06 March 2011

Book 10 of 2011

I finished this on a Sunday afternoon as my wife was breaking in our new oven by baking caramel cups.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

10) The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
Atul Gawande is a renowned surgeon who discovered that checklists ensure good communication between individuals working together and create an environment in which it is more difficult to make mistakes. He details situations where checklists would have been beneficial, his own experience creating and implementing a checklist in his own field and the success of utilizing a checklist in a wide variety of occupations, from investment banker to rock star.

Unfortunately, this book was a chore to get through, initially. I found myself wondering where my personal "cut bait" point for a book lies. Had I not pledged to read at least 25 books this year, I just might have given up on this one. Since this was another non-fiction book with a large notes section detailing the author's citations, the text only took up 193 pages, as opposed to the 224 listed, and by the time I was considering giving up, I felt I had come too far. The first half just feels repetitive and boring. It's filled with numerous medical stories that are so filled with technical jargon that I quickly lost interest.

However, the second half picks up when Gawande starts to include stories about creating his own collaborative checklists and his tales of other people successfully utilizing them, most notably aviators who needed them to safely fly complex planes. It's also surprising to learn how resistant he found people to be to accept checklists into their vocations despite the anecdotal and statistical success they bring. I am curious how I can bring the idea of a checklist into my own profession. We spend so much time on reflection and have so many things thrust upon us to fix it, I feel like it might be difficult to figure out where a checklist can apply. Situations do exist, though, and I'm glad to have the "Checklist for Checklists" appendix towards the end.

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