Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Checklist Manifesto - Book Review

When I was handed the checklist manifesto and told it is a fascinating book about the power of checklists, I was somewhat sceptical. A book about checklists? Everyone knows about checklists, don't they? A few boxes to tick when things are done. But how on earth does anyone write a whole book about them? I was curious.

Within minutes of starting the book, I was hooked.

The author Atul Gawande is a general and endocrine surgeon, who also runs the World Health Organisations Safe Surgery Saves Lives Program. The book takes you through Gawandes quest to find a method of improving healthcare and saving lives. While it focusses heavily on the authors experience in the medical world, it absolutely is not a book written for the medical profession.

Gawande takes a peek into other industries, and how they have solved hugely complex problems. Flying planes which experienced test pilots have crashed, building skyscrapers, finance, even operating a top restaurant. The secret to success? The humble checklist. Gawande states we have more knowledge than we ever have had, but the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly. The secret to success? The humble checklist.

Through his research of other industries and his own implementation of a checklist for the World Health Organisation Gawande shows some statistics demonstrating the power of checklists. These are simply staggering, to the point that when Gawande first saw the results of a checklist he had implemented, he could not believe them.

So why are checklists not implemented in more places? The book covers the fallacies of humans, and how they think a humble checklist is beneath them. For anyone who has tried to implement a new system in the work place, they will recognise the resistance seen by Gawande while trying to get others to adopt his method. Many people believe that a simple checklist is beneath them. However stories such as the pilots and crew of the plane which landed in the Hudson River in Manhattan soon remind you of their power. Was this ‘miracle’ down to the pilots skill; or the pilots checklist?

So while this book is about the humble checklist, and the vast benefits they can reap, it’s about so much more. Ticking boxes is not the ultimate goal. It’s about encouraging a culture of teamwork. It’s about recognising even the smartest, highly trained people can make mistakes. It’s about looking outside your world and learning from other industries. It’s about empowering staff. It’s about becoming more efficient.

Gawande has written an easy to read engaging book with a powerful message. I found it so compelling that when I reached the end, I turned straight back to page one and read it again. It is that good. I would encourage you all, even if you feel a checklist is beneath you, to follow the checklist I have created below.

Read this book.
Read it again.