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the checklist

We Review

The Checklist Manifesto
by Atul Gawande

This book was an interesting look at the power of a simple checklist: not a step-by-step instruction manual, but a few pointers to go through at key moments which enable you to sense check your own actions.

The theory being that in our world of ‘over-information’ our brains don’t waste space by remembering whether or not you, for example, locked your front door. If your job involves performing surgery or flying a plane, these kinds of errors can lead to severe injury or even loss of life. The most successful checklists were built in close collaboration with those intended to use them, and involved reviewing mistakes made and putting in place controls to avoid them reoccurring. In confirming that basic, essential tasks have been completed people are able to concentrate on the far more complex tasks at hand, safe in the knowledge that no glaring errors have been made.

What I found particularly insightful was the inclusion of simple communication actions in these checklists. For example the inclusion on one checklist used at a busy hospital that instructed each member of a surgery team to introduce themselves to each other before commencing an operation. This simple act of each person announcing their name and job role vastly increased scores for communication and collaboration, and even resulted in reduced staff turnover.

As in the case of hospitals, we increasingly work in environments filled with hyper-specialists. Huge undertakings are completed by diverse teams of people who might perform only one, very specific task. It has never been more important to facilitate conversations between these specialists. Not only does it help them quickly understand who their project team is and how they contribute to the overall success of the project, by making them feel involved it also considerably increases engagement and job satisfaction.

This simple encouragement to communicate and collaborate across job roles is something I believe all internal communicators can learn from, no matter what the complexity of the tasks or the size of the teams.

Buy the book here