The Checklist manifesto

imageWhen Mary and Tom Poppendick was in Stockholm a few weeks ago, Mary recommended the Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. And now I finished reading it.

In general it was a good read. Since it’s American it tends not to be very concise, sometimes over elaborating or using constructs of words that could have been shorter. This is normal.

It describes among others how a Checklist somehow can unite the team for the task ahead.

Around chapter 6 it gets really interesting. It’s where it starts discussing what constitutes a good Check-list. Where it divides checklists into two different types: Read-do and do-confirm. To be used in different scenarios. The Read-do is a simple follow this checklist and do the things on it. The do-confirm list is a do some work, then verify that it has been done. In a team verification is done verbally.

It also explains how checklists are used in different industries. What I found interesting was the air-line industry that tests the checklists in flight-simulators. Which begs the question: When did you last execute tests on your software documentation?

The book also describes, among other benefits of checklists, how checklists can increase the communication in the team, by adding communication check-points. One thing that I found missing, was that checklists can help team-members to focus. By having items written down, they don’t have to worry about “not remembering them”, thus freeing up memory space for the task at hand. At least this is the Getting Things Done theory for checklists freeing up focus.

It’s remarkable, the results these checklists demonstrate when used in surgery. And for the question “Would you want the checklist to be used if you were the patient”, my answer is “yes”.