From an early age, we learn to use a recipe or a step by step guide. Mom prompted us mornings before school with a checklist so that we don’t forget something. “Everything in life is a checklist, whether it’s building a birdhouse or building a kitchen. If you don’t have a checklist, you’re much more likely to forget something,” said Brian Tracy.
Checklists are very necessary. They are used daily and in doing any project or managing any team’s tasks. Steven Levitt verifies this and said, “No matter how expert you may be, well-designed checklists can improve outcomes.”
Here are seven reasons why we at The Mindspa Institute believe that checklists are an important management tool for leaders:
- Increase productivity
Brain Tracy said: “The checklist is one of the most high-powered productivity tools ever discovered.” When you ensure that checklists form the basis of all projects it will increase the productivity of every team. Why? Simply because it clearly maps out of what is expected of everyone, by what time the deliverables should be completed and what will the measurements of success entail. Thus, everyone knows what they should do, and the time limit helps them push towards completing the task.
- Keeps everyone on the same page
To map out everyone’s responsibilities onto one checklist helps that the entire team can see the holistic approach and plan. A checklist serves as a clear communication plan for the project. It instantly forms part of a basic agreement of job responsibilities allocated to each team member.
- Can easily fill someone in
A checklist assists a new team member or manager to understand where the project is at any stage. By indicating progress meetings on the checklist, the communication channels are documented and can be followed or referred back to if needed.
- Breaks down the work and allocates responsibilities
On the checklist, the job responsibilities are noticeably allocated to each team member. By doing this team members are aware of the fairness of job division. Everyone can also monitor the progress of someone else’s duties. They are guided with certain deliverables and if one of their duties interfere or overlaps with other team members’, they know who to approach and can brainstorm on how to resolve the issue or even collaborate.
- Creates a timeline that can be managed
John Patrick Hickey wrote, “Deadlines give us the sense that we are really on our way and that we will achieve the goal – soon!” When you create a checklist, you have a timeline. In this timeline there should be regular follow-up or progress meetings scheduled to determine if everyone is still in agreement with the deadlines and if it is still achievable. A timeline is a sure way of committing your team members to a goal and as Mit Kalantri said in Wealth of Words: “A professional who doesn’t deliver as committed is not just lazy, he is a liar.”
- Develops a project plan and project control with clear measurable results
Teams have team leaders who develop a project plan. In essence, a project plan is your checklist. Your checklist not only keeps the team leader focussed, but he/she can control the project so that the results can be properly managed. This is vital for the team member who has to do the physical work. If you as a team leader see that your team members have difficulty following checklists or understanding them, or if you notice your team members’ stress levels are increasing, proper training in these soft skills are needed. It will help combat time management pitfalls and better your workflow.
- Archiving checklists help capture and preserve knowledge
Especially projects that are reoccurring like an event, for example, need well documented checklists and debriefing checklists. They help old and new teams alike to build on the successes and improve on the weaknesses of previous projects. Well documented checklists capture and preserve the knowledge of that specific project so you can always revert back to them.
The Mindspa Institute is a soft skills training company. We have developed a free template of a checklist that might assist you with managing your next project. We also offer a Basic Project Management skills training course.