The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

I am not much of list guy. On the other hand, my wife loves lists. With much excitement, she will break out a new piece of paper and meticulously create an elegant to-do list. There is so much satisfaction when she checks one of those empty boxes. I, however, like to make a working document. I write various items and work through them as necessary, prioritizing and re-prioritizing as the day goes. Obviously, if you ask us which process is most effective, we will defend our own (though objectively, my wife’s to-do list is probably more successful). A working document and a to-do list are both underdeveloped compared a expertly crafted checklist.

I first heard about The Checklist Manifesto on a few podcasts and I was intrigued. I consider pilots and surgeons to be extraordinarily brilliant people, and if they use checklists everyday in order to ensure their success, maybe it is something that warrants my attention.

Here’s the basic concept of the book: some work is becoming extremely complex. For example, we have made amazing advances in surgery, aircraft, and construction in the past century. It is foolish to think that we can train individuals to be sole masters of these crafts. When performing an operation on a patient or preparing a million dollar airplane for flight, there are literally hundreds of things that can go wrong. Missing one step can be disastrous. Therefore, a simple checklist can help even the greatest genius.

The idea of a checklist is simple, creating a good checklist is difficult. Looking around my work, I see a lot of places where a checklist can help but I am stuck in creating an effective one.

I think this book offers a lot of great insights. You learn a lot about the history of some complex professions. This is a great book.