“The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande

The Checklist Manifesto
The Checklist Manifesto

A Book Review – “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande.

I buy too many books, and often they sit on a shelf (or my Kindle) for months or even years before I read them.

In this case I bought “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande almost as a stocking stuffer. I had bought a book I really wanted online, and since I have been trying out checklists to make myself a little more efficient, this looked like something to add to the order. I was expecting a book about how to write checklists.

Instead I got a book that verged on a thriller. The author has a brilliant, first person writing style, and personally pursued the use of checklists from aviation, construction, medicine and even five star restaurants. From visiting Boeing and seeing how a checklist could save an aircraft by getting in a simulator and experiencing an emergency firsthand to standing in a restaurant for a night counting how many dishes got sent back before they left the kitchen. How Walmart was getting relief supplies into a ravaged New Orleans days before FIMA and the federal government.

This book is fascinating, powerful, thought provoking and absolutely essential reading. I will never see complex processes and systems the same way again.

The author proves that our world has become incredibly, even dangerously complex, and demonstrates that the humble checklist can show us ways for the average, or even exceptional  mind to manage and tame the complexity.

He walks the reader through the process of creating a checklist for the WHO (World Health Organization) for use in surgery all over the world, from impoverished and overworked hospitals to the best in the world. What they did wrong (making them to long or complicated) and how they solved the problem.  The author, a top surgeon, decided to “eat his own dog food” and applied the checklist in his own operating room. It picked up problems immediately, and in one case, described in a humble and honest style, proves that the checklist worked, and saved a life on the author’s own operating table.

The statistics came back from hospitals and operating theaters around the world where extraordinary, and gratifying.

A team of smart people with almost no budget created a checklist, and a desire to use it, and sent it out to the world. That list will continue to save lives for years to come.

I read this book in one day, and will read it again, soon. And I am already writing checklists to help me manage my much too busy business and life.

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