Book Review: The Checklist Manifesto

The Checklist Manifesto
By Atul Gawande
Picador, New York, 2009

I didn’t finish reading this book. It wasn’t worth it.

Don’t get me wrong; checklists are extremely useful. They’re great for capturing, organizing and sharing knowledge and best practices. They help us repeatedly complete extremely complicated procedures which are often beyond the ability of single individuals to master or manage. And they protect us all, even experienced and highly qualified practitioners, from inevitable human error and forgetfulness.

Squint a little and any project plan looks like nothing more than a very detailed checklist.

OK, I’m sold on checklists.

Gawande makes all these points clearly enough in The Checklist Manifesto. Problem is he pads them with so many anecdotes, stories and case studies that it quickly becomes obvious he’s trying to string out a fine New Yorker article into a full-length book.

Maybe there’s more substance later in the book, but after about 90 pages I decided reading any further would be a waste of time.

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