Book Review – Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

I just finished the book Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, and wanted to capture my thoughts on it while they were fresh in my mind.


This book is written by a surgeon, so it is very heavy in the medical examples.  However, a good deal of information is provided on the other well-known use-case for checklists: aviation.  The history of how checklists came about was extremely fascinating, and the implications of how they avert disaster even today is really encouraging.


I was incredibly surprised that adoption of surgical checklists has only happened extremely recently.  It seems like a bit of a no-brainer to me, now, to have checklists in surgery.  After listening to the aubible version of the book, I’m looking for places in my job where checklists would save my butt.  


The information on types of checklists, and what checklists should contain was extremely eye opening, as well.  I started using checklists about 18 months ago, (well before listening to this book), and never knew there were two types of checklists.  The do-confirm checklist is more of a safety-net, whereas the read-do checklist is more instructions to be followed.  When I implemented checklists at first, they were very much “read-do” lists.  The lists in my shower, on my bathroom mirror, and what eventually became all the lists in my routines in B24.  I would stand in the shower, look at the list, read the item, do the item, look back at the list, read the next item, do the next item…and so on.  After 18 months or so, I NOW have the routine, for the most part.  Yes…it took 18 months for me to get into a routine that I wouldn’t accidentally miss steps because I’m distracted.  Welcome to ADHD brain.


In fact, some parts of some of my checklists are a mix of the types.  For example, in my morning routine, when I’m extremely sleepy during the first part of the list (before coffee kicks in), I “read-do.”  The second half – which tends to be more rapid as the time to leave approaches, I usually check off after I’ve arrived at my destination. 


Without getting into too much detail, as I want to devote an entire post to the checklist and how it’s improved my life, here is a picture of what I mean:




First part of morning routine.
Rest of the Morning Routine










The point where I switch from Read-Do to Do-Confirm is about step 32 or 33 most days, or 29 or 30 most days.  Depending on how well the coffee does its job!

I really enjoyed the book, even though I didn’t feel like I learned much startlingly new information.  The information I did learn pushed me to look at checklists for my job in a new light, however.  I was very limited in my thinking about checklists (only I need them, this is just to fix my ADHD, etc.), but the reality is, who doesn’t need checklists?  Because I work in Tech, and a lot of what I do is centered around production data, and an additional part of my job is growing the people under me to handle crises of such, checklists would actually be a huge benefit in my job.  This book made me see that.  And that alone is worth the price of the audio book!


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