The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande is the one of the most recommended books from Tim Ferris’s Tools of Titans which is why I decided to read it. The majority of the book is case studies and the arguments to outline why checklists are so important. There were a few gems of wisdom that I enjoyed and will share with you.
The book is a guide on how to stop making little yet crucial mistakes by adding checklists to your processes. The examples range from a project manager on a construction site to a doctor in the operating room.
D you use a checklist? Maybe for your groceries, Christmas shopping, mundane tasks of your job, or your morning routine? However you may use them, checklists can be an effective way of getting everything you need (Shopping) or completing a task correctly (assembling furniture). The book goes over lots of reasons why the checklist is one of the best and cost effective tools to use.
The reason you may use a checklist will usually fall into either of these categories 1. to not forget something or 2. to do a task correctly. The human psyche has 2 points of failure which is why a checklist is an effective tool:
1. Ignorance — we don’t know what we don’t know (ie. How to build a certain type of skyscraper)
2. Ineptitude — in these instances the knowledge exists, yet we fail to apply it correctly
*Ineptitude — make sure we apply the knowledge we have and know correctly
It is important to identify your own Ignorance, however, at times that can be a difficult task. No checklist is going to help solve the problem of understanding what you do not know. Only learning or testing new ways will allow you to solve the failure of ignorance (#1). How the checklist is a powerful tool is it corrects the 2nd point of failure: Ineptitude. There is an abundance of knowledge out there and applying it correctly is the most important step. Also, knowing something and actually doing the act can be overlooked at times. There will be times where you will not be able to do every task and a checklist is a great way to pass along the knowledge and still remain effective.
The first is the fallibility of human memory and attention, especially when it come to mundane, routine matters that are easily overlooked under the strain of more pressing events. P36
The book breaks down three types of problems that could use a checklist: Simple, Complicated, and Complex. Every situation is different which means creating a checklist for your problem may be more difficult than expected. The more complex the problem, the less effective a checklist will be.(P.49) Below are the three types of problems:
Simple — is a recipe for cake with a list of ingredients. Easy to make a checklist.
Complicated — sending a rocket to the moon you can breakdown the process but no straightforward recipe. A checklist is possible, however, may not be as effective.
Complex problems — raising a child, every child is unique no easy or steps to follow. Extremely hard to make a checklist that would be effective.
There are many situations in our lives that fit each type of problem that could be solved. In my life, I use checklists regularly for SoapBox Speakers when booking an a speaker to an event. There are many different details that need to be sorted out for the speaker to show up and do a presentation. The checklist ensures that everything is ready to go and the presenter is not worrying about the clicker or computer for the presentation. It is easy to go by memory and easily forget a little yet critical task that needs to be addressed.
As effective as checklists may be, some steps are going to be more crucial than others. Whether it is a business process or your personal life, identifying the critical tasks on the checklist is important. The All-Or-None-Process coined by engineers is what can quickly make your checklists useless. (See below)
Faulty memory and distraction are a particular danger in what engineers call all-or-none processes: Whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all. P.36
The human mind is always looking for ways to conserve energy and one of its most efficient strategies to conserve are habits. In “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg he explains how a habit works and how you can change bad ones. Where a checklist can help with a habit is if the checklist is step #1 in the habit cycle. Once someone sees the checklist, it will cue all of the other steps in the habit to ensure the task is being performed correct. There are two benefits of this for everyone involved:
1. Less thinking for the person looking at the checklist
2. Work is done properly
“The way you do one thing is how you do everything” not dealing with life and death situations or an architect drawing large buildings, however, using checklists are important to make sure the process is correct. Whether I am deciding on which tasks are highest priority, or a check list on
Where do you use checklists?
Do you use checklists? If you do let me know know what you use them for and if you find them effective. Checklists are used in almost every industry from complex jobs to simple ones. If you want to hear more example of lives saved in the medical profession, savings from mundane businesses tasks, or how architects construct complex and stable buildings, read the book “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande.