Checklists are only good if you use them

Most organizations perform a series or steps of tasks that get repeated from time to time. These scenarios could include:

  • Onboarding new employees, new clients
  • Offboarding former employees, former clients
  • Incident response, disaster recovery
  • Invoicing
  • Installation

We strive to continuously improve our business, operations, and standard operating procedures (SOPs) so we can provide better service, more cost-effectively, and with predictable results.

Our goal is to achieve the equivalent of CMMI Level 5, which is the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) that was developed by Carnegie Mellon University. At CMMI Level 1, an organization’s processes are considered unpredictable, poorly controlled and reactive. By Level 5, organizations have optimized their processes such that they are achieving optimal organization performance and have well defined causal analysis and resolution.

Starting with the basics, a checklist helps to standardize and organize processes and responses so the results are more controlled and predictable. Checklist are ideal for the types of things you perform repeatedly, like the list above.

However, what I have found is that checklists are made but often forgotten. In order to be useful, people in the organization need to know that the checklist exists. What good is a checklist, after all, if nobody knows that it exists?

Checklists may need to be updated over time as the world, environment, and technology evolves. Otherwise, if you follow an obsolete, outdated checklist then you are likely to miss something or not do something in the right way. So, checklists need to evolve with the times.

Again, if nobody knows that a checklist exists, then they won’t know to update that checklist. Instead, people are likely to create a new checklist. Now, you have two checklists instead of one and people might not know which checklist to use. Consequently, versions of checklists need to be managed and controlled as well. We need version control of our checklists.

In addition, we need to follow our checklists. What good is a checklist if we don’t know it exists, we don’t keep it updated, we don’t know which one is correct, and we don’t follow it? We have to follow the SOPs defined in our checklists.

To recap. If your organization experiences a series of steps that gets repeated from time to time and you want controlled, predictable results then you need to:

  1. Create a checklist or standard operating procedure (SOP)
  2. Train people on the checklist, let them know that it exists and where to find it
  3. Enforce compliance of the checklist, require people to follow it if it is important
  4. Update the checklist when variables change so it remains current and relevant
  5. Manage and control versions of the checklist so people know which one to use

If you do these things then you are on your way to achieving CMMI Level 3 where:

  1. Level 1 – processes are unpredictable, poorly controlled and reactive
  2. Level 2 – processes are characterized for projects and is often reactive
  3. Level 3 – Processes characterized for the organization and is proactive
  4. Level 4 – Processes are measured and controlled
  5. Level 5 – The organization focuses on process improvement

If you are seeking an agile development shop specializing in WordPress or Drupal for government agencies and nonprofit organizations that has a mature project management approach with well-defined processes, which are measured and controlled for predictable, optimal results; please give us a call.

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