Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Checklist Manifesto

Author: Atul Gawande



After reading “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande, I was quite impressed with this author. So of course when I heard that the checklist manifesto is also written by him I was keen on reading this too. Add to that the fact that I’ve heard/read so many recommendations for this book.

As you would probably guess from the title of the book, it’s about checklists. The author argues how using checklists in various fields has significantly improved their success rates. He cites examples from the airplane industry to medicine. The reason checklists are so successful is because humans can forget things due to distractions, poor memory, complex systems, etc. By having a checklist you’re making sure that all the mandatory steps for a procedure (trivial or not) are covered. And it turns out that majority of the mistakes or mishaps happen because of some known step(s) of a protocol were missed. Knowingly or unknowingly. These can be averted by having a checklist. Complex, unique or one-of situations will not be covered by these – they will still need to be solved in a ad-hoc fashion. Going through a checklist also facilitates communication between the members of a team. This way everybody knows what is the problem they’re working on, the risks involved, the mitigations they should be ready for and so on. The author also suggests how to create such checklists. In fact at the end he has a checklist for creating a checklist.

Being a believer of checklists, I couldn’t agree more with him. Although I will admit I didn’t realize what a significant impact they could have. I’d only used them in the context of my household. Who knew that doctors and nurses in hospitals had saved lives by using checklists! At some point I did feel that the author was belaboring the issue. I mean how long can you read an argument on checklists or examples to prove the same. The good thing is that the book is no that thick. Overall liked the book though I do think it could be thinner.

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