Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nuggets from the book - The Checklist Manifesto

I have listening to the audio-book - The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right  by Atul Gawande. I definitely recommend the book, as it is a fascinating read.

In the book Gawande says “The checklist gets the dumb stuff out of the way, the routines your brain shouldn’t have to occupy itself with, and lets it rise above to focus on the hard stuff…” 

In other words, a checklist can help you

  • work smarter
  • get all necessary tasks completed, 
  • avoid overlooking the little things that can unravel an entire project, and 
  • ensure that you’ve got key information available, 
  • remind you to communicate with all key stakeholders. 

The Checklist Manifesto looks at the use of checklists in surgery, construction, investment banking, and aviation. Gawande provides some very compelling arguments for using checklists from the simple to the most complex of situations.


  • Decide whether the situation calls for a DO-CONFIRM checklist or a READ-DO checklist 
  • Outline all the steps in a process that need to be followed 
    • Review situations that went wrong, identify overlooked steps and ensure those are included on the checklist 
  • Ensure the right people are reviewing and approving the checklist components 
  • Include a publication date on the checklist, as it will be revised often 
  • Add “pause points” at which you or the team must pause and run through a set of checks before moving onto your next steps 
    • Especially pertains to a DO-CONFIRM checklist type, where one distinct group of critical steps have to be completed before another set of tasks should be undertaken 
  • Include a ‘communication’ check to ensure that at necessary points in a process key stakeholders are communicating about the project status, next steps, and so forth 
  • Keep checklists simple, to one page, and with an easy to read font type 
  • As needed, get leadership onboard with embracing and promoting the use of checklists 
  • Test the checklist in actual, real-life situations 
  • Refine and test the checklist until it succeeds at consistently improving the process and outcomes for which it is being applied 
  • Schedule a regular checklist review schedule 
  • Determine if using the checklist in one business unit or team will require other process changes to be implemented elsewhere in the company (and make a checklist for them!)

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