The Role of Checklists in a High Performance Setting

by Fusion Sport
 | 27th April, 2017

Checklists are not designed to be comprehensive how-to guides; they are quick and simple tools aimed to support the skills of expert professionals. Hence, their use in high performance settings is common. They are not used to dissolve the complexity of your processes but to establish a hierarchy of importance when approaching tasks.

The philosophy is that you push the power of decision-making out to the periphery and away from the centre. You give people the room to adapt, based on their experience and expertise. Checklists are not just lists. They become a way of doing things: an organisational habit. Quotes and inspiration are taken from the book “The checklist manifesto: How to get things right” by Atwul Gawande1.

How Are Checklists Currently Used In A High Performance Sport Setting?

Exploring Types of Checklists

Checklists can be broadly categorised into two types:


•Perform role from memory and experience, often separately
•Stop, pause, and confirm that everything intended to action was completed.


•People carry out tasks as they check them off – more like a recipe

It’s important to choose the type that best suits your scenario.

Implementing A Checklist in Your High Performance Setting 

When implementing checklists you should ensure they are:

Concise – aim for between five and nine items, which is the limit of the working memory. Ideally, it should fit on one page.
Clear – wording should be simple and exact and use familiar language of the profession
Free of clutter and unnecessary colours
•Use both uppercase and lowercase for ease of reading
Collaboration is key – input from the whole department
Order of items – consider the flow-on effect of items when designing

The Dynamic Checklist 

In a high performance setting, we’re constantly striving for a competitive edge. As your high performance unit develops, refining your checklist is key.  Therefore, it’s important to consider checklists as a dynamic tool that should evolve as you come across new information, scenarios, and experiences.

Remember, there is no black and white in a high performance environment, mostly shades of grey. Using checklists to get the fundamentals right every time may help cover off on the greyness.

Monday Morning Value

Quotes taken from Gawande1 concerning checklists:

“Just ticking boxes is not the ultimate goal. Embracing a culture of teamwork and discipline is.”

“In the end, a checklist is only an aid. If it doesn’t aid, it’s not right. But if it does, we must be ready to embrace the possibility.”

“A further difficulty, just as insidious, is that people can lull themselves into skipping steps even when they remember them. Checklists seem to provide protection against such failures. They remind us of the minimum necessary steps and make them explicit. They not only offer the possibility of verification but also instil a kind of discipline of higher performance.”

“Under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success. There must always be room for judgment, but judgment aided—and even enhanced—by procedure.”

Here at Fusion Sport, our SMARTABASE platform allows you to build automated, multifactorial checklists with conditional options.

If you are interested in hearing more about how you can implement automated checklists in our SMARTABASE software, do not hesitate to contact us at


1. Gawande, A. (2010). The checklist manifesto: How to get things right. New York: Metropolitan Books.
2. Header Image: Monster Sports Directory


Thank you to Glenn Stewart, High Performance Manager of the West Coast Eagles Football Club, for his input and guidance on the use of checklists in a high performance environment.

By Marcus Colby, ‎PhD Candidate at The University of Western Australia