An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Power of the Checklists

Was watching the Charlie Rose show last night on PBS.

He was interviewing Atul Gawande – a surgeon, a writer, and a thinker.His books and writings are a must read within the Obama administration – specially on the subject of Health Care Reform.

Atul has an amazing array of knowledge – from the macro to the micro. His latest book is “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right”; where he argues the strength and the usefulness of creating and following Checklists.

He discusses the B17 Bomber example. In WWII, the Boeing came up with one of the best planes that US military required. However in one of the testing flights, it crashed. When the analysis was done on the crash, it was observed that the crash didn’t happen due to mechanical failure but due to a simple mistake by the pilot. He forgot to press a switch to stabilize the plane. Now, it was argued that, the systems in the cockpit and flying the plane were too many for one person to humanly remember. So, what did Boeing do?

It created a “Checklist”. After that there were no crashes for many million miles of flying and this one plane went on to help US win in WWII.

Atul says when the same concept was used in some hospitals in surgery, the number of deaths came down a whopping 46%! In his own hospitals, and in his own OT, every single week he is saved from making a mistake that could be harmful to patients.

Drawing up a Checklist however is an art, I believe. It can’t be overdone and should be adequate to make sure one does everything necessary to get the critical and important steps through.

Some of the most celebrated Chefs follow their own “Checklist” – the “Recipe” – very religiously. Even if they are making 300th of the same dish that evening! That is the strength of a strong and robust product no matter who the person giving shape to it.

Checklists are important in life and business/jobs to carry. I have personally not been a great exponent of it much, but I guess this is a wake-up call for me as well. What do you think of the Checklists? Any experiences to share?

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