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You’re Either a List Person or You’re Not, Right?

There’s a new book out called The Checklist Manifesto written by a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. I wondered why a book about checklists had been on the NY Times best seller list for 5 months.

I’m a list person. When my kids were small, I lived by lists.  Somedays, I got so little done that I would add something to my list that I had done and then cross it off just to make myself feel better. Other people I know (and love) hate lists. They think it’s a sign of weakness and an insult to their intelligence. I’m not saying I’m right in my list making but the book helped me to think twice about the value of having a standard work list (can you say lean?) and checking yourself against it.

The doctor’s point is this. No matter how expert you are, a well-designed check list can improve results. The best-known use of checklists is by airplane pilots. If you are Pilot Sully Sullenberger and you’ve been flying for 30+ years, do you really need to get into a plane and run through a checklist? The answer of course is yes.

Are the rest of us think so smart or so special that we don’t need lists? Hmmm…

Most interesting to me is the author’s point that checklists, used properly, imply three transformative values:

  1. Humility — we admit we need gentle reminders regarding the obvious
  2. Discipline — we make ourselves go through this simple process
  3. Teamwork — we take the time to be sure we are all on the same page

Imagine how different our workplace would be if we kept these 3 values in mind. I might be a list person but I’m going to start thinking about making new kinds of lists. Ok all you anti-list people, let’s hear it!


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