Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Checklist Manifesto

I did something I rarely ever do: I read a non-fiction book that wasn't history. Atul Gawande, a surgeon who writes frequently on medical issues for The New Yorker, has long been a favorite of my wife's. She reads pretty much anything he writes, in the magazine or books, and has recommended him to me many times. Since this isn't the kind of thing I generally read, I haven't read anything of his other than a couple of single articles.

For whatever reason, I picked The Checklist Manifesto; How to Get Things Right (2009) off the bureau the other day and plowed through it in a couple of days. It was very well written with a bunch of interesting stories supporting his general theme. The theme is that in an age of mind-boggling complexity and sophistication, something as basic as a well constructed checklist can do wonders for helping us not make mistakes, i.e. "get things right". The book revolves around Gawande's role in helping to create a basic surgical checklist for the World Health Organization that could be widely distributed and cut back on the number of avoidable surgical errors occurring in countries all over the world.

Complementary stories include the building of modern day huge buildings, flying the WW2 era B-17 bomber, how an upscale restaurant kitchen functions, and the controlled crash landing of a US Airways A320 in the Hudson River.

It was 193 pages of fascinating stuff that made me wonder how I could apply some of these learnings at work. On second thought, perhaps reading a book and then thinking about work lying in bed at night is why I don't read these kinds of books. But all kidding aside, it was worth it.

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