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How to Use Checklists Effectively in Your Tech Company

At Netguru, we use a lot of checklists. Making or editing checklists has become our default method of ending a conversation about process improvement.

At Netguru, we use a lot of checklists. Making or editing checklists has become our default method of ending a conversation about process improvement.

For example, when we moved from the Airbrake error-tracking app to Rollbar, one of the first things we did was change the “new project checklist” where we listed all the tools and procedures connected to setting up the new project. With this method, we know that every subsequent project will use Rollbar, and the person who sets it up doesn’t have to think about what to do in the new process. Checklists make everything easy and scalable.

We have checklists of different sizes depending on how complicated the process is, from checklists with a few bullet points, to pages-long lists with different sub-sections.

Why are checklists a good thing?

  • Checklists help maintain consistency and good practices in a very easy and convenient way. For example, we have a checklist for introducing new employees to the company. Every new employee has exactly the same entry experience and gets all of the essential information at the very beginning. Checklists allow us to be consistent in these repetitive, yet essential, tasks.
  • Checklists conserve creative energy. Checklists mean that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time a task appears, and instead you can follow something that was already developed by someone else.
  • Checklists can improve the way company is doing stuff. For example when we do retrospectives, we use checklist to run the meeting. Every person in the company can improve the quality and productivity of the meeting experience by simply editing a single Google Document. This allows for a more kaizen approach to change procedures simply by changing checklists.
  • Checklist improve collaboration and delegation. If you’re busy, you can always ask someone else to do something and you don’t have to train her to do it. She can read a checklist and get the idea
  • Checklists reduce the “bus factor” risk in the company. Checklists ensure that more than one person can execute a task. More people will be able to do even more specialized tasks because they can learn from checklist exactly how it’s done.
  • It’s a good idea to have bullet at the end of every checklist like, “make sure that the checklist is up to date and try to improve it if you can” in order to remind people who use it that it is a living document.

What’s difficult about checklists?

  • You need to learn to work with checklists even if you feel you don’t need them right now. This is especially difficult for people who are experts in a particular task and their use of a checklist is solely for the sake of sharing knowledge with other people.
  • Working with checklist means actually using them, reading them, and improving upon them. Every time you do the task, you are taking part in the process.
  • You need to maintain checklists and make sure they are up to date all the time.

We are still learning how we can use this simple and powerful tool in our workflow.

You can read more about checklists in a great book: "Checklists manifesto"

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PS. Check out our checklist for launching a new project and see how this simple yet powerful tool can help you with keeping the workflow efficient!

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