Despite our vast knowledge in virtually every area of life, Gawande believes we are still deeply prone to failure. He believes many such failures could be overcome (and, conversely, much success obtained) through a simple but often ignored tool, the checklist. He writes:
That means we need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the inevitable human inadequacies. And there is such a strategy though it will seem almost ridiculous in its simplicity, maybe even crazy to those of us who have spent years carefully developing ever more advanced skills and technologies. It is a checklist (p. 13).
Gawande supports his conviction through the use of interesting, true accounts drawn from several areas: medicine (chapters 1, 2, 5, 7 and 8), aviation (chapter 6 and pp. 32-34, 173-182), construction (chapter 3), national disasters (chapter 4), factories (chapter 6), and investments (chapter 8).
The author believes that we normally do not look for patterns in our failures but we should, and the simple checklist could serve as our guide (p. 185). I, personally, have always made use of checklists, finding them a valuable means to keep me on task and remind me of what needs to be done. But The Checklist Manifesto has challenged me to step up my game, especially in my supervision of others and in accomplishing long term and/or complex goals. I think most everyone would benefit from reading this well-written, interesting, and helpful book.
The Checklist Manifesto, How to Get Things Right By Atul Gawande (New York: Picador, 2010) 215 pp., paper $16.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel