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The 3 C’s That Define the Power of the Check List

Accountability & Management
Use Check Lists to improve C-Store Performance

We have been to and talked with C-Stores who use checklists.  They have duty lists in the stores, IT backup lists in the IT departments, people have to do lists on their desks and there are probably many more we haven’t seen.  These are usually tasks that need to get done and what their managers are being judged by to determine departmental or store performance. So what is it about these small pieces of paper or small desktop files that make them so powerful?

Let’s face it, no one has time for water cooler conversations anymore at work.  The lists are larger, more complex where they are sometimes broken down into sub tasks to be completed.  Tasks can come by emails, notes at meetings, phone calls, etc.  When putting all of the tasks down on a list using a simple title, in the order of importance, it becomes an easy to use guide that allows them to simplify the mass and take that proverbial one bite at a time.  It creates order to what could otherwise be overwhelming.


When looking at the list on a daily basis, you are much less likely to forget a task or overlook a subtask in a complex project because it is there staring right at you every time you look at it.  It is very easy to see that all things get completed and if not, what is left to be done.  Managers providing heavy workloads know it is important to provide a magnitude of importance definition to the task so the employee knows what order to tackle things or where to put it on the list.  That way their most critical tasks are completed first where if there is fall out at the end of the week it won’t be so critical to move it to the next time period or list.


By completing the list one gains the feeling of accomplishment and therefore their confidence increases.  The confidence their employer has in them increases as well   They will know when they may add more tasks to be done by a particular employee because their list is completed by Thursday.  They can see where they may need to coach should lists be falling short each week.


Because of the natural order of things, people are built to want to succeed.  When given a list they are more likely to complete it because after all, it is their list and  they are clearly defined as being accountable to the completion of their list.  Now this is not to say that things will not pop up where sometimes the order of importance will change or that things will be added to everyone’s list throughout the week, but by adding it to that one piece of paper with a place to put a checkmark gives it a lot better chance of getting done.

I am not sure what it is about a checkmark that gives one so much satisfaction but no one ever complains about them. Perhaps it is the design of it with a little down and a lot of upstroke in the lines where it subliminally suggest the positive, or that they are used to mark of completed tasks showing accomplishment. It could be that it is just one less thing to do.  All I know is that when I am given a list of tasks to do, I just love to make those check marks.