The New York Times bestselling author of Being Mortal and Complications reveals the surprising power of the ordinary checklist
We live in a world of great and increasing complexity, where even the most expert professionals struggle to master the tasks they face. Longer training, ever more advanced technologies—neither seems to prevent grievous errors. But in a hopeful turn, acclaimed surgeon and writer Atul Gawande finds a remedy in the humblest and simplest of techniques: the checklist. First introduced decades ago by the U.S. Air Force, checklists have enabled pilots to fly aircraft of mind-boggling sophistication. Now innovative checklists are being adopted in hospitals around the world, helping doctors and nurses respond to everything from flu epidemics to avalanches. Even in the immensely complex world of surgery, a simple ninety-second variant has cut the rate of fatalities by more than a third.
In riveting stories, Gawande takes us from Austria, where an emergency checklist saved a drowning victim who had spent half an hour underwater, to Michigan, where a cleanliness checklist in intensive care units virtually eliminated a type of deadly hospital infection. He explains how checklists actually work to prompt striking and immediate improvements. And he follows the checklist revolution into fields well beyond medicine, from disaster response to investment banking, skyscraper construction, and businesses of all kinds.
An intellectual adventure in which lives are lost and saved and one simple idea makes a tremendous difference, The Checklist Manifesto is essential reading for anyone working to get things right.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
It turns out that to-do lists—those everyday staples of the overachieving set—lead a second life as superheroes in fields like medicine, engineering, and natural-disaster recovery. Atul Gawande, a surgeon, Harvard professor, bestselling author, and, yes, overachiever, explores how the humble checklist has enabled positive developments across a huge range of disciplines, leading to improved efficiencies and success rates as well as life-saving innovations. The Checklist Manifesto also makes a case for the importance of generalizing as opposed to specializing. We’re glad we moved this fascinating book to the top of our to-read list.
That humblest of quality-control devices, the checklist, is the key to taming a high-tech economy, argues this stimulating manifesto. Harvard Medical School prof and New Yorker scribe Gawande (Complications) notes that the high-pressure complexities of modern professional occupations overwhelm even their best-trained practitioners; he argues that a disciplined adherence to essential procedures by ticking them off a list can prevent potentially fatal mistakes and corner cutting. He examines checklists in aviation, construction, and investing, but focuses on medicine, where checklists mandating simple measures like hand washing have dramatically reduced hospital-caused infections and other complications. Gawande gets slightly intoxicated over checklists, celebrating their most banal manifestations as promethean breakthroughs ("First there was the recipe, the most basic checklist of all," he intones in a restaurant kitchen). He's at his best delivering his usual rich, insightful reportage on medical practice, where checklists have the subversive effect of puncturing the cult of physician infallibility and fostering communication and teamwork. (After writing a checklist for his specialty, surgery, he is chagrined when it catches his own disastrous lapses.) Gawande gives a vivid, punchy exposition of an intriguing idea: that by-the-book routine trumps individual prowess.
An Interesting Read
The author is a masterful storyteller. In this book he provides numerous stories and examples of how different professionals use checklists to prevent mistakes, handle crisis, and complete complicated projects.
I would like the book better if he had introduced more practical tips for creating, managing and applying checklists earlier in the book. It seems like the best advice appeared in the second half of the book.
Why No Checklist
This is an excellent book, but it is missing one key element. Why doesn't a book about the power of checklists contain a checklist for creating checklists?
What I thought was a simple concept did ring true, but understanding the genesis and the positives and pitfalls of checklists was fascinating. I took away useful tools for my own business. It really gives the reader a 360 view of this simple, yet amazing tool.