The Checklist Manifesto

My office is filled with notebooks of various types, and my desk surface is covered with a big scratchpad. I make lots of lists: to-do lists, checklists, ‘action items’, etc. I love the fact that Atul Gawande has taken the time to write down his thoughts and experiences with checklists. Even more, I love the fact that a book like this is so lively, well-written, and fun. When I first received the book (as a Christmas present), I wasn’t that excited about it – but after reading the first few pages I was hooked.

Gawande delves into his own experiences as a surgeon in a sobering and kind of frightening look at how an operating room actually works, then explains in detail how the addition of a simple checklist that includes seemingly obvious items such as “make sure all the O.R. staff introduce themselves before beginning” can pay off with significant rewards.

Did you know that the B-17, the plane that some experts say won World War II, was considered ‘unflyable’ by early test pilots? Gawande does – he delves into the history of the plane and the first test flights, telling the story of how the B-17 became the first aircraft to use pre-flight checklists and how those checklists helped the plane realize it’s spot as the number one bomber of WWII.

The Checklist Manifest will grab your attention and fill you with a desire to create checklists for every aspect of your lift – but it won’t make you beholden to those lists. Gawande successfully teaches that checklists aren’t written to control your life, but to guide it – to make sure that you keep your eye on the things that are important, whether you are flying an aircraft, saving lives in an operating theatre, or just making sure that your front line staff are treating your customers the way that they need to be treated.

I highly recommend this book for anyone in a management position, or anyone who has to complete a lot of similar tasks on a day to day basis. I think that reading this book an implementing the suggestions within will not only make you better at your job, it may also have a positive impact on other areas of your life.