmanship, performance, and integrity are under constant scrutiny. We can contribute these keen observations to the lives that are affected day in and day out, as we come and go from the “once-quiet” living spaces of the tenants that dwell within the project.

Keeping this in mind, we must always keep a watchful eye out for the detail of our craftsmanship and the professional integrity of our company. The best way to do this is to implement a thorough and organized Quality Assurance / Quality Control Program featuring the humble yet powerful checklist. The program typically consists of three parts.

One: Ensuring the component to be installed is the right size and shape, meets the specifications and coordinates with all of its adjacent components. Educating the workers (this could entail anything from a hands on demonstrations to a detailed sequential layout of the work that is to be performed).

Two: Completing a thorough, step-by-step, quality control checklist with progress/ completion photos (this is important for the workers to remember to execute every step that needs to be applied to finish their project goal in an efficient manner).

Three: Compiling and organizing quality assurance information (whereas the quality control checklists benefit the workers and their performance, the quality assurance portions benefit the owner as well as the contractor). This is where we compile all of the job specific quality control checklists, pictures, and any other details that are needed. Quality assurance serves two purposes: it shows the owners that the utmost care and professionalism was taken with their building and their money; and it protect us, the contractor, if there should be any conflicting questions regarding our workmanship.

Although we would love to trust that we could simply point a tradesman or a craftsman in a specified direction and the work be completed to our satisfaction, we cannot. The QA / QC program exists for a reason.

"It looks good from my house" is a phrase we’ve all heard before. It exists as a tongue-in-cheek expression as well as an excuse for poor workmanship. With a well thought out QA / QC program we can avoid the dilemmas and costs that can occur over the course of a project. Always remember to over think your checklist. Practice a dry run first and mark each step. Remember to list when to take and how to label pictures. And always, always, remember to add "Work area is clean and clear of all work debris" at the end of your checklist.

In an occupied building, efficiency and cleanliness are both extremely important. Without a quality control checklist it is highly possible that a step will be overlooked, and multiple returns to the dwelling are needed to resolve any issues that may need to be addressed. The less time spent in a dwelling makes a much happier resident. A happy resident translates to a happy owner.

Good luck with your checklists, and remember to look at them regularly.

Reference : The Checklist by Atul Gawande

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