Oct 8, 2015

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Reading "The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right" was a learning experience. Dr. Atul Gawande tells how a humble "checklist" can help save lives among many other things. 

A check list is a tool which can be deployed to remind us of steps that are critical but can be overlooked. This is required in trades which have got complicated with advancement of technology including and not limited to construction, surgery, aviation, finance and even education. The more we know, the more decisions we have to make and making them when time is a "do or die" factor demands expertise and warrants team work and perseverance of mind too. Checklists can be this tool which can help teams communicate better and manage complexity. 

Factors that need to be taken into consideration while creating a checklist. 

1)Decide whether you want to do a "DO CONFIRM" checklist or "READ DO" check list. When using the "DO CONFIRM" checklists steps are first taken and then confirmed against the checklist. "READ DO" checklist is read step by step and implemented. 

2)Number of steps should be between 5-9. It's okay to omit steps which are obvious. Adding them might mean that we have a longer (and boring) checklist. Identifying the obvious steps is the important task which everyone in the team has to identify and agree on. 

3)Checklist should be "SIMPLE and EXACT". All that can be omitted should be omitted. Yet it has to be clear and crisp. 

4)Font should be readable. Sans Serif - like Helvetica. 

5)A checklist should be tested in real world. This is what will make it usable. 

5)A checklist is not something which is etched in stone. It's a live document and can be and must be revised to account wisdom gathered while using it in real world. 

Dr. Gawande writes in length about the resistance to embracing checklists. He suggests that it might be a psychological issue where a humble checklist gives power to the "non-stars" to ask questions and raise concerns. But if the empowerment is beneficial to entire community, I think it's necessary to tame individual rock-start attitude and welcome these new measures whole heatedly. Communication is the key even in the most complex problems. 

A crisp book, reminding us the importance of "pause", "reflect" and "do". Totally recommended.

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