The Checklist Manifesto — Atul Gawande

How a simple checklist can save thousands of lives

How could something so simple as bulleted items make all the difference? No matter the level of training, professionals are still susceptible to error. We forget things. We get distracted and when this occurs, big problems can arise. Gawande proposes a simple solution to tackle the inevitable complexity of life.

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

This book addresses two crucial situations where checklists ensure safety: aviation and surgery.

I propose that checklists could be beneficial in every aspect of life and business as long as you understand a couple things.

First, checklists should only include items that are often forgotten! There is no need to put the obvious things.

Second, checklists democratize power. They are meant to be shared with your team because this allows you to put all brains on the problem.

In the Operating Room context, this means that the nurses, anesthesiologists, and the surgeon are all aware of the plan for the procedure. While this may seem like a given, Gawande shows compelling data about how this is often not true. Nurses may have critical information that is not conveyed to the surgeon.

In business, a life may not be in your hands, but the value of checklists are to help you remember the little things. I’ve been thinking of ways to apply these principles to the operations as President of the Entrepreneurship Club. I’ve come up with a rough draft of a checklist for on-boarding a new member:

When they sign up on Student Central

  • Add member to Mailchimp email list
  • Send welcome email with event info

At first meeting

  • Welcome them and introduce them to another member
  • Ask how they liked meeting afterwards

At second meeting

  • Tell them about dues, t-shirts
  • If they pay, add to the Facebook group

This is just one instance of applying checklists. You could have a “morning routine” checklist, a “leaving the house” checklist or a checklist for “starting a boat.”

It would be nice if humans were perfect and never forgot important details, but we are not.

Checklists allow us to step back and catch what might fall through the cracks during a busy time. We should stop acting like we are infallible and implement a simple checklist.

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