Making a List and Checking it Twice

After recently finishing Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto, I’ve started to think about how checklists can help improve things that we do in work and personal life every single day.  Clients are always looking to find better ways to manage social media, and I could not think of a better way to ensure success than through the structure and completeness of a checklist.

“Under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success.  There must always be room for judgement, but judgement aided – even enhanced – by procedure.”  Think about how complex social networks are, along with the various ways that people interact online.  Whether social media is practiced by a team of one or twenty, simple procedures can make the task of managing millions of possible interactions that much easier… and really more effective.

But procedures are cumbersome and often added bureaucracy… or at least that’s what we would all like to think in order to avoid having to create them.  Gawande describes a situation where he asks a World Health Organization (WHO) official “whether the organization had a guidebook on how to carry out successful global public health programs.”  To which he got a look that essentially said, “It’s a cute idea but idiotic.”

Eight months later, he had improved compliance to 100% around a specific appendicitis surgery.  All with the help of an “cute yet idiotic” checklist.  And his point was that smart people know that they should do, but often a checklist can help people remember what they must do so that it doesn’t get forgotten in the midst of working on other tasks.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of items on the plate of a social media practitioner.  Use your brain to do the creative things, and leave the stuff you should be doing religiously to the checklists.  As social media practitioners, we know what we should be thinking about when creating posts and engaging. But when you are creating content multiple times per day, how do you maintain structure around what you are putting out there?

So the next step is creating a list that works.  First, “the checklist cannot be lengthy.  A rule of thumb … is to keep it to between five and nine items.”  And of course, deciding on the type of checklist you need, which Gawande calls DO-CONIFRM and READ-DO checklists.  DO-CONFIRM lists basically require an individual to do a larger task, stop, and the confirm that all of the items were done properly.  READ-DO lists go step by step like a recipe.  In the case of social media engagement, I think it is often easier to use a DO-CONFIRM list.  Write your content, and then make sure that the five or six conditions that you have on your list are met.  It’s that simple.

“When we look closely, we recognize the same balls being dropped over and over, even by those of great ability and determination.  We know the patterns.  We see the costs.  It’s time to try something else.  Try a checklist.”

Below is a sample list that I use when developing content.  Would love to hear more about what you use, and how checklists can help in social media.

1. Is the content messaging consistent with the overall story that we are telling?

2. How shareable is the content?  Can I eliminate another 5 words?

3. What’s the call to action?  Is it easy to do?

4. How will I conclude that this was a successful piece of content?

5. Check through the content one more time and send it off.  Onto the next task :)!


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