Checklists have a somewhat bad reputation in the Agile world, probably because they “smell” of too little self-organisation and too much process. I find this reputation is entirely undeserved as they can be extremely useful as a memory aid, or to visualize a workflow.
Checklists play an important role in areas where missing steps can have disastrous consequences, such as in hospitals or airplanes; or in situations where people are likely to forget individual steps, such as when they’re stressed and tired; or while learning a new process or way of working.
At work we mainly use checklists when we want to introduce a new workflow and need to make sure we don’t forget about the process or any of its steps.
Here’s an example of our checklist for the sprint workflow and working with user stories:
We usually keep our checklists visible until the new workflow has become second nature and we don’t need reminders or memory aids anymore. Although, in saying that I realize that we created this particular checklist 6 months ago and we still like to have it around :-)
For us checklists are a very useful learning aid and workflow visualization tool, and as long as we decide on the processes ourselves we don’t feel they interfere with our self-organisaton.