3 Ways To Improve Your Daily Checklists

Before a pilot can throttle up and take off from a runway, there are 30 items that Boeing recommends checking off for a standard 737. The World Health Organization has a 19-point checklist for all surgeries to keep infections at a minimum. OSHA has 33 items on a computer station safety checklist alone. It’s safe to say we are starting to lick the ability to identify and perform tasks on a day-in-day-out basis.

Our jobs as app makers aren’t immune to this concept. Each release we send to clients for app store submission has a development and quality assurance checklist. Both sign offs are performed to ensure adherence to platform and user-needed guidelines. That way we give everyone our best on each launch.

Yet, it’s imperative that we remind ourselves every day we can’t live on checklists alone. We have to remember the heart behind them.

The heart behind our technical checklists is obvious. When clients and users see the Bottle Rocket logo appear on a splash screen, they know they aren’t going to see a glitch that takes them away from an amazing experience. For our UX strategists and art directors, the lists haven’t been as rigidly defined before. Even creatives, though, have a tuning fork that goes off in their stomach when they see something that doesn’t feel right. Management use them to make sure the plates keep spinning and we keep getting paid.

Even so, it doesn’t seem enough. Isn’t there a level deeper than we could go? There has to be a level of authenticity to our daily lives if we are truly going to see past the pragmatic. What’s truly at the heart of it all?

That’s where the checklist comes back into play. Here’s a few things you can start now to see the real meaning of your to-do lists:

Work with transparency and authenticity. We must work more openly if we are going to step it up. That means broadcasting app mission statements, sprint goals, and user testing headlines. My mother- and father-in-law each have their own personal mission statement as well as a family mission statement. They didn’t write these statements once and then walk away. At least four times a week, all three items are restated to each other and they ask how they are doing at carrying them out. Inspiring, and at the same time an exhortation.

When was the last time you asked yourself what your goals were besides what had to be done that particular day? Better yet, when was time you asked a co-worker about their goals? Progress towards or away from the goal can spark many creative conversations.

Corporately discuss your screw ups. Once we address how we are progressing along the road of our mission statements, undoubtedly some missteps will be identified. There’s no shame in these statements, there’s a good chance they weren’t even your fault. Regardless, they happened, and you need to talk about them.

People around me need to know when I make a mistake. I’m tired of hearing old-school managers talk about only focusing on the positive, or “just moving on” when things happen. We don’t trust each other when we know just good news. Just ask anyone who spends time on Facebook.

Personally, I like to use daily stand ups for this purpose. If I could have served the team better, I admit it and let them know how I’m going to try and avoid the same thing happening again. Hopefully, people trust what I say more as a result. Trust each other with your faults, you’ll be surprised when you see the results.

Examine your mission constantly. Once you have the answers from all the questions the first two points brings up, adjust the original mission statement and re-broadcast it. There’s no harm in telling clients that the original mission statement you wrote was fine, but less informed than your current iteration. That kind of authentic transparency endears us to the mission of pushing the envelope and embracing the impossible. 

The peek behind the curtain gives everyone a chance to learn and grow together. If the experience changes as a result, then we can all discuss the cost of the change and decide if it’s worth the effort. Many a team has looked at the cost and said, “sign me up.”

Depending on your personality type, the checklist is either embraced or shunned. Either way, it’s merely a tool to help accomplish goals. Being prepared is tactical, but the purpose is bigger than that. It allows us to live openly with our colleagues and fuel work we never thought imaginable.

For the past year, I have focused on the mission of helping those around me make things better through a improved process. What I have learned is I can’t spend my time on just that spectrum. There are times when the process of making things is super-ceded by what needs to be made in that moment. Projects evolve and teams change, and I can’t just keep my head in the clouds.

I would like to amend it and ask for your help in accountability. For the next year, I am going to focus on finding the right balance between “building things right” vs. “building the right thing.”

I’m going to learn a lot, can’t wait to see what checklists this produces.

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