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

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
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's review
Jan 08, 11

it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction, medicine, science
Read from November 16 to December 27, 2010

As the title suggests, this book is not just Gawande's usual mixture of clear writing and good personal storytelling, but a call to arms.

His basic premise: The world of medicine -- and many other businesses and institutions -- have become so complex that it is impossible for highly skilled professionals to avoid making errors. And as with previous work by Johns Hopkins' Peter Provonost on ICU catheter infections, Gawande has found that developing a simple checklist, modeled on those used successfully by airline pilots for decades, can dramatically reduce errors in the operating room, which is his specialty.

Besides a good history of how airline checklists were created and refined, he also has a fascinating chapter on the use of checklists in the construction industry on major projects, which points out another important piece of the challenge. Part of the checklist is simply a detailed "to do" list, but another part is how people should communicate with each other if the unexpected arises. Both are important, and it explains why the surgery checklist includes a minute when members of the team introduces themselves and say what their jobs are. As simple as it sounds, these quick intros form a basis for better teamwork and communication later on.

Finally, Gawande points to one other very American challenge: Getting people to embrace the idea of checklists in the first place. Checklists are an inherent acknowledgment that most complex work is done by groups and that group process is just as important or more important than individual skill, but in America, where individualism is valued so highly, it is often a tough sell.

He left me convinced we should get over our egos and get on with the lists.
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11/16/2010 page 13
6.0%
11/18/2010 page 13
6.0% "31"
12/04/2010 page 13
6.0% "71"
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