Sunday, February 08, 2009

All Hail the Almighty Checklist

When you read my blog, I hope you occasionally wander over to the right side of the screen and look at the other blogs listed there. One really great posting caught my eye a few days ago.

It's on the Microsoft Exchange Team Blog: You Had Me at EHLO. The posting is called Got Checklists?

As you might imagine, we love checklists.

KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist) has checklists for everything. Everything means everything.

At the recent HTG meeting, we shared our three-page checklist for bringing on a new client, which includes work flows from sales to admin to tech, and back to admin.

The last item on the checklist is to file the checklist.

When we have more than one client coming on board at the same time, we have a checklist to make sure the New Client checklists are not stalled on someone's desk.

- - - - -

If you haven't read the The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber, go do that ASAP. This book will change your business if you will let it.

One of the key lessons of this book is standardization and documentation. These habits will allow you to take everyday chores within your business and hand them off to someone else. YOU don't have to do all the work. What a concept.

Checklists take this to the next level.

How have McDonald's and Subway and Best Western built massive empires while turning over the daily operations to average people who are not the owners? Training and checklists.

They have checklists for everything. How to open the doors in the morning. How to count cash. How to provide service. How to fold a towel.

You can do the same thing.

- A checklist for setting up a new client
- A checklist for setting up a new user
- A checklist for setting up a new computer

- A checklist for adding a client to Zenith Infotech
- A checklist for setting up a new router
- A checklist for setting up a new firewall

- A checklist for setting up a new SBS server
- A checklist for setting up a new Server 2008 domain
- A checklist for setting up a new SQL Server

- A checklist for setting up a remote user
- A checklist for interviewing/hiring employees
- A checklist for transferring a domain name

- A checklist for running monthly reports
- A checklist for running weekly reports
- A checklist for processing payroll

- A checklist for setting up a new client
- A checklist for configuring email to go through Exchange Defender
- A checklist for configuring email to go through Reflexion

- A checklist for swapping users or computers
- A checklist for removing a user
- A checklist for setting up Outlook RPC over https

and of course
- Monthly maintenance checklists for each client
- Backup procedure checklists for each client

and more checklists for
- AuthAnvil
- Autotask
- Crackberry servers

- Blade workstations
- Anti-virus setup
- SSL certificate installation

- Teaming network cards
- Creating network maps
- Archiving email




Checklist Mentality

There are two keys to making checklists work successfully.

1) You have to train your staff (and yourself) on how to use them


2) You have to create the habit of using them for everything

I know it sounds strange to say that you have to train people to use a checklist. After all, there aren't many rules. But when I speak about this to groups, the first question is always exactly the same:

"How do I get people actually go down the list, think about each item, and not check it off until they've done it?"

Training -- and fear. You have to really beat it into people's heads that they can't check the box until they've done the task. And every time you find a someone violating this, you need to stop immediately and using it as a training moment.

If it helps, go read The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard. It will take an hour to read, but will really help you with chores like this.

Checklists are only useful if they are used properly and consistently. Make it part of your culture. Show people how to use them. Hold them responsible.

Expect it. Measure it.

You know the old truism: What gets measured gets done.

Interestingly enough, the more checklists you have, the more likely they are to be used, and to be used properly.

Checklist Bonus: Working with your Back Office NOC

If you use Zenith Infotech or another Back Office NOC, you'll be able to hand off some checklists to them.

I highly suspect (out of pure arrogance) that turning over our monthly maintenance checklists to Zenith has helped them do a better job for everyone when it comes to regular scheduled maintenance.

Manuel and Nicko worked for a long time with Zenith to fine-tune the automation of our monthly maintenance processes.

And that, in turn, helped us figure out better ways to communicate with the Zenith technicians within our service requests. After all, we write project descriptions into an SR and then go home for the night. And while it's night over here, it's day over there. So the Zenith techs either understand our notes or have to wait half a day for clarification.

So we've learned to make better checklists because better checklists mean better work product.

I would say that we eat, sleep, and breath checklists at KPEnterprises . . .

but the truth is that we eat, sleep, and breath documentation.

And checklists are just documentation of process.



  1. Hey Karl when will we see the new book "KP just Like me - a guide to the essential check lists" I'm sure will be asked about it any time now.

    Great post I have to write about 10 more to catchup with some of the ones you have, great memory prods. Thanks

  2. Thanks, David.
    I'm sure there's a book there somewhere.

    All I need is infinite time . . .

  3. Interesting:

    - A checklist for processing payroll

    Would you mind sharing your process for this part and how it went during your last cycle?

    (Friend, n. Someone to kick you in the balls when you're down)


  4. Yes, it would indeed be handy to have a checklist to validate when, in fact, the mighty Karl P. is affected by the economic downturn...lest he disagree.

  5. Karl don't think of it as needing infinite time you will be having people to pay you for the privilege of making a hobby business look exactly like your real business, so when you offer them a job for as long as it takes to ensure transition of customers too you.

    See GOLD people will pay you to close leads that you ultimately get to service AND on your own terms.

    And you thought there was no advantage to training SPF's didn't you Vlad

  6. David,

    I've been validated in everything I've said about SPFs. I'd venture to guess less than 10% of them are still around.


  7. Yet more inspiration to get me to start my checklists. E-Myth was a brilliant read, must go back to that too.

    Any chance of sharing your monthly maint checklist that Zenith do for you? Just started our trial with them and so far we're very impressed.


  8. Stay tuned, Nick. In the meantime, the basis for our MMC is the famouse KPEnterprises 68-point checklist, which you can receive by autoresponder.

    Just send an email to [email protected].

    1. Did you ever publish what you had the Zenith (now continuum) NOC do for your monthly maint.?


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