The power of checklists

Checklists help us focus our attention on what is most important and we can use them in our leadership to win. They can also help us delegate and grow our teams.
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This may sound obvi­ous, but it turns out that check­lists are a super pow­er­ful tool for get­ting things right. I heard a great inter­view about the pow­er of check­lists in hos­pi­tals on NPR — if you’re inter­est­ed check it out here:

For each of our areas, I want us to think about cre­at­ing some great check­lists that allow us to cre­ate “I’m com­ing back” expe­ri­ences for every guest, each week, regard­less of vol­un­teers. 

Atul Gawande explains in his book The Check­list Man­i­festo that there are two kinds of check­lists: (1) DO-CONFIRM (2) READ-DO

A per­son or team per­forms the work, then review the check­list to con­firm all of the steps were exe­cut­ed. If not, the pause the check­list pro­vides is a chance to get right what was­n’t.

These check­lists are more like recipes. They are slow­er to exe­cute but you go down each item line by line and DO the item before mov­ing on. 


  • Usu­al­ly no longer than 9 items (in line with how much the human brain can remem­ber)
  • Leave out things that are implied 
  • Word­ing should be sim­ple and exact
  • Use famil­iar lan­guage of the area
  • It should fit on one page
  • Free of clut­ter and unnec­es­sary col­or
  • Uses upper and low­er­case type for read­abil­i­ty 
  • Tweak and per­fect the check­list as issues arise

Check­lists allow us to not rely on one per­son or even our own brain. Put sim­ply, check­lists become our exter­nal brain that we can rely and trust to remem­ber what needs to hap­pen.

Check­lists allow us to grow our teams and train new mem­bers how to do a role. 

Check­lists allow us to be able to take a day off and not wor­ry about what needs to hap­pen!

Check­lists allow us to make great first impres­sions.

Check­lists pave the way for con­sis­ten­cy. 

I am going to work on some start­ing point check­lists for each of us to con­sid­er for our areas — but I’d also encour­age you to be think­ing about what needs to hap­pen each week and putting that into a sim­ple, con­cise check­list for your area. Look­ing for­ward to see­ing you all soon! I’d love to sched­ule a lead­ers-only meet­ing and check in with every­one to see how you’re doing and areas where you might need help.

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