Neil's Reviews > The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
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's review
Jul 11, 10

Perhaps the most profound compliment I can pay to Gawande as a writer is that I didn't pause until page 143 to consider the fact that I was reading a book about the idea of checklists, which would on concept seem to be about as interesting as a collection of essays by your girlfriend describing her dreams. Anyways, there's some obvious and valid criticisms - though the subject merited a longer treatment than the original New Yorker article, even this slim volume feels stretched by the end; he also stays fairly superficial about how to make a good checklist (to be fair, he does talk about the necessity of brevity and the difference between types of checklists, and it's unlikely that readers, myself included, would be interested in anything else).

All the same, the books a good manifesto on the necessity of humility in even the most intense work from even the most excellent of practitioners, pilots, doctors, skyscraper builders alike. It's got a lot of good anecdotes, etc., from various fields, and he uses the checklist as a symbol of the necessity of delegation and teamwork (he uses the Sullenberger flight as a great example of a false narrative of a single, mythic hero).

Randomly: the book made me think of the scene in Pulp Fiction when the Wolf arrives. The way the Wolf operates is not particularly exciting, but what is admired is the way he keeps his cool: he writes down details when he hears them on the phone to create his checklist, he makes sure he knows everyone's name when he arrives, he delineates the tasks ahead and goes through them step-by-step (read-do, as Gawande's checklist expert terms it). The Wolf is a hero in the age of checklists.

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