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June 23, 2014 Strategic Management

Seven management benefits of using a checklist

Andy Singer

Many of us have repetitive tasks to complete. Often we find that if we don’t have any guidance, we may forget certain steps in a process. Sometimes even with simple steps involved we can get distracted and forget one or more of the required procedures.

It is easy for us to forget things and recovery is usually more complex than getting it right the first time.

A simple tool that helps to prevent these mistakes is the checklist. A checklist is simply a standardized list of the required steps developed for a repetitive task. There are seven benefits to using a checklist:

1. Organization: Checklists can help us stay more organized by assuring we don’t skip any steps in a process. They are easy to use and effective.

A to-do list is a special form of a checklist that we talk about in our time management training course, Master of Time.

A to-do list allows you to quickly and efficiently manage your various tasks. It’s simply a list that keeps all of your tasks and items to complete in one place.

The to-do list is not only a great tool for executives; anyone will find this tool useful. The to-do list allows you to schedule activities and not let anything “fall between the cracks.”

2. Motivation: Checklists motivate us to take action and complete tasks. Since checklists can make us more successful, it becomes a virtuous circle where we are motivated to accomplish more due to the positive results.

3. Productivity: By having a checklist you can complete repetitive tasks more quickly and efficiently, and with fewer mistakes. This gives you more time in the day and assures fewer “fire drills.” You become more productive and accomplish more each day.

4. Creativity: Checklists allow you to master the repetitive tasks and utilize more brain power for creative activities. Since the checklist means fewer fire drills and less stress, you not only have more time to be creative, you have the ability to think more clearly.

5. Delegation: By breaking down tasks into specific tasks, checklists give us more confidence when delegating activities. When we are more comfortable that tasks will be done correctly, we delegate more and become significantly more productive.

6. Saving lives: Checklists can literally save lives. When the U.S. Army Air Corps introduced the B-17 bomber during WWII an experienced aviator crashed the plane during its second demonstration flight. After this tragedy the Army required that pilots use a checklist before taking off. This is the same type of checklist we see pilots use today that helps to avoid crashes.

Checklists also reduce deaths in hospitals. When checklists have been implemented for use by surgical teams, deaths dropped 40 percent. Similar results have been seen when checklists are required for doctor’s inserting central lines into their sick patients.

The insertion of central lines can be a key source of infections and checklists have been shown to greatly reduce these infections. It was also noted that doctors would skip a step on the checklist 25 percent of the time.

The solution was to assure a nurse also confirmed that the checklist was being followed by the doctor. Checklists are only as useful as our ability to action each step.

7. Excellence: Checklists allow us to be more effective at taking care of customers. By helping to assure that you provide superior customer service we can achieve excellence in the eyes of the customer. Excellence is a differentiator that improves brand equity.

Using checklists ensures that you won’t forget anything. So, if you do something again and again, and want to do it right every time, use a checklist.

Andy Singer is the president of Singer Executive Development, a professional training and development company that helps optimize business performance of employees and executives. He can be reached at

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