Photo courtesy of the Robert Zunikoff

Buffett's new doctor, and author of best selling The Checklist Manifesto, shows the power of simple checklists, and yet shoddy work is still costing building owners an extra 20% in construction costs and bigger maintenance budgets.

5% of total costs in more maintenance

Data from the Construction Industry Institute of 359 projects¹ show the direct costs from rework often total 5% of a building’s total construction costs, while other data² show the cost of defects during maintenance can total 5%. Additional research has the rework cost range spanning between 2 and 20%, and scholars peg most of this rework on “human factors like unskilled workers or insufficient supervision.”³ Measuring twice and cutting once isn’t cutting it.

“Making sure we apply the knowledge we have consistently and correctly.”

Warren Buffett’s new doctor Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto and a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, believes that extreme, modern complexity can be overcome by the humblest of innovations–the simple checklist. A five-point checklist designed to prevent central line infections helped the intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital avoid, over 27 months, an estimated 43 infections and eight deaths. When tested at Michigan’s ICU, infections dropped by 66% within three months.

Unlike the construction industry scholars, Gawande argues that errors stem principally from ineptitude, or a failure to apply what is known to work, rather than ignorance, a failure to know what works. Additional examples in the book include airplane pilots and skyscraper contractors, with the overall message landing that checklists help people get the simple stuff right, every time, while supporting the communication needed to handle the unexpected.

Checklists Ahoy

“If you’re going to sweep the basketball court…sweep it correctly the first time.” I learned about the importance of following best practices as a child, with basketball sneakers on, a push broom in my hand, and my dad’s admonition in my ear.

Getting a job done right the first time is a fundamental tactic to efficient building operations, and a major reason we’re excited that checklists are now part of Tikkit! Add or edit checklist items, and drag them to reorder. Staff members can check them off one by one as they are completed. Use checklists to lay out an explicit set of tasks and to track progress. And any checklist that is part of a recurring request will be copied to any new request in the series when it is created. This is a great way to manage your preventive maintenance program.

Checklists in Tikkit

If you already have a PM program captured in a spreadsheet or text documents, be sure to take advantage of one handy aspect of Tikkit’s checklists: multiline entry. Just cut and paste from your spreadsheet into the “Add new item…” box, and separate lines of text will be converted into separate checklist items automatically.

And if you have any stories about the impact checklists have had in your building, let us know.


  1. Measuring the Impact of Rework on Construction Cost Performance
  2. Defects and Defect Costs in Construction
  3. Towards Automated Defect Detection: Object-oriented Modeling of Construction Specifications
About Millen Paschich

Millen began his career at Cambridge Associates, trained in finance at SMU, and has an MBA from UCLA. Talk to him about bicycling, business, and green chile burritos.

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