Sunday, February 1, 2015

Your brain on paper - Checklists (10 kinds!)

In your organisation:
Do you do things more than once?
Do you do them more than twice?
If you do the more than twice, then you should have a checklist. Most of what follows in this brief article can be found in more detail in - The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

Mr. Gawande points out that there are two forms of checklists: Read-Do and Do-Confirm; additionally, Justin Fox, in an excellent Harvard business review article ( describes five kinds of checklists.

  • The most straightforward kind of checklist is the task list
  • A close relative of the task list is the troubleshooting list
  • A coordination list.
  • A discipline list, where you set down a list of procedures you want to follow to keep you from making bad decisions later, in the heat of the moment.
  • The most common sort of checklist is the to-do list. 

With these five different kinds of checklists, each of which can be Read-Do or Do-Confirm checklists, there is a lot of flexibility to codify expertise without constraining spontaneity and creativity.

Below are some pointers on how to create excellent checklists, followed by an excellent web article on how to create physical checklists that are highly functional and usable.

 Here are some guidelines from the checklist manifesto:
  •  Keep them short and simple. Spelling out every step turns off people's brains. Focus on critical steps needed to prevent common mistakes.
  • Use task checks for obvious but critical operations.
  • Use communication checks for complex stuff - They "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."
  • Pick the right type of list. Use READ-DO checklists (read each step, then do it) when users have limited experience with the process. Use DO-CONFIRM checklists (do the steps from memory, then pause and check) when users have memorized most of the steps. 
  • Test and adapt. Like most things, you won't get your checklist right the first time. Pay attention to which steps are tedious or confusing, and fix them as you go.

Given this richness available in the world of the humble checklist don't you think you owe it to yourself, and your team to start making this part of your professional life, thus ensuring:

You will be all you can be! 

Tony Sherman, the Implementation Rabbi, at Impact Teams. My your checklists bring you prosperity throughout 2015.


  1. Tony: Great advice and better by following it.
    Al Luoma

  2. Tony: Great advice and better by following it.
    Al Luoma