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The Checklist Manifesto summary

The Checklist Manifesto book cover

Key ideas

  • Two types of checklists - do-confirm and read-do.
  • Checklists should have between 5-9 items.
  • Wording should be simple and concise, and all fit on one page.
  • The checklist is only a tool - if it doesn't help, it's not being used correctly.

Quotes from the book

  • The volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.
  • A further difficulty, just as insidious, is that people can lull themselves into skipping steps even when they remember them.
  • Three different kinds of problems in the world: the simple, the complicated, and the complex.
  • Under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success. There must always be room for judgment, but judgment aided—and even enhanced—by procedure.
  • When you’re making a checklist, Boorman explained, you have a number of key decisions. You must define a clear pause point at which the checklist is supposed to be used (unless the moment is obvious, like when a warning light goes on or an engine fails). You must decide whether you want a DO-CONFIRM checklist or a READ-DO checklist. With a DO-CONFIRM checklist, he said, team members perform their jobs from memory and experience, often separately. But then they stop. They pause to run the checklist and confirm that everything that was supposed to be done was done. With a READ-DO checklist, on the other hand, people carry out the tasks as they check them off—it’s more like a recipe. So for any new checklist created from scratch, you have to pick the type that makes the most sense for the situation.
  • It is common to misconceive how checklists function in complex lines of work. They are not comprehensive how-to guides, whether for building a skyscraper or getting a plane out of trouble. They are quick and simple tools aimed to buttress the skills of expert professionals.
  • Just ticking boxes is not the ultimate goal here. Embracing a culture of teamwork and discipline is.
  • In the end, a checklist is only an aid. If it doesn’t aid, it’s not right. But if it does, we must be ready to embrace the possibility.

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