Introducing TeamChecklist — Share best practice using checklists in Slack

I’ve been helping teams work more productively for about fifteen years, both at the agency Deeson and with clients. Long enough to see some patterns in what can really make a difference to teams.

For the last few months I’ve been working on setting up GreenShoot Labs — a company focused on products that make teams happier and more productive. We’re now at the point that our first product TeamChecklist is ready for public beta testing. Exciting and a little scary!

A simple way to share best practices in your team

One of the things I’ve found to be more effective than anything else for improving quality is checklists. A team defining how to do a task really well and then finding a way to keep doing it that way.

They improved quality, reduced mistakes and meant that time was spent on making the work shine — not on falling in the same traps time and time again.

When I came across the book Checklist Manifesto it strongly resonated with the learnings we developed over the years. It’s a pretty easy read and has some great insights on how influence behaviour at an organisational scale.

It describes how using checklists can lead to striking results. The Checklist Manifesto describes how the author reduced post-surgery deaths by 47% in hospitals worldwide that trialled the 8 step World Health Organisation checklist he created.

There’s only two types of mistakes we make

The author, Atul Gawande, describes how he believes there are two types of mistakes. Errors of ignorance (we didn’t know enough) and errors of ineptitude (we didn’t make effective use of what we know).

He argues that mistakes in the modern world are most commonly errors of ineptitude. For example the airline industry has been very effective in minimising avoidable errors — the knowledge created by previous mistakes has been turned into a practical tool that pilots use constantly.

No matter how experienced you are in your field it’s impossible to be infallible, especially under pressure. But you can use checklists to integrate past knowledge at the point when it really makes a difference.

Mitigating complexity

The teams I worked with weren’t performing heart surgery, but they were performing complex multi-step processes such as global scale marketing launches or business critical software releases. It was stressful and scary if it went wrong. And there were a lot of complex inter-dependent reasons it could go wrong.

There were steps that could be missed, or forgotten when briefing a new team member. By capturing everything we learned each time in a checklist we created a tool — not more documentation.

As we adopted Slack we found that checklists were being linked to in Google Docs or other places that felt like hard work. We were also feeling the pain of having to nag and prod to get feedback on what state tasks were in.

Typical project management software is complicated and the whole organisation doesn’t have access to it. For many tasks that cut across teams it never felt like a good fit.

In hindsight, it is no surprise that the first tool we’ve built for Slack is TeamChecklist.

TeamChecklist lives in Slack with your team

TeamChecklist is designed for dealing with common multi-step jobs quickly — without ever leaving Slack.

  1. Write your template checklist.
  2. Make a live checklist. Your team is reminded of their tasks directly in Slack.
  3. Everyone can view and update the status of the tasks in Slack.

And then feel the warm glow of never making the same mistake twice. Something didn’t go right? Catch it with the template for next time.

What do teams find it most useful for?

Most teams have a few critically important, repetitive things that they need to get absolutely right.

  • Marketing event preparation
  • New feature releases
  • Usability checks
  • Security and compliance
  • Office management

Each team member gets a daily status report with all their outstanding tasks, making it easy for them to keep on top of everything in one place.

We’ve just launched the beta, we’re ready for users and would love some feedback 😀.

Sign up now for a free trial or follow TeamChecklist on Twitter to keep up with our progress and next product!