Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Checklists are not Fool-Proof

 "He fabricated the completed checklist!"

As you may know, I am a volunteer at my parish, the Basilica. ( See here for the beginning of the story of how this came to be. ) The job entails inspecting the eight side altars in the main church, ensuring they are compatible with the beauty and magnificence of the rest of the church. 

A great believer in lists, I asked for a checklist to be sure I look for all the things I am expected to look for. I also use the checklist to report what my inspections revealed. For example, about flowers, there are these possibilities:
  • no flowers present
  • way past prime and I disposed of them
  • still at prime and likely to remain so until next week
  • past prime but not quite ready to be disposed of

Altars 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 had no flowers, I disposed of those at altar 3, those at altar 7 will likely not be good until next week and those at altar 8 were good and can likely continue to be good.
As you can see from the figure above, presenting flower data for eight altars is quite compact. I know which altars I've looked at ( in this case, all eight of them ) as well as what I found when I looked. 

When finished with the inspection, I have a few things to do to prepare to leave for home; these include returning a key and fob ( that I wear on a lanyard around my neck ) to a drawer, a broom and dust pan ( that I put into my janitor's cart ) to a closet and making sure I have my tote bag
( which I attach to the cart ) in my possession. Having left the church at least once without my tote bag ( and several other times of not being sure I had returned things to where they belong ), I added a "When leaving" section to my checklist. This would assure me I was actually ready to go when I prepared to set foot outside the church.

My "When leaving" Checklist

I was so proud of myself! I would never leave the Basilica again with my tote bag remaining behind or wondering if I had returned things to where they belong. 

I may have not done that since; but ... 

... but I recall getting to ready to leave one Monday morning. The janitor's cart was back where it belonged. I checked to be sure  all items on my "When Leaving" checklist were checked ( they were ). I put the checklist in my tote bag and was about to set foot for the door when I noticed it. 

The lanyard, with the fob and key, was still around my neck. Disbelieving, I retrieved the checklist from my tote bag. It was as I remembered it, telling me I had returned the key and fob to the drawer.
With nothing to gain, I had joined the ranks of surgeons before surgery, pilots before takeoff, mechanics performing maintenance and countless other professionals who had fabricated a completed checklist to mask their failure to properly perform their duties.

I throw myself at the mercy of the court.
If you would like to comment but don't care to use the comment field, send an email to  walter.comments@inkfounta.in.

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