Many people ask, "What's the difference between a checklist and a process?" but do not understand that this is more than a dictionary definition. To understand the difference between checklist and processes, you must think in terms of the big picture, the path toward your major goals and the ways in which you are reminded of the smallest steps.
The Big Picture
At the end of your checklist, you will have the endorphin rush of having accomplished something significant. At the end of your process, you will have accomplished something sizable externally -- though there may be no significant emotional reward. The first answer to the question of, "What's the difference between a checklist and a process?" is how you evaluate the big picture. Are you more concerned with feeling as if you have accomplished something, or with having something to show an outside observer that is indicative of having accomplished a given goal? The fact that processes tend to be very long-term and checklists tend to be more short-term means that your emotional states may deceive you.
Checklists: Passive Reminders
From the beginning, one answer to, "What's the difference between a checklist and a process?" is that a checklist tends to be a more passive reminder of what needs to be done. With checklists, you can tick off actions as you undertake and complete them. The main pressure is inside and personal, as you strive to accomplish what you set out to do. It can be easy to get caught up in the passivity of a checklist, as you can easily lose sight of why you are performing each task in the first place. While a checklist may be fine for a day or even a week, many large projects are simply too complicated to stay cohesive amid a checklist. Further, attempting to build a list with enough length and complexity can be frustrating, even demoralizing.
Processes: Active Reminders
A process is, by definition, a large series of tasks that are for the ultimate goal of reaching a significant accomplishment. Because of this, processes tend to be reminders from the outside that there are sizable stakes. Further, most processes are active reminders of what is to be accomplished at the end, and it is far easier to keep sight of the final goals than with a mere checklist. While checklists are useful, processes tend to be a more active method of keeping on task and keeping each task aligned with the final goal.
What's the difference between a checklist and a process?
Planning and Execution
Both checklists and processes are similar in that both involve planning. The major differences between the two are scope and the probability of effective execution. When your business has a checklist of what needs to be accomplished, numerous different end results can be mixed into the list. This can result in the list becoming muddled. Mixed goals tend to bring about mixed results, and the mixture may not be beneficial overall.
The execution of a checklist is typically shorter and on a smaller scale. A checklist may consist of, "Contact the list of leads," which may take less than a day to accomplish. However, it can become easy to overlook why you need to contact the leads, in what way they should be contacted, or the specific topics to be discussed. If each task is kept in a flow chart of an overall process, however, it is easier to make note of specifics related to each task, as well as where they fit in. There is also more room to coordinate among people performing tasks.