Book Review: Atul Gawande’s “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right”

We’re big fans of the surgeon and best-selling author Atul Gawande here at Convergence Training. And we’re also big fans of checklists.

So you can imagine how we felt when we discovered Gawande’s book “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” in our local book store.

We were intrigued. We were excited. We bought and read it, and we suggest you do too. Especially if you want to read a good book about standardized job roles and the use of checklist for better job performance.

Convergence Training is a training solutions provider. We make a couple of learning management systems (LMSs), several libraries of e-learning courses for job training, apps for mobile learning and performance support, and more. Contact us for more information.

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WHAT THE BOOK’S ABOUT

The book begins with Gawande recounting a conversation he had with a fellow surgeon. The surgeon was preparing to treat a man with a stab wound. And while stab wounds can be serious, this one appeared to be “no big deal” in terms of needing to rush the patient to immediate care.

Things quickly went wrong, however. The man stopped talking, his heart rate skyrocketed, he became unresponsive and his eyes rolled up into his head, his blood pressure was nearly undetectable, and fluid and blood spurted from a tube in his lungs.

The man was rushed to emergency treatment, and his life was ultimately saved. But why did this seemingly routine stab wound get so out of hand so unexpectedly?

It turns out that the man had been at a costume party and was stabbed by another party goer who had dressed up as a solider–complete with a bayonet. The bayonet had traveled more than one foot deep into the man’s body, causing complications nobody anticipated. One of the surgeons had operated in Vietnam and noted that he hadn’t seen a wound like that since.

And it all happened, the man nearly died, because a team of highly qualified, well-meaning, and experienced doctors, nurses, and health care professionals had forgotten to ask one necessary question: “What was the patient stabbed with?”

In hearing the story, Gawande realized it could easily have been him. He’d been in similar situations himself, and knew other doctors who had as well. And if you search your own memories, you’ve probably also missed an obvious step at some point in your life that nearly led to something very bad. I know I’ve lucked out that way a time or two.

So what can we do to try not to miss the simple stuff that can have such terrible consequences? Create and use a checklist, Gawande notes.

WHY IT’S WORTH READING

His book goes on to discuss what may at first seem a boring, mundane topic in an interesting, fascinating manner. He talks to experts in other industries, including high-rise construction and aviation, to see how they use checklists. He takes part in a World Health Organization project to create a safe surgery checklist that was eventually put into practice and reduced deaths and surgery-related complications around the world.

Gawande even goes on to explain how using the checklist during one of his own surgeries helped to save the life of a patient who most likely would have otherwise died as a result of a simple error that Gawande himself made.

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH TRAINING?

But why is Convergence Training posting about this particular book? Well, the first reason is because it’s about trying to be better at what we do (like Gawande’s other book titled “Better.”) That’s something that Convergence is always interested in, and it’s one reason we admire Gawande.

But another reason is because we agree that checklists are invaluable. We use a checklist to keep track of what we post on this blog, for one. But more importantly, we have tools inside our Convergence Learning Management System (LMS) to help our customers create and assign their own checklists for training and compliance purposes (we call them “Tasklists” in our LMS).

We even have mobile apps to help you track these checklists in the field.

Mobile Records

FREE CHECKLISTS FOR OUR LMS CUSTOMERS

In fact, we like checklists so much that we make free ones our customers can download from this blog, import into their LMS, and use for themselves. Here’s a few ready for download:

Note: we’ve added more of these recently…search for “checklist” and you’ll find quite a few.

CONCLUSION

So, if you’ve got some spare time and the inclination, we’d recommend you check this book out. You’ll enjoy the writing and you’ll come out the other end with a lot of good ideas. But even if you don’t have the time to read the book, maybe you can spare a few moments to check out this checklist that Gawande created for people who are setting out to create checklists.

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. Jeff has worked in education/training for more than twenty years and in safety training for more than ten. You can follow Jeff at LinkedIn as well.

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