I’ve just finished reading The Checklist Manifesto. It was a book that was hard to put down, and the astonishing thing was that it was all about writing checklists. What an amazing example of weaving stories around something that from a distance would seem the most mundane and humdrum of activities; writing checklists.
Surgeon and writer, Atul Gawande strings together some fascinating stories about how checklists have saved lives, and assisted in the completion of complex tasks ranging from building immense buildings to safety features on large aircraft.
Gawande combines statistical evidence, and descriptive stories to make his point. And that is quite simply that today’s professional world requires people to deal with greater and greater complexity, and frequently the simple steps and disciplines that are required to achieve successful outcomes are overlooked.
For me, this came hard on the heels of an amazing experience at a Vipassana 10 day silent meditation retreat working as a server cooking each day for 100 people. It is interesting that the same approach that Gawande takes was operating here. There was a very detailed checklist and set of recipes for the kitchen so that a voluntary group with no kitchen experience could cook for up to 100 without effort. The trick for the kitchen as for The Checklist Mainfesto was a combination of very specific tasks and at the same time protocols for communication. Time after time we turned out perfect meals. The catch cry when anyone was in doubt, was ‘Follow the Recipe! But supported by the principles of Vipassana, which was to work with one another without ego, or judgement, or fixed ideas on how to do things.
Great story telling and I think evolution for humanity at the highest level is all about the combination of practical and disciplined steps underpinned by powerful values and a commitment to serve and communicate openly and honestly with one another.