Thoughts on procedures and checklists

Written by Rick van Rein in category: Procedures, Technical

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These are a few general thoughts about procedures and checklists, before diving into the detail level required by some of them. In general, we see procedures as predefined steps that can satisfy a checklist without further thought for an operator with normal skills.

Procedures can be helpful because they take the creativity (and anxiety) out of a series of steps to be taken. They are useful in some places, but may be frustrating and limiting in others. In general, we like procedures if we are in a rush, such as when emergency recovery is needed. We also like procedures for things that are hard to verify but that must be consistently reliable, such as backups. Finally, we like procedures if we want to know how things are done, rather than just what is done; this may be helpful to formalise the co-operation with external parties.

A general list of questions to be answered for each issue would be

  1. when is it needed (in which situations, and in which should it not be done)
  2. what is the task at hand (checklist to be fulfilled)
  3. why is it important, potential problems to be avoided
  4. how it is realised in practical-grainsized steps

The last point, how, is the essential procedure. In cases with more room for creativity or even a need for some intelligent action, it may suffice to state a checklist under what but instead of detailing the why rely on the cleverness of an operator to satisfy each check on the list.