How to get things done, the way you want to, with different people involved, every single time! (Part 1)

That sound’s a bit optimistic doesn’t it? If you’ve been a Minister or church worker for long enough, you’ll know that statement is …a…very…tall…order.

Yet, it can happen and does in many areas and industries, though not as often as it could in church settings.

As I’d mentioned in the inaugural blog, not all the technology we talk about is going to necessarily be high tech, though it will be high impact. Today we’re taking the decidedly low tech route and our tools will be: 1 pen and 2-3 sheets of paper. Yes, the original word processing platform is still alive and well.

And our topic? The lowly checklist – probably the most misunderstood, currently underused, yet powerful organizational tool ever conceived.

“…misunderstood, underused and incredibly powerful…”

What do I mean by a checklist? It is simply a step by step listing of the different tasks required to perform a specific function. I’ve included the two we use at St. Andrew’s at the end of the article so you have working examples (These are for our video projection and sound system use during a service). Feel free to download and reuse them if you like.

[Aside: Checklists can be used for any type of function and aren’t restricted to only those that are technology-related.]

Before we started using checklists, our Sunday morning issues (usually discovered ON Sunday morning) could run the gamut from missing equipment and cables to malfunctioning projectors and internet connections. None of these things were intentional, they were caused because we were doing our best, just not our coordinated best.

Now we have a very stable environment that contributes to a consistent worship experience week after week (that is the sound booth is no longer a source of distraction during the service). And our team has grown from four members to eight (half of whom are teenagers)!

“…a tool to reduce the complexity of human interactions…”

Whenever human beings are involved in performing any function there will be complexity. The complexity is a product of (1) individual approaches for how best to tackle an issue,and (2) different inherent assumptions about how to best sequence the tasks that must be completed.

Using a checklist as a tool to reduce this complexity is not a new idea, but it is gaining considerable resurgence since the publication of “The Checklist Manifesto” in 2009 by Dr. Atul Gawande. He and his team developed a 3 page cardiac surgery checklist on behalf of the World Health Organization. That checklist has been credited with reducing surgical fatalities by 45% in North America and in every other country where its been adopted. What was his inspiration for using checklists – the airline and aircraft manufacturing industries!

How to Create Your Own Checklist

The best place to start is with what you know so:

Step 1 – List every task required to perform the function
Step 2 – Take the list with you when next you perform the function
Step 3 – Review the list
Step 4 – Make any additions, deletions or modifications needed
Step 5 – Repeat Steps 2 to 4 at least 3 more times

Note: Step 1 does not have to be exhaustive, start with what you know off the top of your head.

As you are going through this process you will discover that the function you perform depends on the performance of other functions (the “Before” functions) and other functions depend on your function being completed (the “After” functions).

“…there are always ‘Before’ and ‘After’ functions that help to define your function…”

Both types of activities need to be taken into account as you develop and refine your checklist. For examples of this, please take a look at the samples I’ve provided below.

You’ll also discover that creating a checklist (or checklists) is rewarding and satisfying work that reduces complexity and increases the confidence of those who have volunteered to perform the function.

By following this iterative review and update process, you will quickly create a checklist customized to the way your church performs the particular function. And that checklist will be the foundation for a number of other benefits which we’ll talk more about in the next post.

Please let me know in the comments below if you’ve found this article useful (or not). And if you already use checklists, in what areas do you use them at your church?

Sample Checklists