The Checklist Manifesto Book Review

book review business
The Checklist Manifesto Book Review

Book Review:  The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande, illustrates the simplicity of making a checklist to streamline complicated processes.  Being a general and endocrine surgeon, the author searched for ways to prevent mistakes in a tense hospital environment. 

I wanted to read this book because Marie Forleo had suggested it in her Time Genius course that I took. So I ordered the book and couldn't wait to start reading it because I anticipated that the book would instruct me on how and when to use checklists in my life for daily personal and business activities.

The Checklist Manifesto Book Review Synopsis

Atul Gawande discovered that simple checklists could save lives and prevent catastrophes. In The Checklist Manifesto:  How To Get Things Done Right, Atul Gawande illustrates many ways checklists are helpful to use every day in different professions.  He did a lot of research by talking with people who had teams of people under them and needed systems in place in their line of work to have everything go smoothly. 

Some examples he detailed in The Checklist Manifesto were building large high-rise structures, flying an airplane, and preparing for surgery.  He talked to a building project owner, went to the airport to speak to a captain to see how they used checklists there, and experimented with lists in his operating room with his staff. 

He goes into great detail about the complexity of all the processes involved in constructing a building.  The process is a compilation of many checklists.  For example, a team member responsible for a task on the timeline checks it off before starting the following item.  Furthermore, inspections are essential throughout the process.

How Airplane Pilots Use Checklists

Atul Gawande gave several examples throughout The Checklist Manifesto about airplane pilots. Teams then get together to figure out what happened and put checklists to prevent it from happening again. Pilots take precautions; however, disasters still sometimes happen.

“Before the pilots started the plane’s engines at the gate, however, they adhered to a strict discipline - the kind most other professions avoid.  They ran through their checklists.  They made sure they’d introduced themselves to each other and the cabin crew.  They did a short briefing, discussing the plan for the flight, potential concerns, and how they’d handle troubles if they ran into them. And by adhering to this discipline - by taking just those few short minutes - they not only made sure the plane was fit to travel but also transformed themselves from individuals into a team, one systematically prepared to handle whatever came their way.” p. 175


 Checklists take time to develop. First, a team is selected to create the list, and then it is tested and revised many times. The objective of a checklist is to include only the critical activities that people often forget. It is not, however, to write down every detail. Even if you have done a procedure a hundred times, it is easy to make a mistake.

"They helped with memory recall and clearly set out the minimum necessary steps in a process. He was surprised to discover how often even experienced personnel failed to grasp the importance of certain precautions." p. 39

Elements of a good checklist:

  • Contain five to ten items. 
  • Each item should not take anymore than 90 seconds to complete.
  • Write only essential things that people easily skip
  • Wording should be simple.
  • It should fit on one page.



 The Checklist Manifesto is an inspiring book for teams in different professions to discover how checklists can help their business. Atul Gawande gave many examples to emphasize the importance of lists.  When people do not follow this list and miss an item, it could turn into a catastrophic situation.

The first few examples were compelling and convinced me that checklists are essential, but then I was ready to learn how they are relevant for me and create them to be more productive.  The book is full of examples, sprinkled with a little of the process of creating a checklist.  However, I did not find value in this book because I did not learn anything new. 

The author is a surgeon and a professor.  He wrote a few other medical books, such as Better and Complications, geared toward the medical profession.  From the title of this book, I thought that it would be for the general public.  It is not. The checklists that Atul Gawande talks about are for big projects and corporations, not individuals.  

I read The Checklist Manifesto because I thought it would help me develop and use checklists. After I finished the book, I created a list for writing blog posts. There are a lot of steps to remember, and I don't want to forget anything important. I check off each item. Then I hit the publish button.