3 Ways Checklists Increase Creative Agency Success

Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto starts off with a graphic tale of what can go wrong in an emergency room when a crucial detail is missed. If you can handle a few gory details this book will make you think differently about the importance of a checklist and the difference it can make in your creative agency. Checklists will allow you to avoid simple mistakes and develop creative solutions to complex problems and here’s how:

Checklists will allow you to avoid simple mistakes and develop creative solutions to complex problems and here’s how:

Burden of Knowledge

In this information era the amount of knowledge required to remember to do a job well is both helping and hurting your agency’s efficiency. There is too much information to keep organized in one’s mind, especially in the fast-paced agency world where projects need to change directions mid-stream and decisions need to be made immediately. In this type of environment, just like an emergency room, it is hard to remember all the right information at the right time and thus even the most organized person will end up forgetting something in the moment like sending the revised production brief or forgetting to send the approval confirmation. These little mistakes hold up projects, cause costly revisions or impact the quality of the client’s experience. But, a checklist can help save you from these little mistakes that turn costly, and will ultimately help your team be more creative. When we are overwhelmed with little problems in complex environments, as we are in our day-to-day agency work, checklists allow us to not have to remember all the little things, freeing up our minds to develop creative solutions. By having your agency processes in a checklist, everyone on the team is freed up apply their brainpower to creative solutions.

Wisdom of The Group, Not the Individual

In the Checklist Manifesto Atul points out that checklists allow for the greater wisdom of the group – it’s kind of like we are all as smart as the greatest checklist (not the weakest link). Humans individually are intelligent, but we know that more heads are better than one and when you create a checklist that everyone uses you are able to capture the collective intelligence of the group. This allows for processes to get refined and then worked into the fabric of your agency instead of having a process rely on one exceptional individual. Also, humans make mistakes. We are all fallible – even the most organized account manager or traffic manager will forget something sometimes. So checklists, raise the bar of the whole team and help you compensate for that inevitable bad day that we all have.

Checklists Raise Flags

Checklists are a great way to ensure your agency stays on track because checklists immediately identify when something is heading off track that will ultimately cause a project to be behind schedule or over budget. Gawande, explains how in the 80’s Van Halen had a line in their contract demanding that a bowl of M&Ms be provided to the band but that every brown M&M be removed or they will forfeit the show. Sounds like the stereotype of a rock star having unreasonable demands, but it was actually David Lee Roth’s “checklist” test to see if the company had fully read the contract details and had set up everything according to the requirement. Once after enacting the clause and pulling the plug on the show after this demand was not met the band’s engineering experts found the local organizers had not read the weight requirements and the stage would have fallen through the arena floor. David Lee Roth had a checklist and it saved them from an inevitable accident.

A good checklist can help your agency run smoother, develop more creative solutions, and keep projects on budget. When creating checklists for your creative firm, consider these elements for an effective checklist:

  • Precise, with no room for interpretation
  • Efficient, it doesn’t document every little step, it is a reminder of the most critical steps
  • Simple, clear, easy to read font, clutter free

Are you inspired to create checklists or do you already use them? Let us know your thoughts on checklists and the impact they have on your agency.

This article was contributed by former Function Point employee, Jehanne Burns.

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