The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande centers on the argument that creating and following checklists in our work and daily tasks will make us more efficient, thorough, and accountable. Checklists, the author argues, help us succeed in what we do because they give us a higher standard for our baseline performance. However, the author also notes that checklists are a tool rather than an end in themselves, and if they don’t help, then they aren’t the right tool for us.
Gawande’s discussion of checklists includes plenty of evidence for their usefulness. Researchers, for instance, have found that doctors and nurses who consistently use checklists provide better care for their patients. Even the task for making a checklist can activate our brains and make us more alert to potential problems and solutions.
The author further explains that there are three kinds of problems: simple, complicated, and complex. Checklists can help with all of them, but they are absolutely necessary when we are faced with complex problems.
Gawande then goes on to explain the different types of checklists and to provide some practical tips for making and using them. With a “do-confirm” checklist, we make the list, go about our tasks, and then return to the list to confirm that we have accomplished every item. With a “read-do” list, on the other hand, we read each item on the list and do it in sequence. Checklists, the author asserts, should contain between five and nine items and should be written in simple, direct language.
The author concludes by reminding readers that checklists, as critical as they are, are not the ultimate end. Rather, they are designed to help people and teams do their very best at whatever tasks they need to accomplish.