Thursday, 24 January 2013

My Encounter with the Book 'The Checklist Manifesto"

All of us want to be associated with success .And most times we would wonder, what is it that successful people do so differently? Are they necessarily gifted with more inherited intelligence? Perhaps, there is no denying that .But is that the only reason why they end up being successful.
I so disagree. That would just be an excuse to shield our laxity .The latest book that caught my fancy, simply reinforced that thought. The book was called the ‘Checklist Manifesto’ and written by a very renowned surgeon called ‘Atul Gawande’. Now this book isn’t as glorified as the name suggests. But it simply gives us the magic of what ‘simple’ checklists can do.
The author despite being a surgeon has explored into areas beyond his expertise. To highlight its importance, he researched into construction of sky –scrapers, aviation and Investment Banking. He has emphasized the fact, that profession is irrelevant, but the usage of checklists stands inevitable. And this thought is definitely that ‘secret’ that these successful people possess.     
Being in the field of surgery, the author gave umpteen examples on how a simple checklist saved lives and brought complications to a very base level. He explained the routines that take place in an Operation Theatre and how minor changes done in them, gives a better result. He drilled into the importance of how every member in the OT had a key role to play and how pertinent every member is while hoping for a successful outcome. Generally, as he put it, an anesthetist’s role is usually undermined. But he highlights the crucial pointers like timing, quantum and patients past history /allergies that are needed to be taken into account by the former. In a similar manner, he explained the importance of nurses and resident surgeons. He further highlighted the importance of having a team meeting of all the members with the consent of a common checklist. This led to better harmony and understanding when the actual proceedings were being conducted.
The book gave a glimpse on the author being approached by WHO (World Health Organization) and how this common checklist was implemented in select hospitals across the world. It brought into lime light the common problems faced by all doctors across the globe and how these solutions can be incorporated by everyone in their checklists. What caught my attention was the fact that the best brains are capable of making the most trivial of errors. Errors like operating on the wrong patient, dissecting the wrong side, leaving objects inside the body etc. These factors also seek place in the checklist. The objective that was considered in these checklists was to assess what the worst case scenario would have been and what is the best possible solution and requirement that could have been put into place.  Thus the experiment of a common checklist which was implemented in the poorest to the richest of countries reduced surgical complications by 36% and deaths by 47%. So, as seen the checklists may seem very rudimentary and rigid in nature but they certainly help improvise and not repeat errors.
Now aviation was another aspect he highlighted. In Surgery it’s about a life, however in Aviation it’s about many lives. In this case, it’s more than imperative that they use a checklist. In an example, he highlighted how the plane ascended in the Hudson River and timely sent lifeboats saved all lives. He also explained how the co-pilots role is not considered as crucial and that aspect cannot be ignored. The very communication and coordination of the pilot and co-pilot with use of checklists helped save lives in this case.
He even transcended to areas of Investment Banking and how the best of investors use the checklist. He quoted an example of the Value based Fundamental Investors who studied companies for months together to infuse their money. However, they did make mistakes and lost some money on account of some judgment errors. These aspects were enlisted, so that same factor is not missed out on while assessing another company /investment bet.
To sum it up, he quoted Discipline as the prime factor which must be an integral part of every individual’s life. It must be that extra cost that one must pay to derive that success one dreams of getting. We are not born to maneuver our bodies and minds as per a fixed schedule and checklist. When that extra push is given and discipline is maintained, we turn extra –ordinary from the ordinary. And that’s certainly the secret of people who touch the pinnacle of success.

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