Culture & Competency

The Power of Checklists

Do you use checklists for anything?
– What to take on an overnight or international trip?
– How to write your monthly client newsletter?
– What to look for in a new computer (car, camera, bag, etc.)?

If you do, you are on a powerful path to getting things done right. That’s the thesis explored in a new book, “The Checklist Manifesto” by Dr. Atul Gawande. He collects numerous stories of where things go wrong, and how the use of a simple checklist can radically improve performance. I came across the book in a recent edition of BusinessWeek, and you can read their review online.

Gawande proves his point through a steady accretion of examples, starting with the Boeing (BA) B-17. In 1935 the bomber crashed on its first test flight because it proved too complex for the skilled test pilot to manage. The U.S. Army Air Corp ordered planes from Douglas instead, and Boeing nearly went bankrupt. But some test pilots believed in the B-17. They came up with a takeoff checklist to guide a pilot through all the crucial steps to get the plane airborne. Checklists in hand, pilots went on to fly the B-17 for more than 1.8 million miles without an accident. The army ultimately ordered 13,000 B-17s, giving the U.S. a decisive air advantage in World War II. And pilot checklists became universal.

I already use checklists a lot (actually, that’s one of things I frequently do in Evernote due to its easy ubiquity across many devices), so I’ve ordered the book from Amazon to learn more. See the book web page, at The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.

Categories: Culture & Competency