As a former transactional attorney, I was trained to use checklists. The transactions were too complicated to keep track of everything in my head. I also needed to communicate with the rest of the transaction team. In The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande approaches checklists from the perspective of a surgeon.
I had put off reading this book because I’m already a fan of checklists. I didn’t need to be sold on their effectiveness. But I was still floored by the effectiveness Gawande reported in his studies.
In using a checklist for placing a central line, the ten-day infection rate was reduced from 11% to zero. He cites many other examples and studies that show that checklists can improve the performance of highly-trained workers.
“In a complex environment, experts are up against two main difficulties. The first is the fallibility of human memory and attention, especially when it comes to mundane, routine matters that are easily overlooked under the strain of more pressing events…. A further difficulty, just as insidious, is that people can lull themselves into skipping steps even when they remember them. In complex processes, after all, certain steps don’t always matter.”
I was particularly happy to see Gawande cite the correct story about Van Halen’s use of M&M’s as a compliance checklist tool. (See my prior post: Compliance Van Halen and Brown M&M’s.)
If you haven’t already read The Checklist Manifesto you should add it to your reading list.
Other’s thoughts on The Checklist Manifesto: