Episode#42 – The Checklist Manifesto

The Checklist Manifesto

by Atul Gawande


The book in one sentence

Checklists help to make life easier.


My personal opinion

Personally, I love checklists! The checklist is a great tool for business. That is why you can see it in so many different industries. Atul Gawande, a general and endocrine surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, wrote a great book about the value of checklists and how you can create your own checklists.

The book is full of interesting stories about people leveraging checklists to make their business more safe, make processes more standardized, ensuring the same high quality every single time. Gawande underlines how checklists improved safety in healthcare where we all can benefit from.

The checklist has an often misunderstood advantage. Atul Gawande describes it like this: “Yet it is far from obvious that something as simple as a checklist could be of substantial help. We may admit that errors and oversights occur – even devastating ones. But we believe our jobs are too complicated to reduce to a checklist.”

At the end of the book you will find a checklist to create a checklist. It is a great starting point to develop your own! Checklist-ception!


To whom I would recommend this book

For sales, I believe strongly in checklists. If you represent a broad portfolio of solutions – like I experience it in the tech industry – the early phases of a sales cycle can be challenging. During the discovery and qualification you have to remember several aspects, like understanding the role of your contact, understanding her or his goals, the timeline, budget expectations, alignment with organizational priorities, the decision process and asking for additional stakeholders, the status quo and whether they are already looking at other vendors.

Yes, sales basic you could say. Nevertheless, I made the experience quite to often that after asking for one of these aspects I am more thinking about my next smart question rather than listening to the response. That is the moment where a checklist provides help. Today, I have the basic discovery and qualification questions on a sheet of paper. It is very easy to follow the list to ensure that every aspect is covered and it will make for sure a professional impression. In addition you will be able to make much more of such calls per day since you have a systematic approach. Click the link, if you want to take a look at my Discovery & Qualification Checklist.

The checklist consists of several questions I found in all the sales books I read so far, like SNAP Selling or Predictable Revenue. It is a living document and will continually evolve. I used the first page for the initial qualification and the second page for deeper understanding. If you want to address all questions in one conversation I would recommend to slightly adapt the order of the questions.

You can use the checklist for face-to-face meetings as well. I give a print-out to my client and walk with them through it. So you both can ensure that your business relationship is based on solid information.


What I learned from this book

  • “Know-how is often unmanageable. Avoidable failures are common and persistent, not to mention demoralizing and frustrating […] And the reason is increasingly evident: the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliable. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.”
  • “Moreover, research has consistently showed that at least half our deaths and major complications are avoidable. The knowledge exists. But however supremely specialized and trained we may have become, steps are still missed. Mistakes are still made.”
  • In several situation, “if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all.” Checklists can help us to remember the essential and most critical steps of a process to ensure the minimum result and quality. “They not only offer the possibility of verification but also instill a kind of discipline of higher performance.”
  • Don’t neglect the idea of checklists because you are too proud to accept the complexity.
  • A checklist is a great tool to communicate the most necessary steps of a process to the entire team.
  • “And the question of when to follow one’s judgement and when to follow protocol is central to doing the job well – or to doing anything else that is hard. You want people to make sure to get the stupid stuff right. Yet you also want to leave room for craft and judgement and the ability to respond to unexpected difficulties that arise along the way.”
  • Checklists can be helpful to specify tasks but also to specify communication in expected situations and emergencies. Checklists can remind you to trust in the power of communication.
  • “Under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success. There must always be room for judgement, but judgement aided – and even enhanced – by procedure.”
  • “‘That’s not my problem’ is possibly the worst thing people can think […]”
  • Introducing yourself is an important part of surgery checklists: “The researchers called it an activation phenomenon. Giving people a chance to say something at the start seemed to activate their sense of participation and responsibility and their willingness to speak up.”
  • If you have created your own checklist, train yourself to use it.


Want to read this book?

Check it out on Amazon.com – The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande



Thanks to the publisher for printing such a great book!