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Read The checklist manifesto

A small, low cost, autonomy-preserving intervention that yields dramatic improvements in a desired outcome. Where have I heard this before?

Gawande describes his discovery of the checklist, its benefits, and the difficulties to design a good one so that it is actually used. With Gawande being a general surgeon the book is rather focused on his medical work. Though his narrative also adds insights from airline pilots – who has not heard of the pre-flight checklist? – and construction, and, superficially, finance.

The obvious benefits of catching small oversights with a checklist that even, no, especially trained and experienced professionals often commit seem surprisingly dramatic in medicine. Yet, I was more impressed with a, for a lack of better expression, nudge that was/is implemented with the help of a checklist and not with the direct impact of the checklist itself: Actors (i.e. the surgical team, the different specialist builders) are made to talk to each other (and learn each others’ names) and share responsibility. Indeed, responsibility and therefore decision power is redistributed from the top to the bottom. That, I believe, is a major driver for the success of groups.

Bottom line: The checklist manifesto is not a gripping thriller, it is not intended to entertain. Similar to a checklist it may seem a bit dry. And maybe there is even too much detail when Gawanda writes about his personal experiences with patients. It is interesting, though. Eye-opening even. And yes, I would like to have more checklists (or reliable, written rules and procedures that would serve as checklists) for my own work – sometimes, for the administrative parts.

Read: The Research Funding Toolkit

“After reading this book you should be able to write successful research grant applications.”

That about summarizes it. The content and, by example, the style. The book reads very much like a set of deliverables that the authors may have promised in their own grant application. That is not a bad thing. Nevertheless, expectations should not be set too high…

The main message I took from the book was to think about who decides and how the decision process is organized. We all know how we may deal with reviewing assignments ourselves. Yet, this is easy to forget when you write your own grant applications. Hence, this reminder alone and the various ‘tools’ to structure one’s process of writing the grant application may make the book worthwhile the read.

Ultimately, I will know only in about year or so…