The Checklist Manifesto using a checklist to prevent failure

4 Min Read
The Checklist Manifesto using a checklist to prevent failure

Christmas morning I open a present from my husband…

Ok, it’s a book on checklists, I know it sounds boring but it’s a fascinating and enlightening insight into how a checklist is essential in virtually every area of our lives.

The Checklist Manifesto

The Checklist Manifesto is a book by Atul Gawande offering a convincing argument for adopting the use of a checklist in modern life and business.  Showing how the simplest of ideas could transform how we operate and how to get things right. Why checklist is important?

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Surgical Safety Checklist

A surgical safety checklist is about breaking down complex, high-pressure tasks into small steps can radically improve success even in the area of heart surgery survival rates.

The results from Atul Gawande research were so impressive that the World Health Organisation (WHO) decided to implement a surgical safety checklist to make surgery safer and to reduce infection and mortality.

Using a Checklist has resulted in a staggering 30 per cent reduction in complications and mortality WHO research found.

Below you can see the checklist that the World Health Organisation produced for surgical safety.

surgical safety checklist
surgical safety checklist
WHO surgical checklist
New WHO surgical safety checklist

Why do we fail? We fail for two reasons. The first is ignorance and the second is ineptitude… Atul Gawande concluded

Types Of Errors

Distinguishing between types of errors that occur and address the one we can try to influence because it’s because of being ineptitude so not making proper use of what we know. Focusing on the challenges of modern medicine he explains it’s inevitable that competent doctors/surgeons can so easily miss a step, or forget to ask an important question in the stress of the moment.

The first is ignorance—we may err because science has given us only a partial understanding of the world and how it works. There are skyscrapers we do not yet know how to build, snowstorms we cannot predict, heart attacks we still haven’t learned how to stop. The second type of failure the philosophers call ineptitude—because in these instances the knowledge exists, yet we fail to apply it correctly. This is the skyscraper that is built wrong and collapses, the snowstorm whose signs the meteorologist just plain missed, the stab wound from a weapon the doctors forgot to ask about.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Atul Gawande

Everyone Needs Checklists

Experts need checklists, think of them as written processes to guide them through the key steps in any complex procedure.

Such a simple idea sounds crazy until he presents such a strong argument you will be convinced and start using the power of checklists for the most mundane tasks. I know I make lists for everything as I found it a great way to keep my mind empty and not put pressure on myself to retain all the things I need to do. You could say I have been freeing up mental RAM for those techies out there. It gives me a calmer organised approach to life and business but it gives me the freedom to prevent failures, human error & mistakes.

“Failures of ignorance we can forgive. If the knowledge of the best thing to do in a given situation does not exist, we are happy to have people simply make their best effort. But if the knowledge exists and is not applied correctly, it is difficult not to be infuriated.”

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Atul Gawande

Retaining Knowledge

The modern world is becoming faster and more complex and we’re struggling to keep our heads above water. Retaining all the knowledge we need in our day to day life alone with the velocity we are travelling.

Thank goodness for checklists!

Checklists enable us to document important processes and share knowledge, manage knowledge including Tacit knowledge.

Dr. Atul Gawande talking at Microsoft Research – The Checklist Manifesto

Surgical Checklists Save Lives — but Once in a While, They Don’t. Why?

Checklists Improve Safety in Many Industries

Throughout History, checklists have been embraced to help remember important steps. Why are checklists useful in the workplace? Checklists have been embraced in many industries to improve safety and success rates.

Checklist Example: Pre Flight Checklist was created to help pilots fly the B-17 Bomber.

Checklist Example: NASA Checklist to launch rockets and walk-in space.

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