The Checklist Manifesto
It is not clear how we could produce substantially more expertise than we already have. Yet our failures remain frequent. They persist despite remarkable individual ability.
Four generations after the first aviation checklists went into use, a lesson is emerging: checklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realized.
I realized the question had two components. First, how could they be sure that they had the right knowledge in hand? Second, how could they be sure that they were applying this knowledge correctly?
Good checklists, on the other hand, are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything—a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps—the ones that even the highly skilled professionals using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.
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.
Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff tells the story of our first astronauts and charts the demise of the maverick, Chuck Yeager test-pilot culture of the 1950s.
There’s something deeper, more visceral going on when people walk away not only from saving lives but from making money. It somehow feels beneath us to use a checklist, an embarrassment.
The truly great are daring. They improvise. They do not have protocols and checklists. Maybe our idea of heroism needs updating.
The checklist gets the dumb stuff out of the way, the routines your brain shouldn’t have to occupy itself with (Are the elevator controls set? Did the patient get her antibiotics on time? Did the managers sell all their shares? Is everyone on the same page here?), and lets it rise above to focus on the hard stuff (Where should we land?).