Book Review: The Checklist Manifesto

I thought I would try something new for this post, a book review.

I recently read The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right and it was one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. That’s the short of it. Go read the book.

If you are still not convinced, here is a bit more about the book and why I feel it’s a top read for anyone who thinks this blog is even slightly interesting. This is a paragraph from the Introduction.

Here, then, is our situation at the start of the twenty-first century: We have accumulated stupendous know-how. We have put it in the hands of some of the most highly trained, highly skilled, and hardworking people in our society. And, with it, they have indeed accomplished extraordinary things. Nonetheless, that know-how is often unmanageable. Avoidable failures are common and persistent, not to mention demoralizing and frustration, across many fiends—from medicine to finance, business to government.

Does that sound a bit like the environment you work in?

Obviously, the book is about checklists. I heard the book suggested a couple times and thought, “Why would I want to read a book about checklists?” That mentality is one of the issues addressed in this book. Almost no one acknowledges the importance of checklists even with presented evidence on the improvements they foster.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I have scripts and automation, I don’t need checklists.” Automation is just a checklist executed by some technology. Having the skills to build a good checklist will help you develop automation that will be reliable and maintainable. Also, what happens when the automation fails? Gawande presents some good examples from other industries that put the problem in perspective.

On top of all of that, it is a well written and enjoyable book to read. There are numerous stories about significant historical events that you probably never gave much thought to and will probably surprise you to learn about.

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