Holacracy Community of Practice Archive, 2015-2019 Community Holacracy Web Site

Reply to FW: Benefit of Checklist

By Tracey Topic posted 06/21/2016

Hi, Tracey, it's a very good question and I would like to share our story with you in the hope that it may assist you and others. One of the circles I am Lead Link of is Enterprise Systems, basically an IT team in the conventional sense.

If there's one thing I absolutely love about Holaracry its checklists & metrics. As explained in Brian's book, The revolutionary management systems that abolishes hierarchy, Brian speaks about "visual management whereby current projects, checklists, and relevant metrics can be displayed and easily reviewed" (Robertson, 2015). For the purpose of checklists, we use Glassfrog, a great web-based tool developed by HolacracyOne.

For metrics, we use a mixture of reporting tools all linked to Glassfrog to provide all circle members with a centralised location so they can easily retrieve up to date information. For projects we use Asana but let me not digress. 

As the Lead Link role, you are accountable for establishing checklists & metrics to determine the health of the circle. The process I followed was to raise a tension at a Tactical asking circle members to provide recommendations as what checklists & metrics we should be reporting on to determine the health of the circle. 

The paradigm shift for us here was that there no longer was any "Manager" who would swoop in and ensure people are doing their jobs. What Holacracy does which I think is brilliant is the shift that accountability to the role filler. Trust me when I say that before recurring actions would be overlooked frequently, but since implementing checklists I have observed my team realising that saying "no check" is not enjoyable. The beauty of it is that I no longer need to go in and ask, why is this not being checked? A classic example is backups... It is the best call to action method I have observed thus far in my career. Everyone has stepped up and are more engaged, and the benefactor is the business!

I've provided some excerpts from Brian's book below for you and I would highly recommend purchasing it if you haven't already!

  • Checklist Review, Goal: Bring transparency to recurring actions.
    Facilitator reads the checklist of recurring actions by role; participants respond “check” or “no check” to each for the preceding period (e.g., the prior week).
  • Metrics Review
    Goal: Build a picture of current reality.
    Each role assigned metric reports on it briefly, highlighting the latest data.

A checklist is a list of recurring actions team members intend to take regularly, and the purpose of this step is to provide visibility into whether each recurring action has been completed over the prior week, month, or other target frequency. Checklist items can be defined by a role filler for her own role, or by any other circle member requesting that the role filler add one of her recurring actions to her checklist.

The checklist is a simple but powerful tool for confirming that these recurring actions have been taken each period—at least, any actions that someone asks to add to the checklist. In our example, the Marketing circle has a monthly checklist item: “send

In our example, the Marketing circle has a monthly checklist item: “send the email newsletter to a mailing list.” The facilitator reads it off, and the Marketing lead link says “check,” meaning it was completed for the prior month. The Website Manager role has a weekly checklist item: “backup website and database.” The facilitator reads off the item; Website Manager says, “No check” and adds a brief explanation: “We’re having issues with the Web backup system, which we’re working with the provider to resolve.”

Another circle member comments, “We’re always having issues with that system, maybe we should …” No open discussion is allowed at this point, so the facilitator quickly cuts him off, and instead invites him to raise an agenda item when the process reaches the Triage Issues step if he has something
he’d like to discuss. This step is just for getting quick data, not for bringing up or
processing tensions about that data. (Robertson, 2015)

 In Summary:

- We don't necessarily want to put everything on checklist so what sort of considerations should we make for what we aim to include and what we don't?

- My advice, don't strive for perfection on day one. There's no right or wrong and due to the agile operating model, nothing is set in stone. It has taken us at least 3 months to finally get our checklists to a level that we feel the balance is right. But it may not stay like this if for example the General Company Circle (Super Circle's) strategy changes, all sub-circles need to adapt accordingly. Let it evolve through tensions and allow the process to do what it's designed to do. Remember, it's no longer "command-and-control".

- What are we missing by not using Checklists?

- I think the feedback above clarifies how important checklists are :-). 

- A checklist is a list of recurring actions team members intend to take regularly, and the purpose of this step is to provide visibility into whether each recurring action has been completed over the prior week, month, or other target frequency (Robertson, 2015). I used the analogy of "flying blind" with my team which basically means that we may think things are going okay until that blinking red light means engine failure! We need to know how often to check the oil!

- How do Checklists better serve a circle's lead link?

- Remember, the Lead Link represents the entirety of the circle at the GCC. I don't think it's about serving the Lead Link role, but rather allowing the circle to fulfil its purpose.

- Benefits to other members of a circle by having Checklists? 

The "implicit" becomes "explicit". Not sure about you but I have encountered misunderstandings on many occasions whereby circle members have thought they have conducted a task as per the position description, however, I had a completely different interpretation of the task. Doing it this way there's clarity, with associated accountabilities. This basically allows members to energise roles effectively. 

Best Regards


Bibliography:Robertson, B.J. (2015) Holacracy: The new management system for a rapidly changing world. United States: Henry Holt & Company.