Book Review: Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

I really enjoyed The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.  It wasn’t really what I was expecting, but it was extremely interesting and I liked it a lot.

I started this book thinking it was a self-help(ish) book about how people could use checklists in their every day lives to keep themselves organized.  Heh.  This is something I always tell myself to do more. 

But Gawande focused his attentions on the use of checklists in three major fields: airplane pilots, medical facilities (mostly surgery) and building construction.  Each industry used checklists to help navigate every complex procedures and to make sure everyone was on the same page.

By going through a checklist before surgery (or flights), it helped make sure that those small, but critical, steps aren’t missed and that everyone was prepared if things did in fact take a turn for the worse.

Gawande also discusses how people don’t want to use checklists even though they’re really freaking effective. We love the idea of the maverick doctor or pilot (don’t tell me what to do!) and the idea of making every follow these checklists seems weird.  We don’t want these professionals to lose their autonomy.

But people make mistakes. Even the best of us. And going through a checklist can help prevent… well… these preventable mistakes (stuff like wrong dosages or procedures).  Using a simple checklist drastically cut down on many routine errors and saved lives (Gawande helped devise the checklist in this link).  It really is amazing how well they worked. It’s practically a miracle drug.

And while Gawande never brings up using a checklist in your every day life, it isn’t too hard to reach that conclusion on your own. If these simple checklists can help surgeons and airline pilots, I’m pretty sure they can help Ben Cox.

The book itself is fairly short, clocking in at 224 pages and Gawande is a good writer.  I wouldn’t say the book flew by but it wasn’t a long tedious slog to finish either. Anyway, I recommend it. It’s definitely interesting and possibly even useful.

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