Atul Gawande wrote a beautifully crafted book, The Checklist Manifesto. As we strive for success in all of our projects let me encourage you to consider his thesis:

  • There are two types of checklists -A DO-CONFIRM checklist – team members perform their jobs from memory and experience often separately but then they stop, they pause to confirm that everything that was supposed to be done was done – more like a routine financial control and then you check every task has been completed.
  • Then there is the READ-DO checklist where people carry out the tasks as they check them off – more like a recipe.
  • Recommends  just the killer items on the checklist, probably 5 to 9 items.
  • Understand the first draft of the checklist will fall apart on contact with the real world, so changes are needed constantly until consistency is achieved.
  • Keep them to one page.
  • Accept that there will be a tension between brevity and effectiveness.
  • Use the familiar language of your industry
  • Create a clear pause point to deploy your checklist
From my perspective:
  • I find the DO-CONFIRM checklist really useful for trapping agenda items. Things I want to achieve in a day, items I want to cover in a meeting, in a presentation. There’s nothing worse than having a collection of people in a meeting and discovering after it that several items weren’t covered because you underprepared without a checklist.
  • Everyone makes mistakes but checklists add a layer of quality control that we all need.
By the way one of hundreds of examples that Atul highlights: one hospital prevented 43 infections, 8 deaths and saved $2m in costs by deploying relevant checklists. Powerful stuff.