Saturday, April 05, 2008


Ahhhh... Checklists!

I love checklists. I love checking the box and saying, "Done!" I live life out of my to-dos in Basecamp, which is just my tech geek way of doing checklists.

However, when I first started as Covenant Life tech director 6 years ago, I did something surprising. I threw away all the checklists.

What?! Why would I do such a thing?

Well, I learned that checklists have their weaknesses. And they are particularly dangerous when they get confused with instruction manuals. In an effort to serve our volunteers, the checklists were so detailed that they actually eliminated any need for knowledge about the systems.

"Plug this in here" and - voila! - it worked.


The problems occured when the task on the checklist didn't make the system work. The folks trusted the checklist-instruction-manual so much that they never learned why they were doing the things on the list. The checklists enabled many of them to avoid actually learning about the sound system.

So, I took away the checklists and forced them to learn the process and be able to do it from their brains instead of from a piece of paper. They coped...and then learned...and then thrived.

Fast-forward six years to today.

For a few months now, my assistant Ben and I have been working on re-introducing checklists to the teams. We've noticed some routine "forgetfulness" errors that we think would be served by reminders and accountablity which are two things checklists do well.

Writing the checklists has taken a while because we wanted to include the volunteers so we didn't miss anything important. We also wanted to make sure that we created reminder checklists, not instruction manuals. With the help of many, I think we have succeeded in creating checklists that include everything important while still requiring people to know how the systems work.

Today and tomorrow we will pass them out for the first time. I'm looking forward to seeing how they impact the workload, the efficiency, and the effectiveness of our different volunteers. I'll try to keep you updated.


David MacKenzie said...

Dave, what a helpful and clarifying distinction to make between instructions and reminders! They serve different functions, yet it's easy to get them combined and confused. Thanks for helping us all take ownership of our roles.

Anonymous said...

Is there anyway that you would share your media checklist. Our church is needing one bad.

Please let me know


Dave Wilcox said...


Visit in a few minutes. I'll post our most recent checklists there in just a bit.