Just checking, do you use checklists?

Do you use checklists in your daily work? For instance to check if your software is ready to be delivered to customers? Or when you are finishing a User Story, to check if it is fully “Done”? Or do you hate checklists, and think that they are a waste of time? That they are being misused to bother professionals and aren’t helpful? What’s your experience with checklists?

I like checklists! think that they help you to do your work more efficiently. They do not replace knowledge and experience: My opinion is that a checklist only works when people understand what they are doing, because it only consists of short sentences or a single word. Somebody who is not trained and experienced enough cannot use a checklist, because (s)he wouldn’t know what to check, or how to check it.

Trained people use checklists all the time. I use a checklist when I prepare myself to give a presentation or course, and I keep on adapting it. In CMMI-assessments and audits, I use checklists to see which practices people do, and I also use checklists in projects to manage risks, take decisions, and check milestones and toll-gates.


As a trained divemaster, I always do a buddycheck before entering the water to go diving. Better safe than sorry, I enjoy living and I want to live a long and healthy life. Also, I’d rather fly with a pilot who uses a checklist before taking off, than with a pilot who’s going through the flight training manuals in the cockpit  ;-).

So what’s your experience with checklists? Like them or hate them? Why?

More information about checklists:

Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

This Post Has 8 Comments

    1. Ben Linders

      Thanks Derk-Jan for sharing your checklist. Making good decisons on test automation is important, I think that the checklist can be useful for experienced test managers.

  1. Ben Linders

    A comment that I received through LinkedIn from Benno de Jong, suggesting an interesting book:

    “Hi Ben, I like checklists as Quality Management Systems are getting more complex. I recommend you to read The Checklist Manifesto by Dr Atul Gawande. Excellent book about benefits of using checklists in different industries.”

    Thanks Benno!

  2. Patrick Boens

    I live check-lists. Cannot imagine living without them. I have loved the check-list Manifesto book whose theme is about check-lists in the med world.

    1. BenLinders

      Patrick, do you have more info about the checklist manifesto book?

  3. Rik

    I like checklists I or the team created, I think they work well.
    I don’t like checklists created by others to enforce policies. They don’t work that well.

    1. Ben Linders

      Makes perfect sense. When you create a checklist, it’s your own tool, something that helps you to do things your way.

      Enforcing anything, with a checklist or by any other means, isn’t effective.

      Thanks Rik!

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