Episode 3 – The Importance of the “Not to Do List”

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In our pursuit of productivity, we often find ourselves swamped with tasks and an overload of information. A common strategy to manage this chaos is the creation of checklists. As explained in Atul Gawande’s seminal work, “The Checklist Manifesto,” there are several reasons why checklists are considered effective:

  1. Promoting non-hierarchical communication. Checklists create environments where hierarchy doesn’t impede communication, enabling open error reporting and suggestions across all levels.
  2. Focusing on relevant tasks. Checklists help in eliminating irrelevant details, streamlining processes.
  3. Demonstrating preparation. Checklists act as evidence of prior planning and organization.
  4. Ensuring verbal confirmation.: In high-stakes environments, checklists are used for aloud confirmations to ensure clear communication.
  5. Enhancing team coordination. Checklists align team members on common goals and procedures, fostering collaboration.
  6. Reducing cognitive load. Checklists offload the need to remember every detail, enhancing focus on complex tasks.
  7. Increasing consistency and reliability. Standardized procedures via checklists ensure uniform outcomes.
  8. Improving accountability. Checklists clearly outline tasks and responsibilities, enhancing individual accountability.
  9. Facilitating training and delegation. Checklists are useful as tools for efficient delegation and training of new members.
  10. Serving as reference tools. Checklists act as quick reference guides during complex or routine tasks.

However, checklists typically emphasize tasks that need to be completed, overlooking a crucial aspect: what not to do.

In your law firm, corporate team, or any professional setting, have you considered implementing a “Not to Do List”? A “Not to Do List” is a straightforward yet powerful tool for identifying actions and behaviors that should be avoided, such as common workplace inefficiencies or counterproductive habits.

Here are some insights to create an effective “Not to Do List”:

  1. Involve various team members. Involve various team members but limit the group to a manageable size, following Jeff Bezos’ “two pizza rule.”
  2. Manage the process in a not-hierarchical way. Everyone can provide valuable insights. If you’re the partners, the general counsel, or a senior associate, try to speak later, and encourage insights and feedback from all the players.
  3. Engage external facilitator. Use impartial, experienced facilitators to guide the creation process.
  4. Dedicate a specific time to the creation of the list. Not to do lists require several hours of work to be completed. We suggest planning a specific time-frame (whether a retreat, a weekend, or a specific date). This will also strengthen the team building factor
  5. Limit the number of items in the list. Keep the list focused and memorable with a maximum of 10 items.
  6. Ensure specificity: Clearly define the prohibited actions and behaviors.
  7. Use visual aids: Use icons, symbols, and infographics for better understanding and retention.
  8. Achieve universal understanding. Ensure all team members are familiar with and understand the list.
  9. Encourage optional sharing: If possible, disseminate the list beyond the immediate team to reinforce commitment (such as posting it on social media, or show it to clients)
  10. Review it and update it regularly: Keep the list relevant with periodic revisions.
  11. Highlight consequences: Outline the repercussions of not adhering to the list.
  12. Integrate it with existing processes: Incorporate the list seamlessly into current workflows.

Are you interested in developing a “Not to Do List” for your team? We can facilitate a workshop to guide you through the process.

For more information or to schedule a workshop, contact us at talk@betteripsum.net