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The Importance of Checklists

The Importance of Checklists

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Nate
·Mar 22, 2023·

3 min read

Checklists are highly helpful in all industries, but they are especially useful within the Tech industry. Listed (ironically) below are several reasons why:

  1. Standardization: Checklists are especially helpful when it comes to standardizing processes, and procedures, and making sure all steps have been followed correctly. This also helps with consistent and dependable results.

  2. Quality assurance: Using checklists can be an assurance for quality control. If the quality is consistently failing, that means the checklist needs to be modified. If there is a lack of quality with specific people, that can be a sign that one is not following the checklist thoroughly.

  3. Risk reduction: This is huge, especially within security checklists. Reducing one's attack surface or mitigating risks by following checklists can decrease system failures, security breaches, or other devastating issues.

  4. Training and onboarding: I believe anyone who is reading this line and who's been in the tech industry for any amount of time will especially agree with this point. How much time and money would be saved if more companies and departments implemented streamlined training and/or onboarding? It becomes especially helpful the bigger and more complex a company is. From knowing what access one needs to knowing how to obtain that access, to knowing how the department works, to knowing what the department does and does not do.

  5. Collaboration: Checklists can also provide clearer communications and expectations with teams by giving an outline of tasks/responsibilities, more focused meetings, and more actionable project plans.

Below are some reasons that checklists can fail or just fizzle out:

  1. Lack of a buy-in: Teammates may not care about checklists, or they are just not used to using them, so created checklists are not used consistently or effectively. When things fail as a result of a missing step from not following a checklist, it provides an opportunity to show the value of following said checklist.

  2. Overreliance on checklists: Part of the art of checklist creation within one's industry or specific area of work, is knowing what the expected knowledge and expertise are needed to handle unexpected situations or to know what the steps are talking about. For example, I wouldn't know how to follow a pre-flight checklist that a jet pilot would follow, just as much as they wouldn't know how to follow a checklist for an Azure migration or VM creation. Checklists are only part of one's valuable tools and may be one of the more helpful ones, but they can't be the only tool.

  3. Poor design: Poorly designed checklists are the worst, as they can result in horrible quality in one work as well as cause devastating mistakes. The more poorly designed a checklist is, the higher the chance people will stop using them.

  4. Lack of flexibility: They need to be flexible enough to adjust for variations in procedures and processes. They may not be able to stand up to real-world situations if they are too rigid.

  5. Inadequate maintenance: Last but not least, a non-maintained checklist is just as bad as a poorly designed checklist. They need to be regularly reviewed, updated, streamlined, and adjusted to keep them as helpful tool that is relevant. Outdated checklists are sadly very common in the tech industry, most likely because of how fast technology advances as well as how often patches and security fixes come out for software, hardware, and platforms.

If one can harness the power of checklist creating within their sector or industry, it will propel them tremendously within their career as they will highly effective!

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