What are checklists, what advantages do they offer and where are they used?

Determine the status using a question catalog or criteria list

A checklist is either a catalogue of questions with a collection of questions on a defined topic or a criteria list. Both the question catalog and the criteria list have three main objectives:

  • the recording of the actual state,
  • the documentation of the target status,
  • the adherence to and control of a given process – i.e. from the actual state to the target state.

It is often claimed that checklists can reduce effort. This is conditionally true, because the creation and use of checklists first causes effort. Without a checklist, however, work steps could possibly be overlooked or expected results could not be produced, and the effort required to correct such omissions at a later date would presumably be considerably greater.

When working with checklists, organisations should ensure that incompletely formulated checklists can lead to serious errors. Ideally, checklists should therefore be reviewed, optimised or even discarded again and again.

Cecklist with a collection of questions or criteria to be ticked off

Advantages of a checklist

The advantages of working with a checklist are obvious: as a guideline, they are usually based on experience and expertise and ensure that the checklist is followed,

  • that work steps are not overlooked or forgotten,
  • or the agreed elements are processed or checked,
  • or expected results are produced.

Thus, the use of a checklist is almost always also a quality assurance measure and a documented best practice.

The application of checklists

The field of application of checklists is practically infinite. In the private environment there are numerous examples such as checklists for weddings, house construction, borrowing, car purchase, holidays, relocation, pregnancy, birth, tax declaration, etc. And in companies there are also numerous examples in various disciplines:

  • In project management, for example, on organisational forms, project plans, risks, team building, project start, project crises, project review. In most cases, company-wide checklists are described in the project management manual, while project-specific checklists are described in the project manual.
  • In requirements management, for example, on stakeholders, goals, requirement documents, system context, system architecture, use cases, prioritisation, etc.
  • In human resources, e.g. for job interviews, feedback, certificate creation, etc.


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