The Checklist Manifesto - book notes

book notes for The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

🏷 blog; book; review; productivity;

  • Why checklists? The first motivation is provided on page 28, last para. Checklists are important because there is a lot of complexity and tasks require specialities - which causes cognitive overload.
  • (pg 34) Make the list simple, brief, and to the point. Short enough to fit on an index card, with step-by-step check-offs for important stages.
  • (pg 39) Checklists help with memory recall and set out minimum necessary (important) steps in a process.
  • (pg 48) Checklists provide a cognitive net. They catch mental flaws inherent regarding memory, attention, and thoroughness.
  • (ph 48) A key step is to identify which situations where checklists can help - and where they cannot.
  • (ph 50) A checklist should be a relatively straighforward solution that forces the necessary behaviour.
  • (pg 66) A checklist can be based on forseeing where and when something might occur. It can detail who had to talk to whom, by which date, and about what aspect of work, who had to submit what kind of information before the next steps could proceed.
  • (pg 111) A checklist can have 'pause points' - points at which checks must be run before proceeding.
  • (pg 120) Bad checklists are vague and imprecise. They are too long, they are hard to use, they are impractical.
  • (pg 120) Good checklists are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything. They provide reminders of only the most critical and important tasks. Good checklists are practical.
  • (pg 123)When making a checklist, there are a number of key decisions. There must be a pause point at which the checklist is supposed to be used. This can be a DO-CONFIRM checklist - where tasks are performed first, and then the checklist is used to confirm everything is done. Or, it can be a READ-DO checklist - where tasks are done as per the checklist, similar to a recipe.
  • (pg 123) A checklist cannot be lengthy. As a rule of thumb (some people use) keep it to between five and nine items - which is the limit of working memory. So the list has to only have the 'killer items' - the steps that are most dangerous to skip and are sometimes overlooked.
  • (pg 123) The wording in a checklist must be simple and exact, must use the language/terminology of the profession. It should fit on one page, should be free of unnecessary colours and clutter, should use both UPPERCASE and lowercase for ease of reading.