I recently finished The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right Paperback by Atul Gawande and I was blown away by the results he shares with regard to the use of checklists as well as his personal experiences in the implementation and use of checklists. As a big believer in the power of repeatable processes and David Allen’s Getting Things Done, checklists are something I’ve always believed in. I just didn’t have the understanding of just how powerful a tool they can be in driving improvements. I also didn’t have a real appreciation for how broadly they are used across various industries.
In the book Mr. Gawande talks about 2 medical studies documenting the implementation of simple checklists around surgical procedures for things like washing hands and having the correct supplies. The results of the use of the checklists drive astounding results including driving statistically significant reductions in infections and required care. The return on this simple investment includes saving many lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in avoided medical treatments. I don’t want to steal thunder from the book but it certainly opened my eyes to the possibilities checklists have beyond making sure I don’t forget my groceries or an item on my daily to do list.
One of the most powerful points Mr. Gawande makes is that even those of use with advanced degrees and long experience in our field can benefit from something simple like a checklist to ensure that we are able to leverage our accumulated knowledge successfully. One of the interesting points he brings up is that as a global community we are at a point in history where we rarely fail because of what we don’t know – we are much more likely to fail because we improperly apply our knowledge or don’t make use of it.
This is a book with something for everyone in every profession – it is an absolute must read. Put it on your summer reading checklist.