I learned one reason why checklists fail last week when I facilitated a meeting about checklists with a group of foremen. This group had previously created checklists for daily tasks. I had helped them with the project, but it was their creation. It was almost a year ago.

The checklists were in a file organizer on a desk in their primary work area. I learned two of the newer managers were unfamiliar with the lists their predecessors had created. I took some of the blame for this, so we followed up and reviewed the checklists.

There was at least one checklist for each department and one for opening and closing the operation. However, except for a couple of exceptions, the checklists weren’t used consistently because no one had followed up, and some of the lists were developed by people no longer employed by the organization. Here are a few more reasons why checklists fail.

Why Checklists Fail 

The Checklist is Only in Your Head

Not having a written checklist leads to inconsistency. A written checklist can be used to train, as a check-off list, and to keep a team on the same page. Yes, it takes time to create checklists, but you can measure the time savings of checklists in improved efficiency and mistake reduction.

The Checklist Doesn’t Look Professional 

Dog-eared bits of old card stock or post-it notes stuck to desks aren’t checklists and most likely will not be taken seriously. Take time to type out lists and make copies. The team I mentioned above laminated their lists.

The Checklist is Out of Step

List tasks in the order of completion. If an action needs to be completed before another — list it first. Missing an essential step because it wasn’t listed causes problems, eventually leading to putting the list in a drawer unused. Also, checklists should be updated when processes are added or changed. If not, they’ll be out of step.

Leaders Don’t Consistently Follow the Checklist 

We all get distracted by email, phone calls, customers, vendors, and co-workers. It’s the way it is. When leaders take shortcuts or ignore a checklist, it sends a message to the team, and it’s not good.

There’s Little or No Training

Training isn’t only one time; it should be consistently followed up. As with the management team in the first paragraph, when new members join the team, they need to be trained on the checklists.

There’s No Accountability 

If there’s nobody assigned to tasks on a checklist, the checklist will fail. When no one is responsible it’s easy to point fingers and say it wasn’t me.

Nobody Monitors the Checklist

Great, you have a checklist. You listed every task with the person charged with the responsibility. However, the checklist is useless if nobody checks to ensure tasks are completed correctly and on time. Set aside a little time each day to check the progress of all checklists.

Checklists can be an excellent tool to help your team stay on track, be more efficient, reduce mistakes, and work consistently together, but only when you follow up and train.

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

So, does your business have a management training plan? Because, if not, many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out. It might help you stop putting off what you want to do.

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Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay