Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Avoid Errors during Crisis with Checklists

Book Review 

Atul Gawande. 

The CHECKLIST Manifesto How to get things right
Penguin Books India. New Delhi, 2010. pp. 209, Rs. 149 (Flipkart)

At the outset, the title of this book seems pretty uninspiring. Who does not know about checklists? We all resort to it at some point or the other. Why read an entire book on it?
What piqued my interest towards the book is its accomplished author Atul Gawande. I have read his earlier books – Better and Complications both of which are extremely insightful and delves into the depth of medicine and healthcare; facets that are usually shielded from common man and the books come across as honest and determined. I was convinced that this book will definitely have some key takeaway for people in general.
Dr. Gawande is a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a staff writer for The New Yorker. He has often written eloquently on public health policy issues.
As I read through the book, I realized its applicability in all walks of life. The basic point driven across in this book is about the errors caused by human beings which are clearly avoidable. One is out of ignorance which is still acceptable but the other severe cause is human ineptitude. It means the inability to apply our existing and adequate knowledge during crunch time either entirely or in the right sequence.
He writes at length about human ineptitude in case of medical emergencies, pilots flying aeroplanes and people involved in erecting skyscrapers. He also goes on to prove (with statistical data) how the use of well-drafted checklists have reduced human errors, saved lives and created a positive difference.
With automation and development in all spheres of life, there are too many variables at play at any given point of time. It is practically unimaginable to remember each and every point while trying to save a cardiac arrest patient or landing a plane which is malfunctioning. That is where a checklist becomes useful. It helps the person in charge to confidently go about the job with a greater degree of assured outcome. However, what is important here is to follow the checklists meticulously and not resort to improvisation.
There can be lot of debate on pertinence of checklists in all kinds of situations or Gawande’s dogged faith in the same as professed in the book. It gives a feeling of being narrow and insular. The choice is left to the reader to be either critical and nitpick or adopt checklists in their lives to improve outcomes. The vital part is that the effectiveness of checklists in all walks of life is indisputable. How we use them to the best of our needs depends on us.
The book consists of nine chapters each having twenty to thirty pages which makes the reading experience quite enjoyable and undemanding. The language is extremely uncomplicated such that the contents revolving around medical jargon and science can be easily comprehended by school students to business owners.
The beauty of the book is its relevance from mundane activities like going shopping for routine stuff like grocery to building a rocket and how everyone can create their own list based on specific requirements. A checklist is truly a recipe for success if executed with diligence. The book provokes readers to seriously think about making checklists in their domain of activities.
I recommend this book for small business owners especially for two reasons; one – they have shortage of skilled manpower and two – the margin of error is very narrow for this level of business. By creating simple yet in-depth checklist to monitor finances, machine performance and maintenance, production output, inventory management and order processing etc., owners can improve their business productivity and performance to a huge extent.
There is no other book in these lines which has such a powerful pitch for such an insipid theme like a Checklist.   

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