Leading in a Culture of Checklists
By Lieutenant Joseph Graham, U.S. Coast Guard
In October 2007, the Associated Press reported that the USS Hampton's (SSN-767) commanding officer was relieved after required nuclear-reactor checks were not performed. The Navy made it clear that this incident did not, in itself, pose a threat. But the mere existence of a checklist for monitoring certain aspects of the nuclear plant reflects their importance to proper operation of the submarine.
Anyone who has spent time in the armed forces has quickly been introduced to some form of checklist or other detailed, step-by-step procedure. The military coordinates thousands of personnel, among whom many are in given situations for the first time in complicated, dangerous operations where there is no room for failure. Even tasks that appear routine, like completing maintenance, support these life-or-death missions and must be approached with an equal amount of thoroughness. Detailed procedures and the checklists that accompany them are crucial to provide consistency and efficiency in completing these tasks.