Never underestimate the power of a dumb checklist.
Back in 2009, Atul Gawande, a physician and medical journalist, wrote a book, The Checklist Manifesto, which has changed the way many hospitals operate. Checklists came into their own during World War II, when the servicing of planes had become extremely complex. Gawande mapped out how this simple operational tactic could go a long way in preventing often fatal omissions in patient care.
At first, doctors especially were skeptical of this approach, believing they could remember everything when creating their orders and that the staff would remember to carry them out. Unfortunately, this attitude left tens of thousands of patients dead and many more seriously and permanently injured every year across the U.S. Implementing a system of checklists for a multitude of procedures and care afterward substantially brought down mistakes and omissions.
From personal administrative experience, I appreciate the value of this low-tech, simple method. As manager of an event center, I created a comprehensive checklist for each wedding, to ensure everything came off smoothly. If you have ever planned a big wedding, you have an idea of all the details that must come together at the right time, in the right place.
The whole checklist was several pages long and started months in advance. Ultimately, on the weekend of the wedding, it provided a roadmap to ensure our contingent, part-time event staff carried out all their duties, from unlocking the facilities to finally turning off all the lights and locking up.
Which brings us to our Church, a team of staff and volunteers have been working on a checklist and guide for Sunday mornings. There is much to be done under any circumstances, but this is made more difficult while we are guests at Hillel, which requires additional set-up and storage of items for worship, hospitality, and religious education. At times, when someone is either new to a commitment or when the person who had signed up to fulfill a certain role is absent, this becomes even more daunting.
Everyone who is interested in volunteering or simply learning how everything comes together on Sundays is urged to attend a special training session, “Worship Like a Pro”, on Saturday, September 7th from 10 to 2. Details on how to sign up are in the Ecast and elsewhere in the Lat.
It is my hope that over the coming months, we can clarify and document not only these but other procedures and policies at UUCBV. While attention to procedure guides might not involve actual life and death situations like the hospital checklists, I think they are the prescription for a healthy congregational life.