The Checklist Manifesto: Surgeons insight into pausing and checking

Suppose you are planning a trip, what would your checklist be? Most people would start with book tickets and make hotel reservations. But that is not really a checklist, that would be in a task list. You won’t go on a vacation if you do not book tickets, you wouldn’t need to check of that. What you are likely to forget is to carry copies of your passport, a printed copy of your tickets, your ID’s, have some cash tucked carefully in your laptop bag, in case you get robbed or lose your wallet. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande traces from aeronautics, to civil engineering and to surgery; the importance of an evolving checklist.

Image of checklist

Credits: Image by evondue from Pixabay

I find Atul Gawande’s writing full of empathy. His Being Mortal is one of my favourite books I read in 2019. So I wanted to read another one by him and hence started with the “Checklist Manifesto”

Gawande who is a renowned oncologist came across and further evolved the process of creating checklists to reduce mistakes during surgery.

Gawande tails the book with the usefulness of the checklist they created, not only with commendations by others but with his personal experience. He admits his checklists saved his patients’ lives and hence his belief in them solidify.

Systems, not people.

Gawande writing is analytical about the system and not the person, and that makes his writing more about how a system works and could work and less prescriptive about, say, what sort of checklists you should make for yourself. He thankfully never even goes into that territory.

But if you are working with a team, working on projects – you will find a lot of good takeaways. 

There are several observations but the one that sounds simple yet underrated is about communicating. One would imagine checklists is more about autonomy, people being able to do things more autonomously. The book turns that around and suggests it is important to communicate – to pause and talk about things to check as a group and then carry on.

Book: Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

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