What constitutes a good checklist?

Subject: What constitutes a good checklist?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001 09:40:23 -0400

Christine Gonzales is creating <<... a checklist that involves various
groups, with various "owners" of the steps with a process that involves
testing databases. In trying to determine the best way to make this
checklist useful, I ask the
experts, "What constitutes a good checklist?" My audiences have already said
they want to be able to refer to documents
that provide more information, they do not want the checklist to turn into a

An ideal checklist is:
- complete: all steps are accounted for
- logical: the sequence supports the task directly (e.g., in the right order
wherever sequence is important)
- clear: the descriptions are clear, and any exceptions and what to do about
them are both clearly noted
- well-structured: it's organized so that main tasks are grouped together
and are separated from different tasks
- well-formatted: the beginning of any major series of steps are clearly
denoted (with headings), the steps are distinct from the headings, the notes
are distinct from the steps.
- cross-referenced: it refers to the appropriate manual for more information
(since that's what your audience asked for)
- effective: this means both that the checklist accomplishes _your_ goals
(testing the database rigorously) and that it works well for the _testers_
(i.e., that it's usable).

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is
by accident. That's where we come in; we're computer professionals. We cause
accidents."-- Nathaniel Borenstein


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