Management by Checklist


“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” — The Who

“They supply a set of checks to ensure the stupid but critical stuff is not overlooked, and they supply another set of checks to ensure people talk and coordinate and accept responsibility while nonetheless being left the power to manage the nuances and unpredictabilities the best they know how.” — Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto

Yesterday the blog Quartz (recommend following) published an article about Chipotle and how the company has developed a specific and highly effective management checklist that combines qualitative and quantitative performance results.  In particular, the article details a vigorous 39 point performance checklist for managers.  Here are the links for the orginal article as well as Fortune’s follow-up piece:

I find myself spending more and more time with sales managers.  Every one of these managers is responsible for a high-performance team of sales professionals, generating millions of dollars of top-line revenue annually.  Every one of these managers has been a successful sales professional in his or her own right.  And every one of these managers is well-intentioned and motivated.  To the best of my knowledge they are also learning to manage through “trial by fire” circumstances.  Expectations are usually defined in obtuse terms of “Grow by 20%.”  I’m left asking: “Other than sales performance how else is their effective management defined and managed?”  Or, “Who manages the managers and by what criteria?”  Surely “sink or swim” or something in-between can be improved for small business managers.  Chipotle is proving that a specific checklist that holds managers accountable for financial performance as well as cultural/team development criteria lends structure, motivation, and clarity to a job that is too often defined in cloudy, broad terms at best.

2 responses

  1. Good word. MP. Been reading 4 Disciplines of Execution (McChesney). The book talks about leading teams in very focused manner. They recommend defining the goal ie “Grow 20%” but choosing to focus singularly on lead indicators that will actually get you there. Meaning, focusing managers on one or two goals they can actually influence instead of looking at what happened in the past (financial statements). Focusing solely on financial statements and target sales numbers is like Like trying to drive a car while staring in the rear view mirror.


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