The Checklist Manifesto


  Atul Gawande provides clear evidence that checklists can be tremendously beneficial in order to successfully handle complex situations If you'd prefer to listen to this article, use the player below. You can also find more of my articles in audio version at Listle    

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

Key Takeaways


  1. Discusses how checklists have helped pilots, surgeons and many others to help navigate complex situations
  2. The mundane tasks are the ones that are the most forgotten and therefore the most important to include
  3. Must get over ego and accept that a checklist, no matter how seemingly simple or naive, can help
  4. The checklist must be brief, practical and usable

  What I got out of it  

  1. Checklists must be brief, practical and usable and this framework can be applied to nearly anything in your life. I think it is extremely important to get over your ego and buy into this concept because the vast majority of our errors stem from simple, everyday tasks that can be easily avoided if using one of these checklists
  • In realms where we can control the situation, people often fail for two reasons - ignorance and/or ineptitude. Ineptitude is growing in today's world as information is become ubiquitous
  • Failures still exist despite great training/ability but the pure volume and complexity of today's tasks often overwhelm individuals
  • Checklists organize, simplifies and streamlines
  • Eliminates relying on memory/attention and ensures that no steps are skipped
  • Seemingly stupid little checklists have saved a lot of lives and money
  • 3 types of problems - simple (instructions), complicated (tough but once done can be repeated) and complex (expertise helps but outcome is always uncertain)
  • Checklists mandatory for success in complex situations but must also allow for people's judgment - shift power away from the center
  • Extremely important for critical yet mundane tasks as people tend to think they know this instinctively yet they often skip over it
  • Making checklists a habit and systematic increases its effectiveness
  • Teamwork is vital in complex situations - simply discussing what might go wrong helps performance
  • Insert "pause points" - breaks to make sure the checklist is being followed
  • People often skip over the simple solution for the complex
  • Can't be vague, imprecise, long or hard to use or somehow impractical
  • Must remind of critical steps but not spell them out and be practical
  • Do-Conform Checklist - do task and then check off a box
  • Read-Do Checklist - check off as you complete a step
    • Must determine which of these two is better for your specific task
  • 5-9 items and about 60-90 seconds to review the checklist
    • Easy to read, focus on steps most often skipped, 1 page max, no unnecessary colors. They are not meant to be how-to guides
  • MUST test the checklist in the real world
  • new findings often slow to implement because it is not easy, usable or in a systematic form
  • Often difficult to implement because of social or hierarchical concerns
  • Simply knowing your team's names improves teamwork and overall satisfaction
  • Teamwork and communication is key
  • Checking boxes is not the goal - embracing teamwork, communication, discipline and thoroughness is
  • Don't let your brain ignore information that doesn't match its initial hunch
  • Separate checklists are needed for research, decision making, execution and post investment phases
  • Keep it basic! No formula but ensure you have the best information possible to make decisions
  • People often wary to implement checklists because they aren't sexy and "heroes" rely on intuition
    • Remain clam under pressure and recognize where one needed to improvise and where one needed not to improvise
  • Outsources dumb, mundane tasks so that the brain can focus solely on the complex task on hand
  • Must study routine failures to make great checklists

In the Latticework, we've distilled, curated, and interconnected the 750+book summaries from The Rabbit Hole. If you're looking to make the ideas from these books actionable in your day-to-day life and join a global tribe of lifelong learners, you'll love The Latticework. Join us today.