The Power of Checklists
In any business there are certain processes that are done over and over again and for these items checklists serve a very useful purpose. They can keep processes consistent, prevent mistakes and be beneficial in a number of other ways. Even if you’re currently using checklists there may be some areas you haven’t considered using them or it may be time to review your existing ones.
Here are some key advantages of checklists and the areas they can be of benefit:
Prevents simple mistakes
Whilst you may know your daily processes off by heart it can still be very easy to miss something when your concentration is interrupted or you’re just having one of “those” days. However, if you have a checklist to follow you will soon notice if you’ve missed a step in the process.
Keeps processes consistent
When the same processes are followed every time it develops a consistent experience for clients and business partners which creates an image of trustworthiness and professionalism. And if there are checklists in a business then even if a staff member leaves, clients and business partners will have a similar experience with the new person (providing they are following the checklist).
Makes delegating easier
If you manage staff then communicating what you want and how you want it done, is key to an effective working relationship. Providing a thorough checklist that outlines every part of the process makes tasks clear to follow and reduces the chances of miscommunication.
Makes the business more attractive to a buyer
During sale negotiations buyers will seek to understand what’s involved in the day to day running of a business so that they can assess what will be involved in taking it over (as well as gain a sense of the value of the business). A well run business with thorough processes will convey a greater sense of value to a potential buyer. And with effective checklists in place the new owner knows that they won’t need to spend a lot of downtime initially organising the business or training staff about the processes.
Makes scheduling clearer
When you have a checklist that clarifies each of the tasks it makes it easier to calculate how much time and staff resources need to be allocated to each area (by understanding exactly what’s involved). Additionally if you know how long something should be taking (by what’s involved) then it highlights any staff performance issues when these timeframes are not being met.
Forces you to think strategically
Developing a checklist for tasks in a business forces you to think through every stage of your processes. It will help identify areas that are being missed, tasks that may now be redundant, highlight where time is being spent by staff (particularly when it’s on items that don’t actually add value to the business) and ultimately whether your processes are effective. It can also help to proactively manage areas that can potentially go wrong (e.g.: scheduling a check in a couple of days prior to a delivery date with a supplier can ensure that vital supplies for a job arrive on time).
A couple of last points to consider
1. Checklists are like everything in business – when they are working keep them, when they are no longer working (or relevant) then it’s time to change them. Keep them up to date and schedule periodic reviews to ensure they continue to serve a useful purpose.
2. We tend to think of checklists being paper based items that you can tick (i.e.: a list) but they don’t need to be – electronic versions work just as well (and will save on the paper). You also don’t need to “tick” them as simply using them as a guide works perfectly fine too!
Anything which helps you be effective, saves you time and proactively manages any potential issues is worthwhile implementing. Checklists are one of those simple little tools that can do all of those things for you and in the process help convey a professional image (so they are worthwhile from a PR perspective too). Take the time now to make sure you are taking full advantage of them so they can keep you and your processes on track!