Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
I first read this book nearly 2 years ago during my time in Argentina after a recommendation from Mladen Jovanovic. My rationale for reading this book was one of the primary tasks we had at the UAR- to systematise and disseminate the programme of physical preparation that we were developing to all of our coaches, across 5 performance centres and many different levels of the national team. The author, Atul Gawande, is a world renowned surgeon and medical policy expert. He has been at the forefront of checklist development within medicine, which has saved a remarkable number of lives… and also probably $$$.
- The problems with modern, complex tasks that involve interdisciplinary teams
- Examples of catastrophic failure from various industries (aviation, finance, construction, medicine etc.)
- The rationale for checklist development
- The process of checklist design and development
What I liked:
All of the principles discussed here are applicable to sport. No, the price of failure is not the same as an airliner crashing, but the nature of the task is similar- lots of people working together on a task that exceeds the knowledge, expertise and capacity of one person alone. Likewise there are typically a limited number of small problems that create most failures of the system (in sport- too much, not enough, wrong type of training).
Also the author is quick to point out that a checklist should not stifle individuals or tell them how do their job. Firstly, this is impossible with complex tasks where all variables cannot be accounted for. Secondly, occasionally the structure should be put to one side, and individuals should be allowed to exercise their judgement and experience to achieve an outcome e.g. putting an arm around a player. Rather the checklist serves to engender a culture of teamwork and cooperation, whilst preventing critical failures within the system.
What I didn’t like:
There could be a little more detail on how to design the checklists themselves and what to do when they DON’T work. But it is a short book designed for a big market, so I guess it has to serve as a jumping off point.
Who would benefit from this?
Probably more senior members of a coaching staff- as these are the guys who most have to clone themselves to make a department run. Or those who have to spend a lot of time trying to integrate themselves with other members of the team like doctors, physios and analysts. If you’re a lower level or intern coach, your time is probably better spent by mastering skills/technique and developing yourself as in individual practitioner first, then worry about the other stuff later on. However it will still contain a lot of value for all levels.