Book Review – The Checklist Manifesto (Week 3 of 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge)

The Checklist Manifesto

Week 3 of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge is in the bag! This past week I read Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto. For those not big on reading, this one is short and sweet. Honestly if you sat down with the intentions to do so, you could read it in one day no problem. I read it in about three days spaced over the week.

 
It’s important to note that this book is chalk full of medical terminology and stories from the operating table. But Gawande does a good job of relating everything in a manner that is easy to follow and understand. You don’t have to be a doctor to know what he’s talking about. But it’s not just the medical field where he advocates checklists, he also uses examples from airliners and the financial industry to support his claims.
 
Not a fan of checklists? Read this book and tell me you don’t want to start using them immediately.

The Checklist Manifesto spends a large amount of time with Gawande explaining his own personal stories and tribulations through his involvement with the World Health Organization as they attempt to use checklists to make hospitals more efficient and safe for patients. Gawande goes through the painful process that many do when they start checklists…they’re long, tedious, boring, and often the people forced to use them are insulted.

But his findings are remarkable. In reading this book, you quickly find yourself more scared than ever to have to pay a visit to the hospital. Complications and problems seem to be around every corner! Of course, in a book about how to minimize problems, it’s hard to remember that they don’t happen all the time. What Gawande discovers is that through using simple checklists at certain points during any operation, they can greatly reduce the likelihood of infections or other complications! And we’re not talking about a 5% decrease, more like 20-30%! And these aren’t trials run in one operating room in one hospital. Gawande’s checklist idea was tested around the world at eight different hospitals in differing environments. Hospitals all around the world and the United States are now implementing the checklists as mandatory components of their operations.

Gawande also spends a good amount of time talking to the experts on checklists, the airline industry. Through an interview with Dan Boorman, an expert at Boeing in the checklists pilots use, Gawande discovers what seperates good checklists from bad ones.

“There are good checklists and bad… bad checklists are vague and imprecise. They are too long; they are hard to use, and they are impractical. They are made by desk jockeys with no awareness of the situations in which they are to be deployed. They treat the people using the tools as dumb and try to spell out every single step. They turn people’s brains off rather than turn them on.”

Boordman continues:

“Good checklists, on the other hand, are precise. They are efficient, to the point and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything.  – a checklist cannot fly a plane . Instead they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps – the ones that even the highly skilled professionals could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.”

Gawande spends a good amount of time going through practical applications and examples from other industries as to why checklists are more effective. It’s not that people don’t know what they’re doing, it’s that we often forget the little things we take for granted. Above all, he feels checklists improve communication amongst teams and lead to better results.

It’s hard to argue with the results. All I know is, I’ll be developing my own checklists shortly, and you should pick up this book!

Next Up: Week 4 – Good To Great by Jim Collins.

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About Jason Willis
Jason graduated from the University of Central Florida in the fall of 2011 with a B.S.B.A. in Finance. He currently works at The Newport Group as an Investment Analyst on the Asset & Liability Management Team working with Non Qualified Deferred Compensation Plans. In his spare time he continues to give back to AKPsi by assisting with the CFAC and NX Chapter at UCF. He also currently operates his own blog entitled Professional Hedging, and is also preparing to acquire his Series 7 and 66 Certifications.

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