Check This Out!

May 4, 2011 by Bill Bradley


Title: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Competencies: communications skills, teamwork, decision-making, influence skills, problem solving, planning

Who benefits: any employee or team can benefit, useful in quality improvement programs, crucial for those whose work involves safety

Consultant Usage: must read for consultants in healthcare or quality programs

What’s it about? I begin with asking for reader forgiveness.  I should have reviewed this book two years ago when it first came out.  It may well be the second most important book written in this century (#1, The MBA Oath).   The book is The Checklist Manifesto.   Like #1, it is about how to get things right.  However, that is where the similarity ends.

This book is written from a healthcare perspective, but it is a book for all of us.  It’s about how to beat the high-pressure complexities of modern professional occupations. 

It is about the fallibility of experts.

It is about experts having the emotional intelligence and the humility to know that no one person can “know all” and that in time of need, not all known knowledge can be immediately recalled. 

It is a book that educates us in the difference between errors of ignorance, mistakes made because we don’t know enough, and errors of ineptitude (this is where the humility comes in), mistakes made because we don’t make proper use of what we know.

It asks the question: What is expertise?  Maybe, just maybe, it is the ability to compile a checklist that takes the complexity out of process.  Maybe an expert is one who can give the team assurances that quality is built into process. 

There is a large group of people who have been using the checklist for centuries.  They put their egos aside.  Their task is relatively simple, yet they are determined to get it right every time.  Their reputations depend on it.  Sometimes they even write up their check list and publish it.  In modern day terminology we call it the “cookbook”.  A whole industry built on checklists.

If the relatively simple art/skill of cooking is best served with a checklist, what about the vastly more complex processes found in the professions, especially those connected to health and safety?  How much easier could quality initiatives be with detailed checklists?  Are there areas of improvement waiting to be found?  Read the next paragraph for the possibilities of a checklist.

Dr. Gawande writes from a surgeon’s perspective.  He has horror stories of what can go wrong during the surgery process.  He discusses checklists in other industries – most noticeably the pilot’s checklist for flying.  But most poignant is his confession that after drawing up a surgery checklist he discovers his own disastrous lapses.  Big time mea culpa.

The book is beautifully written.  It reads like a page-turner mystery/thriller.  It is a hard book to put down.  Despite being written from a surgeon’s perspective, the book applies in almost any workplace. 

When a book is consumed it behooves the intelligent reader to ask her/himself “What did I learn from the reading?”  There are many opportunities for professional learning’s in this book.  For me, however, my biggest takeaway is personal.

If I EVER have prescheduled surgery, in the first consultation meeting I will ask to see the surgeon’s checklist.  If the surgeon tells me, “Don’t worry, I have done this procedure a thousand times”, I will worry.  I don’t want a surgeon with an Ego, I want a surgical team with a checklist.

Catch you later.
[tags]communications skills, teamwork, decision-making, influence skills, problem solving, planning, checklist, checklist manifesto, envisia, envisia learning, atul gawande bill bradley, william bradley, bradley[/tags]

Bill Bradley (mostly) retired after 35 years in organizational consulting, training and management development. During those years he worked internally with seven organizations and trained and consulted externally with more than 90 large and small businesses, government agencies, hospitals and schools.

Posted in Engagement, Wellness

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