Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Review: The Checklist Manifesto

Atul Gawande. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. New York. Metropolitan Books. 2009. $24.50.

This book’s argument can be stated in six words: In complex situations, checklists prevent mistakes.

Or to raise the stakes: In complex situations, checklists save lives.

Gawande (MacArthur Fellow, surgeon, med school professor) tells stories from the worlds of aviation, construction, and medicine that make these points. Alas, The Checklist Manifesto offers little evidence of how checklists are designed and improved, of how they are made useful and more useful — in short, of what they look like. There’s not a single photograph, not a single list. I wouldn’t expect Gawande to be Edward Tufte, but the subject seems to call for at least a modest array of sample documents. (And now I’m thinking about what Tufte could do with this subject matter.)

For a reader outside medicine, the value of The Checklist Manifesto might be loosely inspirational, prompting thought about what practices in life and work might be improved with the use of a checklist. Worth reading, but best borrowed from a library. (That’s how I read it, following the advice in this note to self.) Or just read Gawande’s New Yorker piece “The Checklist.”

Related posts
Blue crayon (Checklist for an imaginary camping trip)
Whose list? (A found checklist)

comments: 1

Elaine said...

We ourselves have elaborate checklists for loading the camper, preparation for take-off, and packing the fishing gear (because once we forgot the reels.) I anticipate a future time when we will have a checklist for going upstairs (so we'll know what we are there for.)