A Naked Checklist for an Agile World

“My job involves thinking. It can’t be reduced to a checklist.”

Once upon a time, most professionals thought that their work was too complicated to benefit from checklists. Or maybe they were insulted by the idea that much of what they did could be reduced to a scalable list.

But by now, you probably agree that checklists save time and reduce defects, and many in the medical profession accept that checklists save lives.

But checklists are only for standard, mature processes, right?


While the benefits of checklists are pretty much self-evident in mature processes such as pre-flight checks and surgery, they have their place in the agile and lean startup worlds too.

When we launched a sleeper bus service between Auckland and Wellington at Naked Bus, complete with lie flat beds, it was an MVP. We needed to work extremely fast to meet our self-imposed six week deadline. It was an new concept for us, and it was all unfamiliar ground.

Well, actually, not so much.

Although this was a new product, we could break it down into components, and with a little planning, checklists streamlined the whole process:

  • It involved a new bus timetable – we had a checklist for that
  • We had numerous stakeholders (drivers, suppliers, agents, customer, etc) to keep in the loop – we took a standard checklist and added new stakeholders to it
  • we had a standard marketing plan checklist – a few tweaks and it was fit for purpose for this launch
  • we had to build a new website – well we’ve done that before and the standard checklist works fine

and so on.

Checklists are also a great way of assigning ownership – because we had many checklists for each project, team members could grab one that they were familiar with and be responsible for its completion. This becomes a quick sanity check for road blocks.

So, even when you are doing something that seems entirely new, see where you can re-use previous work.

After all, there is no point reinventing the wheel, unless your new product is a new wheel.

And everyone likes checking things off!

Blog post for the day – check.