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“The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande

June 27, 2011

We don’t like checklists. They can be painstaking. They’re not much fun. But I don’t think the issue here is mere laziness. There’s something deeper, more visceral going on when people walk away not only from saving lives but from making money. It somehow feels beneath us to use a checklist, an embarrassment. It runs counter to deeply held beliefs about how the truly great among us – those who we aspire to be – handle situations of high stakes and complexity. The truly great are daring. They improvise. They do not have protocols and checklists. Maybe our idea of heroism needs updating.

Mini Review:

Atul Gawande’s third book, after Complications and Better, but the first to branch away somewhat from his experiences in the medical profession; it reads like an epic finish to a fiction trilogy. Gawande explores the extraordinary power of checklists to improve everyone’s ability to perform complicated tasks, from air flight to investment banking to surgery. Begins slowly, but a third of the way through it picks up steam and doesn’t ever slow down. The author is adept at injecting his own story of discovering the power of checklists, his initial failures and doubts, and the lives that they then saved. By the end, you will wonder feverishly what other kinds of tasks checklists can be applied to (a post to come on this).


  • Interesting discussion on the three different “kinds” of problems: simple, complicated, and complex.
  • Convincing cross section of different professions that have benefited from using checklists.
  • Insertion of the author’s personal story saves the book from becoming too dry – very entertaining!

Bottom Line:

An unpredictably compelling book, very highly recommended!


From → Food for Thought

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