Checklists are basically visual tools that help ensure what needs to be accomplished gets accomplished. In a small business, they can be very powerful in terms of ensuring important tasks are articulated and completed on time.
When used with operational processes and procedures, checklists can promote standardized work performance to help reduce variances; thus, reducing errors and costs leading to an increase in profits.
Put the following checklists into practice and see how much more you accomplish in your small business:
1. The ‘To-Do’ Checklist
The most familiar and widely use checklist is the simple to-do list. Each day’s tasks are written on a planner, a notepad, or a computer sticky note. As each task is completed and checked off, it becomes a visible reminder that a needed task was accomplished. Any uncompleted tasks start the next day’s list.
2. The ‘Procedure Verification’ Checklist
In almost any business, there are certain procedures that should be followed. At an operational level, a procedure verification checklist can verify that the required, step-by-step procedures are followed and accomplished. As an example, this type of checklist can be used to detail a manufacturing process, showing office sequence of paperwork, shipping of inventory, etc. As steps are completed, they can be checked off (even time stamped if necessary) to indicate their completion. This visual verification helps prevent errors of omission or identifies errors that can be corrected immediately.
3. The ‘Troubleshooting’ Checklist
Invariably, something in a business will go wrong from time to time. When this happens, a troubleshooting checklist can be created and used to investigate what happened based on prior experience with similar problems. Using this type of systematic approach, a problem-solving person or team can find answers more quickly than they would with a more disorganized approach. The list can be prepared by an experienced employee and used by that individual, or provided to another employee in charge of analyzing and correcting the problem.
4. The ‘Readiness’ Checklist
A readiness checklist ensures prerequisites are completed before certain tasks begin. As an example, IT teams can use this checklist to ensure all requirements–site, materials, training, and people–are ready and available before scheduling computer installations. Another example might be having HR personnel use the checklist to onboard new employees, making sure all required paperwork is completed before allowing them to start work. Readiness checklists, as the name implies, ensures that necessary components of a task are in place prior to implementation of that particular task.
5. The ‘Coordinating Management’ Checklist
At a higher level, checklists can help coordinate activities among various departments. For example, a manager can use a checklist to track customer requirements for a specialized product order, progress involving multiple departments moving within an office facility, or milestones reached regarding a major business change.
This type of checklist can vary in the number of details included and managers involved, but it can also show the degree of completion of each area of a project, leading to 100 percent completion of the overall project.
A Case for Checklists
Checklists, whether simple or complex, are great tools to improve effectiveness and efficiency. They help get important tasks accomplished to improve business performance.
Although there are a multitude of checklists, it is important to utilize the checklist that will prove to be the most beneficial for your business. The idea is to improve operations with timely accomplishments rather than create more work, waste time, or reduce efficiency. Checklists work…try them.