In October 1931, the U.S. Army Air Corps held a flight competition for airplane manufacturers vying to build the army’s next-generation long-range bomber. The overwhelming favourite was the Boeing Model 299, which was dubbed “the flying fortress.”
But disaster struck; the plane crashed, killing two members of the flight crew, including the pilot, Major P. P. Hill.
An investigation revealed that nothing had gone wrong. The crash was attributed to pilot error. The report suggested that the 299 was too much aircraft for one man to fly.
The accident report found that Hill was unfamiliar with the aircraft and had neglected to release the elevator lock prior to take off. Once the plane was airborne, the Boeing chief test pilot realized what was happening and tried to reach the lock handle, but it was too late.
There was a need to make sure that everything necessary was done before take off. What resulted was a series of checklists for pilots: one for take off, one for flight, one for before landing, and one for after landing. The 299 was too much for one man to fly: it was simply too complex for any one person’s memory. But these checklists for the pilot and co-pilot made sure that nothing was forgotten or overlooked.
Thanks to the checklists, careful planning, and rigorous training, the twelve planes the army initially ordered flew 1.8 million miles without a serious accident. The army then accepted the 299 and eventually ordered 12,731 of the aircraft they numbered the B17.
And so the checklist was born.
What about your projects? Do you have a checklist?
I have been asked many times for a one page document that summarises the development & delivery of a project.I have developed one that is a practical tool and you can find it here. However, it is wider than the words stated as the check sheet can be a vital aid in governance of the project:
- what have we missed?
- yes, we have included it however the quality is not as it should be
- should we include this aspect in the project? If yes, it could be at the expense of something else
These are simple examples however those who have used them have said they have been invaluable. As one person said on a project management course after completing the checklist: “yes, there are a few aspects missing or not done very well. We need to stop and deal with these issues now”
The checklist can help deliver the outcomes needed. It is part of the overall governance of your project and is based on best practice. Let me know what you think about checklists and please note; you will need to amend it to fit your project(s) or your organisation.
The checklist is available here