I recently attended a conference where the staff seemed in chaos. When asked what's wrong, they explained they had forgotten the name badges and the room signage.

As soon as the executive director returned to the office, he started making a checklist. He was determined not to let mistakes ruin the next event.

The power of checklists

Checklists detail the best ways to accomplish projects. Airline pilots rely on them from preflight to landing the plane. Health care professionals use them to make certain they consider every option, especially in life-saving situations. Where one omission can cause disaster, a listing of tasks, steps, best practices and protocols is essential.

Checklists promote excellence. Skipping a step might lead to another occurrence where the name badges or signs are forgotten. With a list, when steps are completed there is a feeling of accomplishment and readiness.

Benefit for staff

For staff, some projects may seem overwhelming. To achieve the results, remember the adage: "When eating an elephant take one bite at a time." This promotes breaking big jobs into small tasks.

A checklist facilitates a team approach to working toward desired outcomes. Any level of staff can help advance items on the lists. The list increases understanding for instance, showing employees why steps must be completed in sequential order.

Other benefits of a checklist:

  • Nothing is overlooked or forgotten.
  • Steps are completed in the proper order.
  • Any member of the staff can help.
  • Complex processes are transformed to smaller tasks.
  • Continuous improvements occur as the better practices are implemented.
  • The speed for completion is enhanced.

Create a checklist

Start by identifying the desired project or outcome. In an association or chamber, it could be a conference, newsletter, board meeting or nominations process.

To create a checklist, consider "reverse engineering." Knowing the desired outcome, think backward from the start to create the tasks and timeline. Reverse engineering is the process of taking apart a project to see how it works or was created, in order to duplicate it.

  • Identify the processes that are components of the desired result.
  • Don't micromanage the list; detailing every task will turn off creative processes of staff.
  • Develop the lists as a team, seeking input departments and individuals to have a comprehensive approach.
  • Enumerate tasks or use boxes that can be checked off upon completion.
  • Leave space to make notes about ways to improve — or problems areas.

Make lists for the most important processes. Keep them accessible by adding them to a procedures manual or on a shared computer drive.