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479 of 502 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 23, 2009
Amazon's December Book of the Month summary describes the author's mission of revolutionizing the "to-do list...without programmatic steps or tables to help reshuffle daily tasks." One may infer from this recap that this is a how-to-self-improvement book for making one more productive, more efficient and less stressed - this couldn't be farther from the core message of this book.

The author's key message is that the volume and complexity of knowledge today has exceeded any single individual's ability to manage it consistently without error despite material advances in technology, boatloads of more training and super-specialization of functions and responsibilities. Yet, despite demonstrating that checklists produce results, there is resistance to their use because of the (1) Master of Universe mentality (Rock Star; Fighter Pilot; Hero), (2) our jobs are too complex to reduce to a checklist, (3) checklists are too rigid and don't force us to look up and see and think ahead of what's in front of us. Yet, in a complex environment, he states that experts are up against 2 difficulties - the fallibility of human memory when it comes to mundane, routine matters that are easily overlooked under the strain of more pressing events and secondly, people can lull themselves into skipping steps even when they remember them - after all certain steps don't always matter...until one day they do. Gawande makes a persuasive case in his book as to why you should develop and implement a process checklist for critical processes/decisions.

* Whether you are from the medical field or not, you will benefit from the inspiring thinking and insights.

* This book is game changing - a call-to-action for generating better results despite the pull to run with intuition or gut instinct. If you are implementing via intuition rather than a systematic process, this book's message will force you to pause in your tracks to seek a more disciplined approach.

* The author uses a wide range of industries to make his case using an engaging blend of anecdotes, storytelling and research - from healthcare to aviation (US Airways 1549 landing in Hudson River) - - to high-end award winning restaurants - - to building massive office skyscrapers and shopping centers - -to setting up a Van Halen rock concert - - to FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans - - to money managers making investment selections.

* Can be read in 1-2 sittings. Page Turner. Fully engaging and riveting until the last page is turned.

* Author's determination, authenticity, inspired thinking, modesty and willingness to disclose personal mistakes makes this an inspirational book. Both brilliantly written and a pleasure to read.

My favorite excerpts:

"Despite showing (hospital) staff members of the benefits of using the checklist, 20% resisted stating that it was not easy to use, it took too long and felt it had not improved the safety of care. Yet, when asked an additional question - would you want the checklist to be used if you were having an operation - a full 93% said yes."

"In a world in which success now requires large enterprises, teams of clinicians, high-risk technologies, and knowledge that outstrips any one person's abilities, individual autonomy hardly seems the ideal we should aim for. ..what is needed, however is discipline...discipline is hard - harder than trustworthiness and skill and perhaps even than selflessness. We are by nature flawed and inconstant creatures. We can't even keep from snacking between meals. We are built for novelty and excitement, not for careful attention to detail. Discipline is something we have to work at."

"We don't study routine failures...when we look closely, we recognize the same balls being dropped over and over, even by those of great ability and determination. We know the patterns. We see the costs. It's time to try something else. Try a checklist."

"We're obsessed in medicine with having great components, the best drugs, the best devices, the best specialists - but pay little attention to how to make them fit together well""

"It somehow feels beneath us to use a checklist, an embarrassment. It runs counter to deeply held beliefs about how the truly great among us - those we aspire to be - handle situations of high stakes and complexity. The truly great are daring. They improvise. They do not have protocols and checklists. Maybe our idea of heroism needs updating."
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366 of 402 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2010
Dr. Gawande acknowledges that this book grew out of his December 10, 2007 New Yorker article, "The Checklist". I suspect that, for many readers, it would be a better use of their time and money to read the article (which is available online) rather than the book. Although the book, like Dr. Gawande's previous books, is well-written, the author's essential conclusions could easily be summarized in one page (and have been in several reviews).
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138 of 152 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2009
I work in a hospital as an intensive care nurse. We have been working on a multitude of projects to improve patient safety and outcomes. And in the midst of all the technology and knowledge and training, it is the simple thing--a checklist. Having a husband who is a private pilot and works for the FAA, I have heard about checklists for years. This book shows how pilots use checklists to avert disaster and save lives. It explains how the people who build complex buildings use checklists to plan the construction but also communicate and correct the changes and errors. And it gives a multitude of examples in medicine to show how checklists work and what happens when they aren't used. It is a fascinating, quick and easy read. And it will have you thinking very differently about checklists and safety, whether in the air, a building or a hospital.
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2010
I looked over the other reviews of this interesting book, and there are many of them that you will find very useful--so I'll just try to list some highlights. As Dr. Gawande points out, a checklist can't be too long (people won't use it), yet it must succinctly cover the most essential considerations of the situation at hand. Although what follows isn't a checklist, I'll try to focus on the most essential characteristics of Dr. Gawande's book:

First, this is an easy-to-read, engaging book. I'll bet that you will find it hard to put down. It is interesting enough to make you want to read the book and serious enough to deliver important messages.

Second, the value of using checklists springs directly from the complexity of modern life, whether we're talking about surgery (the author is a surgeon), flying an airplane or building a skyscraper. By the way, in reading this book I have developed a newfound appreciation of how complex the construction business can be.

Third, checklists are not just for simple, straightforward tasks. Checklists help people communicate and work together better, especially when the unexpected occurs.

Fourth, checklists are important regardless of the time available. Indeed, when the cockpit crew of US Airways flight 1549 lost both engines over New York City, they had only three minutes of airtime remaining. The first thing they did was to get out their checklists. (You can read Captain Sully Sullenberger's excellent book for more details.)

Fifth, checklist usage has saved numerous lives, including one of Dr. Gawande's patients. His candor in discussing that episode is laudable.

Sixth, humans being human, mistakes will inevitably occur. Checklist usage is important when the potential cost of human mistakes is great.

Seventh, the mere act of creating a checklist focuses the mind on the most important characteristics of our tasks.

Eighth, like anything else, it takes practice to produce and use checklists effectively.

Ninth, practice comes from commitment and personal discipline. Indeed, one of the most important things Sully Sullenberger did was to maintain his composure and discipline, even while the gravity of his situation must have been racing through his mind.

Tenth, as I read this book, my mind frequently reflected on how a checklist approach could be applied in some of the business and academic practices that I am familiar with. That's the real beauty of this book--it gets the reader thinking about ways to improve life.
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180 of 206 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2010
The Checklist Manifesto is a good book if you require convincing that checklists are a good thing. Or if you like to read a quasi-novel on how checklists can be useful. If you already believe in checklists then you may be bored with 193 pages espousing their virtue. You will not find anything at all on how to construct a checklist, or methods to keep them current amid ever-changing procedures and technological advances. Well written, but not particularly practical.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2010
One hundred years ago, flying an airplane was slightly more difficult than mastering the many handles and levers on a Model T Ford.

Medical practice of the day was also fundamental. Without antibiotics, anesthesia or solid sanitation practices, the physician of 1910 knew that luck would play a big part in patient recovery.

In his book "The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right," Atul Gawande, an endocrine surgeon at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, addresses the course Aviation and Medicine took as time and complexity marched on. In this 209 page volume, Gawande offers disasters and dramatic saves like:

The 1935 maiden flight of the Boeing B-17 that ended in a fiery crash.

A 5 year old girl who was revived after an hour at the bottom of a freezing pond.

The Jan 2009 flight of a US Airways 1549 that ended in the Hudson River.

In 1935, Boeing engineers had heard the rumors - a four-engine airplane may be too complex for human beings to fly. Elevators, fuel mix, dozens of make-or-break settings - who could remember all that every time? Their response was a checklist. Gawande notes that humble birth and visits Boeing's `Checklist Factory' to learn how, even today, checklists are developed, tested and distributed.

The little drowning victim was saved, not by dumb luck, but by a coordinated effort between the rescue squad, the hospital ER and the surgical team at a small town hospital - all guided by checklists.

While the media toasted Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III as the lone savior of Flight 1549, Sullenberger insists it was the capable team of Sullenberger, Skiles, Dale, Dent & Welsh, guided by checklists and practice that landed the plane safely.

Gawande is no mere observer. His story reaches beyond medical disasters set in motion by a missed detail, to a checklist project funded by the World Health Organization designed to answer a simple question - can a short checklist lead to better surgical outcomes, no matter where in the world the hospital is located?

As a Lean consultant, I'm a big advocate of checklists. I'm also familiar with the resistance clients can put up ("We know what we're doing") when a checklist is suggested. Gawande's book provides much needed ammunition. I will purchase multiple copies of The Checklist Manifesto and give them to clients reluctant to write down the steps. At 209 pages, it's an afternoon read that will change perceptions, then actions, then results.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2009
As in all of his work, Dr. Gawande latest book brilliantly reminds us all of the huge value of getting the human interaction side right to accompany the advancements in science and technology that his (and other's) field of work has witnessed. It highlights the inadequacy of technical expertise when not joined by an equal (maybe greater) emphasis on strengthening our relationships with those we work with and care about. Though the medical narrative is gripping, I challenge you to not be moved by so many of the other stories of people under complex pressure trying to get things right. The beautifully written examples of Wal-Mart and Katrina and of Mr. Hagerman are worth far more than the price of the book just on their own.
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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2010
I'm a huge fan of Dr. Atul Gawande ever since meeting him at a patient safety conference in 2005, and then subsequently reading his books and following his New Yorker articles. Perhaps because I've been following his works closely or maybe because I'm a practicing doctor diligently making the healthcare system better is why I didn't find his latest work the most compelling.

Dr. Gawande makes two points, checklists and clear communications among teams, are absolutely required to decrease errors and problems and increase the chances of absolutely the best outcome, whether in constructing buildings, flying airplanes, and performing surgery. We aren't perfect. Systematic approaches make us better.

Only the last two chapters, "The Hero in the Age of Checklists" and "The Save", which highlight the "Miracle on the Hudson" landing of US Airways flight 1549 by Captain Sullenberger and his crew and Dr. Gawande's experience in the operating room of adverting a near catastrophe respectively, were the most gripping.

Ultimately, despite his points the irony will be that the healthcare system will not adopt these ideas, which are accepted as expectations in the aviation industry, because doctors still feel that we are somehow smarter or above checklists or teamwork. This failure to do what we are truly capable of is disheartening. As a result, individual patients will be the ones responsible in taking care of their health and asking questions. A good easy to read book or "checklist" in ensuring you get the right care every time is at Stay Healthy, Live Longer, Spend Wisely: Making Intelligent Choices in America's Healthcare System.

Although I wasn't bowled over like his other works, nevertheless, I have my own checklist and that is to continue reading and learning from Dr. Gawande and many others who toil in making healthcare better and safer.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 26, 2009
Drawing from his rich experience and analogies from construction engineering and aircraft piloting domains, Gawande provides a deceptively simple (potential) approach to mitigate significant problems in healthcare delivery. In the early chapters, Gawande clearly explains the challenges associated with the exponential growth in the volume and complexity of information and the inability of deep expertise alone to manage that information successfully. Citing various examples ranging from Walmart's response to Katrina, Keystone initiative/Pronovost's research and WHO's efforts in characterizing patient safety issues in surgery, the author then hypothesizes about the key questions one need to be able to answer to develop solutions for complex problems (the discussion on the differences between what he considers a simple, complicated or complex problem, though short is quite informative). The remainder of the book essentially projects (quite successfully) the use of a checklist approach to identify ways to reduce errors in clinical processes. The author then discusses the two main types of checklists, characteristics of what constitutes a good checklist and some potential challenges of the approach. It is in the last component, one wishes Gawande had not only provoked an interesting discussion, but also prescribed a more definitive approach - while he acknowledges very unambiguously that the "codification of understanding" needed for developing checklist is not be feasible for all domains, it would have been immensely helpful if the author had devoted more space to discussing that observation and framed some potential research questions. (hence the half star deduction!).

Readers familiar with Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance and Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science are already exposed to a lucid, logical and entertaining narration style of the author and wont be disappointed with this book either. The well-referenced statistics used in the narration is an excellent starting point for more serious readers investigating healthcare delivery processes. Overall, a very informative, entertaining and thought-provoking book that can potential re-frame the way one thinks of process models for clinical settings. A must-read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2011
The whole point of this book can be condensed to like maybe 3 pages of writing. The author loads the book with story after story after story of how a checklist saved: 1) patient 2) airplane 3) whatever. Please don't get me wrong, I actually liked the books message and plan on using or trying a checklist for my career. However, the book was long on anecdotes and very short on process. If you expect the author to help you create a checklist exhale now (please don't hold your breath). However, if you read anecdote after anecdote and pay attention the concepts are tangible. There are 2 or 3 checklists provided...that's it. I saw the author on the Colbert Report and was very enticed by what was said in the 2-minute interview. Unfortunately, I really didn't get much more after 193 pages of reading.
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