Checklists to the Rescue

How I learned to love ticking the little box.

Working in software development is a pretty sweet profession. You get to be a mini-creator exerting power by having thoughts and expressing them through well formed written language. That language creates online worlds of endless possibility that are literally carried around in everyone’s pocket for interaction and coordination. Whether its a new way to ride in cars, manage drone deliveries or coordinating logistics its all happening in language.

Going from idea to execution to delivery as quickly as possible has a thrill like no other. Using the enthusiasm as fuel, quickly hashing out a data structure, some interactive screens and creating a minimal product that can be used in the wild to get feedback on what works well and what needs another iteration makes time fly by.

However, problems do arise. Wasted time on misunderstood expectations. Assumptions that turn out to not be true. And the most frustrating ones are when your own expectations with your working cohort are thwarted. What do you mean you can’t do screenshare with me? Your internet speed isn’t good enough to do it? What do you mean you can’t install the environment and you don’t know why? What exactly is causing a delay, my expectation was that this part would be complete by now?

That flow feeling where time zooms by? Its gone. Crushed. Defeated. By what? By a lack of coordination. So instead of the freedom of creativity, we are now prisoners of fumbling misunderstanding.

When coordinating with many people across multiple cultures who have different historical norms, taking extra time to lay out the minimal viable foundation for coordination is required. The power of simple, short, agreed upon checklists to ensure that a coordination baseline is adhered to creates a solid foundation for action.

What are these checklist items? Thanks to the Checklist Manifesto for highlighting simplicity. You wouldn’t think that for doctors, washing hands should be on a checklist. But as you read about in the book, when the checklist was created and followed it saved lives.

So here is our simple technology coordination checklist

  • Speedy Computer
  • Fast Internet
  • Good audio with headset or quiet workspace
  • Professional video setup for video hangouts
  • Easy text based team communication like Slack installed on working computer and mobile phone

We get more complex when examining projects, like measuring continuous integration build time and keeping it low.

The principle is the same. We are after creating that freedom, that enthusiasm for unbound creating. And in order to do that, we accept some limits. Some bounds. A checklist to coordinate well with others.

Thanks to Martino Fornasa.

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