A Quick And Easy Way To Create Helpful Checklists

A Quick And Easy Way To Create Helpful Checklists

June 6, 2010 Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

Checklists are simple and clearly structured lists that are used to check something systematically or to execute something in a systematic way.
Helpful Checklists

The applications of checklists are very diverse.

Most checklists are created for activities that are implemented rather irregular, so the routine of such an implementation is simply missing.

A systematic check very often aims to ensure that no unpleasant consequences can result from incompleteness of the examined object.

The checklist is an inconspicuous but very effective management tool, as it is in practice often used to document a team comittment.

In this context a checklist becomes a very important management technique.

When you’re confronted with repeated difficulties, misunderstandings and misinterpretations in your team during the execution of a given task a jointly developed checklist helps to prevent these communication problems in the future through the adoption of a common checklist.

In this article I will present you a quick and easy way to create a good checklist.

General Criteria Of A Checklist

The following criteria should always be considered at first:


The individual items on a checklist should be formulated as questions that can be clearly understood and answered by its users.

The deeper knowledge behind the questions should be condensed and well-prepared for the users of the checklist.

They must be able to answer your questions without any major research or other efforts.


The checklist should have a concise and clear layout. In practice you can usually find checklists that have a small square in front of each question, which is checked off very easily in case of a confirmation.

In my opinion this is one of the easiest and fastest ways for users to deal with your questions.

Furthermore, the checklist should not be too bulky and it shuld contain a reasonable number of classification levels.


Checklists have to be updated regularly. Content and form should be quickly and easily adaptable .

Experience shows that an outdated checklist quickly loses its acceptance and is not being processed any longer from some point in time on.

So take care of your checklist and keep it up to date at certain intervals with the feedback of its users. Keep on encouraging the users to make suggestions how to improve the checklist.

All these aspects should primarily be considered to motivate the users to answer the questions honestly and carefully.

This it the only way I know to keep a checklist permanently alive.

Logical Structure

A checklist must be planned very systematically.
Any gap in the checklist also means a corresponding gap in the following check or execution.

Classifiaction levels represent the inner logic of the examined object or activity. Classification levels can be arbitrarily divided up into more detailed levels.

For example you could carry out checks on the completeness of a machine based upon the different components and assemblies.
Components represent the highest outline level and the assemblies the lower levels of detail.

For a functional test, however, one might just as well divide the machine up into its specific functions and subfunctions which can be checked in detail then.

So you see, it’s essential to define exactly what you want to check at first. Then you briefly outline the logical structure, formulate the relevant issues and draw up the checklist.

It is entirely up to you which specific structure you choose. Apply the one who seems to be most useful for you.

Let us go very briefly through this process with the help of a simple example which is very familiar to anyone of us: the packing of a suitcase for a holiday.

I think you know the problem: As soon as you have arrived in the hotel and begin to unpack your heavy suitcases you start asking yourself why you have taken so many useless things with you. Instantly after opening the first suitcase you have to realize that once again the half is missing

You finally decide to invest the efforts to make a checklist for your next holiday trip in order to avoid this unpleasant surprise in the future.

The purpose of the checklist in this example is to check your holiday suitcase for completeness. Completeness means that you find all the things in the suitcase that you definitely need for a smooth holiday.

What logic would you choose?

One possibility is to take the rooms of your home that you clearly associate with those items that reflect your daily life.

Nursery, bedroom, bathroom, working room.
This could be the main outline levels.

The more detailed classifiaction levels are given by all the objects that you associate with these rooms.


  • Children’s Toys
  • Children’s clothing
  • Diapers
  • Dummy


  • Alarm clock
  • Underwear
  • Shirts
  • Pants


  • Razor
  • Toothbrushes
  • Comb
  • Perfume

Working room

  • Laptop
  • Smartphone
  • Pen
  • Writing pad

You might as well use your different life fields as logical structure, such as

Housing, work, hobbies, sports, …

The structure is entirely up to you. The corresponding associations and assignments should be clear and intuitive.

The structure of the checklist in this example is very simple, clear and unambiguous. The different points come up by themselves.

So this could be your holiday checklist (on the example of the first two points):


  • Have we thought of children’s toys, especially the big teddy bear?
  • Are the pants and the sweater wrapped for the child?
  • Do we have enough diapers?
  • Are the pacifier and a spare pacifier in the suitcase?


  • Is the alarm clock packed and do we have spare batteries that?
  • Do we have enough underwear for the holidays?
  • Are there enough shirts wrapped?
  • Do we have enough spare pants for the case that one breaks down?

With such a checklist, you will never ever be confronted with negative holiday surprises. Of course it will take a few holidays to update the list and to complete it. But after your second or third holidays with your checklist you will be a professional holiday suitcase packer :-)

I know that this is a very simplified example. In an organization checklists are usually larger and contain more detailed levels than just the two in this example.

But the process always remains the same:

- Be clear about what you want to check or to carry out,

- Define an intuitive, associative logic, and

- Create your checklist in the form of questions with as few levels of detail as possible.

Look here to get some impressions how checklists can look like.

Look at the differrent lists in order to get a better feeling for the appearance of an effective checklist.

This link will lead you to a hugh pool of different checklists. Look around and see if you can find something useful for you.

Maybe you already find an appropriate checklist for your specific purpose.

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Posted in Management Techniques on Jun 6th, 2010, 20:59 by haukeborow