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The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right Hardcover – December 22, 2009
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2009: With a title like The Checklist Manifesto, it would be natural to expect that Atul Gawande is bent on revolutionizing that most loved-hated activity of workers the world over: the to-do list. But it's not the list itself he wants to change; there are no programmatic steps or tables here to help you reshuffle daily tasks. What you'll find instead is a remarkably liberating and persuasive inquiry into what it takes to work successfully and with a personal sense of satisfaction. The first thing you'll realize is that it takes more than just one person to do a job well. This is a toppling revelation made all the more powerful by Gawande's skillful blend of anecdote and practical wisdom as he profiles his own experience as a surgeon and seeks out a wide range of other professions to show that a team is only as strong as its checklist--by his definition, a way of organizing that empowers people at all levels to put their best knowledge to use, communicate at crucial points, and get things done. Like no other book before it, The Checklist Manifesto is at once a restorative call to action and a welcome voice of reason. --Anne Bartholomew
Amazon Exclusive: Malcolm Gladwell Reviews The Checklist Manifesto
Malcolm Gladwell was named one of TIME magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2005. He is most recently the author of What the Dog Saw (a collection of his writing from The New Yorker) as well as the New York Times bestsellers Outliers, The Tipping Point, and Blink. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of The Checklist Manifesto:
Over the past decade, through his writing in The New Yorker magazine and his books Complications and Better, Atul Gawande has made a name for himself as a writer of exquisitely crafted meditations on the problems and challenges of modern medicine. His latest book, The Checklist Manifesto, begins on familiar ground, with his experiences as a surgeon. But before long it becomes clear that he is really interested in a problem that afflicts virtually every aspect of the modern world--and that is how professionals deal with the increasing complexity of their responsibilities. It has been years since I read a book so powerful and so thought-provoking.
Gawande begins by making a distinction between errors of ignorance (mistakes we make because we don't know enough), and errors of ineptitude (mistakes we made because we don’t make proper use of what we know). Failure in the modern world, he writes, is really about the second of these errors, and he walks us through a series of examples from medicine showing how the routine tasks of surgeons have now become so incredibly complicated that mistakes of one kind or another are virtually inevitable: it's just too easy for an otherwise competent doctor to miss a step, or forget to ask a key question or, in the stress and pressure of the moment, to fail to plan properly for every eventuality. Gawande then visits with pilots and the people who build skyscrapers and comes back with a solution. Experts need checklists--literally--written guides that walk them through the key steps in any complex procedure. In the last section of the book, Gawande shows how his research team has taken this idea, developed a safe surgery checklist, and applied it around the world, with staggering success.
The danger, in a review as short as this, is that it makes Gawande’s book seem narrow in focus or prosaic in its conclusions. It is neither. Gawande is a gorgeous writer and storyteller, and the aims of this book are ambitious. Gawande thinks that the modern world requires us to revisit what we mean by expertise: that experts need help, and that progress depends on experts having the humility to concede that they need help. --Malcolm Gladwell
From Publishers Weekly
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. (Jan.)
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Top Customer Reviews
The downside of the book is that it's not technical and excludes any detail on the process itself. If you're looking for tangible steps on how to improve your processes using checklists, you'll be disappointed.
If you like reading about engineering mishaps & stories, this is a nice short read. But if you're looking for a real plan of action, keep looking.
One about a child falling into a frozen lake is especially astonishing.
It was was nice, quick, and interesting read, but if you are just looking to put it into practice the main points are easy to summarize.
That said, they are not (as far as I recall) summarized on one page.
Checklists are good, they let you focus on important things without worrying about the details were are prone to forget.
Nearly all fields can use checklists.
Pilots have awesome checklists and trust them because they've proved their worth.
Make them short, practice and revise them until they flow and feel right.
Be wary of making thousands of checklists for everything, make as general as possible and only include the most crucial things.
Get everyone involved and communicating, no matter their title.
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.