Book Review – The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande


I read this book some time ago, and back then, I thought, OK, I get it. Checklists can help you avoid errors and follow important processes. I have been subsequently surprised at how many times this book and the key message is referred to in other performance psychology and business books. So, I thought I would revisit it and share my review of the book The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

The book doesn’t implicitly talk about a business or management context, and it looks at how checklists can drastically reduce human error in medicine, engineering, and aviation. Yes, checklists are a simple but effective tool. However, in a world of expanding knowledge and distractions around all our jobs, the chances of missing an important part of a process are ever-present. The author draws on his own experience as a surgeon and public health researcher to showcase the benefits of checklists in ensuring accuracy and success.

For the purposes of the book, a checklist is a list of steps to be completed when carrying out a procedure. The checklist functions as a safety net to make sure we catch the obvious stuff. Once the basic stuff is checked off, we are mentally better equipped to tackle the more complex or unpredictable issues that are unique to each task.

The key takeaways are:

Checklists must be as short as possible and leave no room for misinterpretation. In a rapidly changing business environment, with its complexity and unpredictability, the clarity and simplicity of a checklist help us avoid distractions and misunderstandings.

Decide whether you need a Do-Confirm or a Read-do checklist. A Do-Confirm list is performed after a task is completed to ensure everything required has been done. A Read-do is a list where each item is read out prior to being done, like a recipe.

Admit that in today’s environment of complexity, it is no longer viable to operate completely independently when it comes to tasks. We need a team of people to be safe and effective. We then need seamless communication between team members, which can be enhanced with checklists that include opportunities for communication.

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande is a powerful yet simple book. For business owners, managers, and their teams, the book will help improve efficiency, reduce errors, and enhance team communication.

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