The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande focuses on the importance of using checklists in various aspects of a person’s life. Human understanding has progressed vastly over the years, and our lives have become more complex as a result. Staying organised has become difficult, but checklists contribute a lot to helping us stay focused.
Being a surgeon, he mainly talks about the importance of checklists in the medical profession in his book. The field of medicine has advanced to the point that it is impossible for one doctor to master all its knowledge. Staying at the top is essential for medical professionals because it involves saving lives. They are constantly under pressure to deal with multiple patients at the same time and also to carry out various steps involved in the treatment of said patients.
Gawande was inspired to write The Checklist Manifesto after reading about a physician who relied on checklists which helped him save lives more effectively. Even the smallest of misinformation can have dire consequences in the field of medicine. This misinformation that occurs regularly result in a lot of avoidable complications and deaths. The answer to this problem is a simple checklist, according to him.
A checklist is a list of steps meant to be completed when carrying out a procedure. It is often a simple, obvious step that is missed out on which leads to fatal casualties. Checking off basic stuff gives one a better grasp on the case and makes us better equipped to handle even the most complex of cases.
Creating a proper checklist is not a light task. A checklist has specific characteristics that make it a powerful tool and work efficiently. It should contain all essential steps, should be concise and also user-friendly. If it is too long, it will distract the person, leading to omission of vital steps. At the same time, it should also include all steps that can decide the fate of a person.
Checklists can be of two types. The ‘read-do’ type which is meant to be read first and completed after, and the ‘do-confirm’ type which is intended to be completed first and checked after. Following this distinction, while creating a checklist in a language familiar to the users, will ensure its success.
Gawande also debunks the idea that one person’s expertise will be a solution to all problems in a dangerous situation. Complex situations are better tackled with the help of a team. He cites the example of completing a building to show the importance of teamwork. Different people handle different aspects of its construction, all of which are equally important. It is similar in medicine too. Each person uses their individual speciality in a combined effort to save a life successfully.
For a team to work seamlessly on complex tasks, there needs to be effective communication. This smooth communication is also necessary for a checklist to work. If the team members do not understand the role each one plays in the team, a checklist will prove pointless. One way to enhance this communication is through the use of ‘submittal’ checklists, where each person collaborates with the others before the next step of the procedure. Another way is through a team ‘huddle’ which is the first step in a checklist where every member gets to know each other better. Teams who communicate on a regular basis are more successful at following checklists during procedures.
Gawande then goes on to talk about the success of checklists in the field of medicine. It has stopped mistakes, saved money but above all; it has saved lives. He gives examples in the field where checklists have proved successful. The Safe Surgery Saves Lives program used a surgical checklist with the seemingly most trivial of questions but which ultimately prevented a lot of deaths during surgeries. Gawande’s own use of checklists has saved many lives. Checklists can mean the difference between life and death in the medical profession.
The author also talks about the importance of checklists in fields other than medicine that are equally complex and demands precision. Checklists make work effective even in an intense environment. Restaurants, for example, that follow a checklist before each dish goes out to the customer makes it to the ‘best restaurants’ list more often. He also gives examples in the field of finance, where investors use checklists for high efficiency.
Gawande intends to show through his book that a thing as simple as a checklist can give impressive results in various aspects of one’s life in different situations. It makes the day-to-day life of a professional easier and more manageable, saving time and money, and reducing possibly fatal errors and oversights.#IAS Academy in Chennai
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