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I’ve had the checklist manifesto in my “to-read” list for about 5 years now. It’s a book I’ve had reccomended to me many times and, in a nutshell, it’s a manifesto for the use of checklists. Atul Gawande who wrote it is a surgeon who has a history of process improvement projects. The checklist manifesto is his attempt to convince people that checklists, simple as they are, can massively improve the output quality and consistency of tasks that we repeat frequently. What is more surprising though, is that his research uncovers that even in areas where there are complex problems for which we can’t cheklist – checklists can help significantly in resolving complex and unforeseen problems. The thesis is simple. Checklists raise output quality and consistency. The reason they do this is simple – we overestimate our ability to routinely perform series of tasks dramatically. In scenarios where there is stress or complication, the rate at which we overestimate our ability rises dramatically. Gawande examines three key scenarios – flight checklists, large scale construction projects and his own home – the operating theater. IN each scenario, he tackles simple, routine problems and also complicated and complex problems. What emerges is a surprisingly strong case for checklists as a tool to ensure consistency, and to change behavior, and also as a tool to aid resolution in complex and unforeseen circumstances. The bottom line is that we are inadequate repeaters of routine tasks, people routinely skip steps for one of two reasons – either they just forget through distraction or inattention, or they don’t know about, or don’t believe in the efficacy of a step – so they skip it. In each of these cases, checklists function as a kind of spot audit – telling people that they didn’t perform a step, and ensuring that they do. In many cases, authority was granted to people responsible for overseeing the checklist to stop a process if people didn’t perform it as written. What followed in each case, was a dramatic improvement in performance – in one case, a US hospital system had 1500 fewer yearly deaths after introducing checklists to key procedures. Routine tasks aside, complex tasks were also found to benefit. IN routine simple and complicated tasks, the series of steps required to be carried out were documented in order so that they could be directly followed. In Complex tasks however, this wasn’t possible because what was required to be done was typically an emergent phenomenon like an accident or disaster and needed to be analysed and dearth with on the fly. While task based checklists were not capable of operating in this environment, what was shown to produce results was checklists describing mandating communication among team members and the best results were found in cases that included delegation of authority to act away from a central organisation. The book contains excellent tips on how to make checklists work. It boils down to keep them short, precise, and practical. They don’t over-describe – they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps. The point of invocation of the checklist needs to be clear for it to be useful. Checklists also come in two distinct types – Do-confirm and read-do. One is about an audit of what you carried out, the other provides steps to follow – which you do in order and tick off. Checklists should also be a maximum of 5 to 9 items – which is cognitively about all we can handle. There is also some very specific advice on formatting – right down to fonts and typeset. One interesting point made repeatedly was that there were substantial improvements in the ability to cope with crises by teams that came together at the start of a surgery to work through the checklist. Checklists are the simplest way to protect you, and others, from you – and the systematic mistakes you make by believing that you’re systematic – when you’re not. They’re also the simplest way to get an advantage without being smarter or first, you can be more thorough – EVERY time
Found this on the daily deal while my husband was undergoing emergency surgery, finished it just as our friend a retired Airline Captain arrived for a visit. Discussing what I had read about checklists really brought the book alive. He shared stories of his own experiences and confirmed its accuracy in every detail. But that is Gawande, what he writes flows so easily that I always have to remind myself of the incredible amount of research that is behind his words. He has proved the value of the checklist to just about anybody, working in any field, who may choose to buy the book. So, a very valuable read, but prepare to be entertained as well. Please be sure to check out the acknowledgements at the end to gain an appreciation of the depth and breadth of the author's research.
This is my second read of this book with 4 years in between reads. The world has become more complex it seems and this book provides most of the answers into how simple yet profound it can be to deal successfully with complexity.
This book is full of heart stirring and mind shifting stories including how Boeing nearly went bankrupt.
I like this book also because it is instantly usable and I have referenced it often in helping my clients to raise their performance bars, improve standards and ultimately become better people achieving greater results.
This book is brief, pricise and packed with actionable advice. Atul Gawande treads on to science of complexity with a tool as simple as Check List. Highlighting the fraility of human memory and attention, he dives into experience and expertise from different industries to find a solution to problems which can be classified as simple, complex or coomplicated. He has taken great examples from Construction, Surgery and Aviation. The best thing in the book is contrast that Atul has drawn between simplicity of checklist as a concept, general reluctance to adapt that concept and the remarkable benefits of internalizing the use of checklists to solve complexity. It's one of those must read books which you can read every 6 months.
I was prompted to read this book by a minor disaster at work. The checklist manifesto had been on my to-read list since I heard an interview with Atul Gawande and he sounded like an interesting dude. The book does not disappoint - there are actionable lessons in there, but they're woven between compelling stories of disasters, near-disasters and triumphs.
A compelling business book written by a surgeon? Hard to imagine but totally worthwhile. Has me thinking about ways to de-risk complex processes and reduce errors across my small business. Would like all my managers to read it.
This book is a sleeper. Much of it seems obvious but it has value in helping simplify complexity- and indirect but importantly emphasises communication and team building in the use of the checklists. Subtle but important book.