Certainty Blog

The Checklist Manifesto – by Atul Gawande

If you’ve read ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ by Atul Gawande you’ll know the amazing effect that the World Health Organisation had by introducing a simple checklist into hospital surgery routines. The surgery infection rates and mortality dropped hugely in those hospitals that were selected for a pilot program…and now that simple list has been adopted worldwide.  You can imagine the benefit that the regular use of a simple checklist – and the emphasis is on ‘simple’ – could have on reducing deaths caused by the improper handling of food. To determine the effectiveness of checklists, Atul Gawande looked at the airline industry in particular, but also looked at many others. In the course of his study, he came across the skepticism that often meets our efforts to introduce checklists. The bottom line is, that folk sometimes think they’re just too damned smart to need to be reminded what to do by an ‘idiot’s guide’ – and that’s just the senior people – but this is a misguided belief. Not only is much human misery and suffering reduced by the use of checklists but the financial costs of those avoidable injuries are really significant too – the food industry would be a whole lot better off in every way if they routinely adopted checklists.

Atul Gawande Checklist Manifesto

In Atul Gawande’s study, when the checklists were introduced, it made no difference if the hospital was in London, Detroit, Delhi, or ‘Whupwhup’. Simple steps like ‘pausing’ to allow the checklist to be read, or the surgical teams simply introducing themselves to one another, had amazing results in terms of saved lives. Of course, the book is full of anecdotes on how all our lives are routinely protected by the use of such checklists. Have you noticed how every time you board a plane and listen to the pre-flight safety briefing it is the same? It doesn’t matter which airline or in which country you’re flying from, they’re the same…. but imagine the lives that could be saved if those handling our food adopted the same routines… an idiot’s guide? No, they’re life-changing and life-saving…

I can’t think of any industry or sector of society that wouldn’t benefit from the intelligent adoption of checklists. Like anything else, they need reviewing, revising, and to be kept up to date. But the benefits far outweigh the costs, such as they are. If you want to know how much money they use of a simple checklist could save you – get in touch with us and we’ll show you. But in the meantime take some time to read ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ by Atul Gawande.