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Book Notes: The Checklist Manifesto (Atul Gawande)

Posted on December 28 , 2015

Here are a few notes I took while reading The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande.  Admittedly, the notes are sparse.  Although the book makes powerful points, the whole thing could be condensed into a few pages.  Instead, it provides 200 pages of anecdotes and examples.  Helpful, for sure, but largely repetitious…

Notes, but mostly concentrated on tech/software applications:

  • Human memory and attention frequently fail, especially when under routine or mundane matters
  • Steps are skipped, even when remembered, because they’re usually not needed
  • Checklists prevent that — minimum necessary steps (explicit)
  • Complexity in projects demands checklists.  Without, too easy to miss steps or spend a ton of time worrying about basic needs.
  • Create a discipline of higher performance
  • 2 types of lists: general purpose (starting a new project, etc) and debugging/issues/edge-cases
  • Clearly define pause points for when checklists should be used
  • Successful teams have specialized and individual roles, but all are involved (especially verbally) in discussing the overall goals, steps, and status
  • Use a simple, usable, and systematic form
  • Can be painstaking and harassing to our egos.  But, for high stakes and high complexity, vital — requires a culture shift.
  • Gets the dumb stuff out of the way and frees your brain from worrying about the routine tasks.
  • Does not turn us into step following, heads-down robots.  Quite the opposite.  Freeing.
  • Discipline needs more emphasis within professionalism, over sole focus on individual autonomy
  • Lists require frequent revisitation and refinement

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One response to “Book Notes: The Checklist Manifesto (Atul Gawande)”

  1. Agreed. Basically, the publishers took the popularity of his original article (in The New Yorker) and asked him to expand that into a book. The good thing I have to say about The Checklist Manifesto is it convinced a whole lot more people of the importance of checklists for recurring processes.

    If you’re ever looking for team based checklist software, check us out: http://manifest.ly

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