Book review: The Checklist Manifesto - How to Get Things Right

Emma De Vita reviews the new book by Atul Gawande

The Checklist Manifesto - How to Get Things Right
The Checklist Manifesto - How to Get Things Right

Atul Gawande is an American surgeon and writer. He is also the director of the World Health Organisation's Global Challenge for Safer Surgical Care, and he's written a book that many high-level managers swear by.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right attempts to provide a way to overcome failure, based on the humble checklist. Gawande argues that this is an essential tool in almost every area of our lives and that it can break down complex, high-pressure tasks into manageable steps that produce better results.

This is a reassuring book for most managers, who are frequently bombarded with too much information and too many demands on their time and, consequently, often make avoidable mistakes. These are "common and persistent, not to mention demoralising and frustrating", writes Gawande.

His strategy to combat this is a simple checklist: a good example is the one used by Boeing pilots - usually just a few lines on a page, with one for each scenario. But a checklist cannot be compiled in isolation; it must be drawn up by talking to everyone involved in a project so that everything is covered.

Are you ready to tick some boxes?

Emma De Vita is books editor of Management Today

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