Want to Improve Your Communication, Discipline, and Productivity? Use a Checklist


Checklist Manifesto Author Atul Gawande Shares How Checklists Can Make a Big Difference to Workplace Interactions

Checklists in the workplace can bring to mind complicated medical or aviation protocols. But many business leaders recognize that checklists have broad, impactful applications for corporate America. 

In fact, according to Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto, the mighty checklist can improve efficiency, discipline, and communication, leading to fewer errors and higher employee and client satisfaction in almost any work environment. 

Keep reading to learn why checklists are so effective and how to create one that works for your team.

Using Checklists Encourage Disciplined Thinking

Employees (including remote staff) are working longer hours than ever. Unfortunately, more work often equates to more pressure, stress, and burnout—and increased mistakes as employees cut corners to meet demands.

Checklists correct for stress and burnout-related errors by encouraging disciplined thinking. Plus, they offer the structure, routine, and consistency necessary for employees to accomplish tasks despite distractions or overwhelm. The result? Fewer errors, more predictable results, and less frustration for everyone involved.

Using Checklists to Improve Communication

A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that communication barriers can cost organizations up to $37 billion per year. By implementing checklists, leaders can cut through the confusion and crossed wires. 

Checklists help employees communicate with coworkers and leaders more effectively by creating a clear and concise list of tasks, priorities, and instructions that everyone can see. As a result, nobody has to rely on memory, a game of telephone, or guesswork to know what to do next or how to get back on track with a particular project or initiative.

Checklists can also help teams prioritize tasks, ensuring that everyone is working toward the same goal in tandem instead of haphazardly.

Adopting Checklists to Bolster Productivity

One study conducted by Workfront found that employees say they are distracted from work an average of 14 times per day. Checklists help employees avoid wasted time on tasks that aren't important or necessary. They can also help employees stay focused and on track amid inevitable distractions.

Five Qualities of an Effective  Checklist

Gawande lists several qualities that you can incorporate into your checklists to make them more effective in boosting communication, productivity, and discipline: 

  1. Clear and Concise: Include specific tasks that are easy to understand and complete to avoid confusion and ensure everyone is on the same page.
  2. Prioritized: Lead with the most important information and steps. This approach keeps team members focused on essential tasks and prevents them from getting sidetracked by less critical ones.
  3. Collaborative: Ask for feedback and encourage team members to co-create a checklist. Encourage them s to add their items and give suggestions to improve the process as they use it.
  4. Flexible: Stay accommodating to unexpected changes or issues that arise. Incorporate "what-if" scenarios into the checklist to help team members prepare for potential problems.
  5. Measurable: Incorporate measurable goals and metrics in the checklist to help team members track progress and stay motivated. 

Reflect and Apply

Checklists are a deceptively simple but effective tool that leaders can use to develop discipline, improve communication, and increase employee productivity. 

Consider a process or project you could use to give checklists a test drive with your team. Then share it with us on Twitter and inspire others to do the same, using #checklistmanifesto

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