How to Create Practical Checklists

by George Ambler


Photo by Marcin Wichary

The humble checklist has been used for may years as a memory aid. Checklists help to ensure tasks are completed to the right quality and standards. The best example of a checklist is the daily “to do” list, a reminder of what needs to be accomplished this day. In some cases checklists are a literally a matter of life and death. The article “Checklist Reduces Deaths in Surgery” highlights the power of well designed checklists being used in hospitals with surprising results…

“’Surgical complications are a considerable cause of death and disability around the world,’ the researchers wrote in the online edition of The New England Journal of Medicine. ‘They are devastating to patients, costly to health care systems and often preventable.’

But a year after surgical teams at eight hospitals adopted a 19-item checklist, the average patient death rate fell more than 40 percent and the rate of complications fell by about a third, the researchers reported.”

Checklists turn out to be powerful leadership tools. Consider John Kotter’s widely used “checklist” for managing organisational change taken from his best seller Leading Change:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency, leading to a shared need.
  2. Create a guiding coalition, leading to accountability.
  3. Develop a vision and strategy, leading to hope.
  4. Communicate the change vision and strategy, leading to commitment.
  5. Clear the way for broad-based action, leading to alignment.
  6. Generate and recognizing small wins, leading to momentum.
  7. Consolidate the small wins, leading to early successes.
  8. Anchor the new approaches in the culture and systems, leading to sustainable change.

This checklist contains the most important aspects that you need to consider when introducing change.

 Creating a Great Checklist

Some advice to guide you in the creating your own practical checklists.

To read the rest of the article go to and get some great advice on creating your own practical checklists.  I have created some practical check lists based on David Allen’s ideas in Getting Things Done for my own life and have found them really valuable and excellent time savers. 

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