We meet many businesses who do not have a plan; some who don’t know which things will make the biggest difference to their business and many who get distracted from things they know they should be doing for a myriad of reasons. Could a checklist approach to business planning incorporating day to day, week to week, month to month tasks make a difference?

Learning from the Aviation and Medical industry.

Some History: You may or may not know that the concept of a pre-flight checklist was first introduced by management and engineers at Boeing Corporation following the 1935 crash of the prototype Boeing B-17 at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, killing both pilots. Post crash investigation found that the pilots had forgotten to disengage the crucial gust locks (devices which stop control surfaces moving in the wind while parked) prior to take off, leading to deadly consequences.

Nasa Human factors researcher Asaf Dagani in his 1990 study Human Factors of Flight-Deck Checklists noted checklist use was particularly important in take-off, approach and landing, accounting for 76.3% of hull-loss accidents.

Check-lists become adopted within medicine.

Following the widespread use of check-lists in the aviation industry, author and surgeon Atul Gawande devised a simple surgical team communications checklist for use in operating theatres. The eight hospital trial saw average complications reduced by 36% and deaths were cut almost by half!  In an interview with Harvard Business Review he revealed that a key part was the introduction of pause points where the team could stop for very short periods of time and make sure they didn’t miss anything they were supposed to be doing. He writes about it in his book, ‘The checklist Manifesto: How to get things right (2009)’.

Checklists don’t always work; the culture is important.

A checklist itself however is only as good as the people who follow it. Just as Gawande found resistance to checklist use among surgeons, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau ATSN published a comprehensive review of factors affecting checklist use following a crash in 2017

They found attitude, distractions, expectation and perception (automatic process not seeing what’s truly there), time pressures all contributed towards incorrect use of a checklist.

Likewise Robyn Clay-Williams and Lacey Colligan in the BMJ article Back to basics: checklists in aviation and healthcare, came to the conclusion that there are human and time pressures associated with successful use of checklists within the medical environment and that basic checklist use for processes that are simple, easy to follow and standardised have the best chance of success. Ultimately the introduction of a new tool without full consideration of its purpose, benefits and limitations may increase the risk to patients!

So what’s the implication for business and marketing planning?

A checklist can ensure that nothing is missed in the running of your business, that pause points are included and that to be effective it needs to be simple, easy to follow and standardised. In addition, the people following it have to have the right attitude, minimize distractions and not become complacent – the culture and desire are important too.

So if you don’t have a planning cycle then it’s time to implement one. And if you don’t know where to start, our handy 8 step checklist ensures that you’re not blind to the areas you should be assessing to ensure you have a comprehensive customer focused marketing plan designed to fulfil your business objectives.

Step 0 is to ensure that your business vision and business objectives are clear. Without them any marketing plan you create may not take you where you want to go!

The following 8 sections give a comprehensive view of the areas to consider when creating your plan, for each you should be considering what you do / know today, what you could start, stop or continue doing to hit your business objectives.



Could checklists save your business? - Brief Marketing


We recommend that you take the outputs into a comprehensive and pragmatic annual business plan, broken down into months 1, 2, 3, 4-6, 7-12, and that you focus on the top 3 things within each section that will make a difference. It is important that you do a mini assessment every month, formally tracking progress at a 3 month point (taking a 90 day plan approach), and redo the full process every 6 months, this will help to ensure that you’re on track and that you’ve incorporated changes to your competitive landscape and progress towards your business objectives. Things are constantly changing!

To make sure the plan is actioned, you must change your habits. It’s great knowing what you need and want to do, but unless you make space to action items you may as well not have bothered. You could create a weekly / fortnightly / monthly business checklist which incorporates client work, standard operational tasks as well as a check-in on your plan… Whatever works best for you, spreadsheets, lists, trello boards. Just diarise it!

We have 4 ways of supporting you through this process, if you would value an external view point, boost to the outputs and don’t fancy going it alone; our Private Consultation, designed for small teams of 4-8 people, Our Group Workshops or Brief 1-2-1s (if you can’t make a workshop date), and our soon to be launched online planner.


Want to kick start your marketing planning process?

Brief Marketing

Brief Marketing

Quite fond of post-it notes.