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Business Productivity and Checklists

Do you use checklists in your business?

I do, many of my clients do, and many other businesses do. They use them for one very good reason; they help to drive up productivity.

If you're not a convert of checklists then let me share a quick example with you.


Before using checklists one of my clients would launch their projects in a haphazard fashion. By this I mean that the first few weeks of the projects would be inconsistent (when compared to other projects) and these early days of the project would be chaotic. You could break their projects down into three distinct phases, as shown in the diagram below:


As you can see from the diagram there were two points that distinguished the phases of the project. The first one being the project manager getting a good handle on the project, and the second one being when they realised that they had lost too much time at the start of the project.

The two checklists that I helped to introduce were designed to make sure that there were no distinct phases like the example. The checks were made prior to launching the project and then the project was executed as all projects are (with their own ups and downs!). The end results? Better schedule adherence, improved profit and happier customers. 

These checklists were fundamentally no different to anyone else's. They were designed to make sure things weren't forgotten and the best practice that we had defined got followed consistently.

If you are considering using checklists then please consider these pointers:

  • Use past failures to help form your checks, using 'root cause analysis' where appropriate to identify effective items to check.
  • Get the view points of different functions / teams to help list out the checks.
  • Create a simple and easy to use format to use as a checklist.
  • Consider a sign off box at the bottom for the responsible person(s) to agree that the checklist is complete. This is especially useful if the checklist is part of a handover process.

Checklists can help increase a business' productivity by reducing effort at the back end of a process from a marginal increase at the front end. I hope that if you weren't a believer in checklists when you found this post that you are now!

Have fun with your checklists,


Giles Johnston
...optimising MRP systems and re-engineering business processes