SwissChecklist

Checklist: Tips for Good Checklists

Creating checklists is easy, creating great checklists takes some experience. We've assembled the most important tips and tricks for you here.
  • Structure of Checklist Collections

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    There are some classic things you can do to organize your checklists and the way they are related. Here are the most important ones.
    • Duplicate chains of action - when multiple checklists have the same sequence of steps - are an indicator of optimization potential
    • Very long checklists / processes
    • Checklists with sections that could be run parallel
    • Checklists with sections that are performed by different people and don't require execution in a specific order
  • Duplicate chains of action - when two processes/checklists are almost identical

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    When two processes are almost identical, for example this:
    • Process 1: Create Customer for the Business Unit Abc
      • Add to ERP
      • Add to CRM
      • Send greetings e-mail
      • Inform the Key Account Manager of Business Unit Abc
    • Process 2: Create Customer for the Business Unit Qwerty
      • Add to ERP
      • Add to CRM
      • Send greetings e-mail
      • Inform the Key Account Manager of Business Unit Qwerty

    The solution: Create one process like this
    • Process 2: Create Customer
      • Add to ERP
      • Add to CRM
      • Send greetings e-mail
      • Inform the Key Account Manager of the Business Unit
  • Duplicate chains of action - when process/checklist parts are identical

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    Often parts of a process will be the same, like this:
    • Checklist 1: Vacation in Summer
      • Swimming trunks
      • Digital camera
      • Shampoo
      • Soap
      • Toothbrush
      • Toothpase
      • Sun Glasses
    • Checklist 2: Vacation in Winter
      • Jacket
      • Digital camera
      • Shampoo
      • Soap
      • Toothbrush
      • Toothpase
      • Snow googles

    There are three solutions to this:
    • One is to create a shared checklist containing all the duplicate steps, and referring to that one from two other, specialized checklists. You would have these three checklists
      • Shared: General Vacation Stuff
      • Summer: Summer Vacation stuff (with reference to General...)
      • Winter: Winter Vacation stuff (with reference to General...)
    • The second option is to create one big checklist containing all steps, with different sections for the different uses
      • Checklist: Vacation Stuff
        • Section 1: General
        • Section 2: Summer
        • Section 3: Winter
    • The third option is similar to the second, except that the sections are in external checklists. So you take all the summer steps out, and put them into an own, linked checklist.

    Recommendation: Use the first option, as it allows you to re-use checklists. When you get more checklists, like Vacation in Spring or Diving Vacation, the first approach is the most versatile.
     
    Here a practical example using the first structure
    • Checklist 1: General Vacation Stuff
      • Digital camera
      • Shampoo
      • Soap
      • Toothbrush
      • Toothpaste
    • Checklist 2: Vacation in Summer
      • Swimming trunks
      • Sun Glasses
      • General stuff (see sub checklist: General Vacation Stuff)
    • Checklist 3: Vacation in Winter
      • Jacket
      • Snow googles
      • General stuff (see sub checklist: General Vacation Stuff)
  • Step-sequence that could be done parallel

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    Say you have a checklist that looks a bit like this:
    Checklist: Arrange a Mexican Birthday Party
    • Coordinate venue / site
      • Check online sites
      • Ask friends for good sites
      • Coordinate availability
      • Get ok from supplier
    • Coordinate food
      • Get non-alcoholic drinks
      • Get alcoholic drinks
      • Get food
    • Send invitations
      • Create a list of users
      • Decide if you'll send e-mails or paper
      • Do mass mailing
      • Keep track of invitations

    It's pretty obvious that you could already send invitations before you buy the food, but you could also buy the food first. These steps don't necessarily need to follow each other but could be run parallel. Create sub-checklists with the new list, this will make it much easier for you to handle, and optionally even delegate part of the process (see next tip).
  • Step-sequences that different people do and that don't require sequential execution

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    Assume this Process: New Employee
    • Configure administration and wage stuff
      • Get address
      • Register in Software
      • Validate bank account
    • Configure IT-System
      • Request user from user management
      • Coordinate e-mail account
      • Coordinate secure-access token
      • Coordinate VPN-permissions
      • Ensure PC is ready
    • Configure Office
      • Ensure desk/table are ready
      • Get welcome present
      • Inform team

    It's obvious that this process is performed by independent people, and these could act without waiting for another one of the three to act. This process should be broken into sub processes that are delegated to each person.
  • Structure Inside a Checklist

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  • Use titles to separate Step-Blocks

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    Create titles around a sequence of steps, to make it easier for the user to see what he's really doing.
  • Use a logical sequence of steps

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  • Add notes where reasonable or where the step-title might be interpreted differently

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    This ones's simple:
    • Whenever the user sees something he doesn't understand, add notes
    • Whenever the user sees something he thinks he understands - but might actually missunderstand intuitively, add notes
    • Whenever the user needs to know some exact details, like "Call Support" Note: the number is +41 800 800 800
  • Level of Detail

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    You'll often ask yourself: "Should I write this? It feels a bit too detailed, but it's important." Or you might think: "With these instructions, the user will tick off more items than actually do work." This section helps you perfect your detail-level.
  • Where possible, make a checkbox for each result, not each action

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    This is the good version
    • Create bills (Note: do it like this, this, this...)
    • Send all together (Note: ...)

    This is the bad version
    • Open the billing program
    • Go to the page Create Bills
    • Select your customer (to find him, do this, this, this...)
    • Select the bill you want to send
    • Go through the print wizard
    • Get the paper, bundle it
    • Print the next bill using the same steps
    • Put all in an envelope
    • Stamp it
  • Use result oriented language, this will help you filter to a good level of detail

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    Good examples
    • Activate the warp engine
    • Do the presentation
    • Get feedback using the 360-Pattern
    • Install the software (and if you need details, use the sub checklist)

    Bad examples
    • Click on this
    • First, say this
    • Change the setting to green
    • Press the Nuke button
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