Search This Blog



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Checklists, Checklists Everywhere

By elevating the humble checklist to center stage, Atul Gawande’s 2009 management best seller, The Checklist Manifesto, struck a chord for simplicity in a world preoccupied with complexity. For Gawande, who practices endocrinal surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, the checklist agenda underscored in his book focused on extreme complexity with high-stakes outcomes—in enterprises like jet engine manufacturing, skyscraper construction, and, of course, surgery.

Gawande's exceptional narrative gifts combined with the simplicity and adaptability of checklists themselves have inspired ordinary folks to try out a checklist or two in their own domains. No surprise to see, then, that checklist books have mushroomed on Amazon via titles like Checklists for Life, The Style Checklist (fashion advice), Checklists for the New Dad, and my exe's own personal favorite, The Gay Husband Checklist for Women Who Wonder.

An unbeatable value, the latter offers checklists for "reading" telltale signs of spousal cheating and for preventive action through self-examination (i.e., the Checklist for Women Who Attract Gay Men). Cutting to the chase, the book dispenses the 20-item Gay Husband ChecklistThe four entries below typify the larger list:
  • His sexual performance is more mechanical than passionate with a lack of satisfying foreplay.
  • He admits to having a homosexual encounter in the past.
  • He erases the computer history on a regular basis.
  • He starts to spend more time at the gym and works on changing his appearance.
I, for one, smell a confirmation bias with miles of rope for hanging innocent spouses from the highest bedposts.  My advice to Ms. Kaye and her minions: consult Dr. Gawande's own fail safe--his "Checklist for Checklists" in the appendix of his book. Not that the Gay Husband list has much in common with the doctor's concerns, which seek to telegraph critical nodes in high-risk projects.

But there's still much for gay-sayers to gain from his work.  Among other things, Gawande urges that each checklist item prove  absolutely critical to the process at hand. And he asks,  "Is each item . . . not adequately checked by other mechanisms?” In other words, keep things simple by avoiding entries that offer duplication and (wherever possible) overlap with other entries.  

In this spirit, Ms. Kaye and her followers have a golden opportunity to substantially reduce the false positives in their midst--Not that there's anything wrong with true positives themselves, as Seinfeld  might  have said were he a stats geek.


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Classic post - keep em coming

Anonymous said...

I find it amusing that author Kaye finds it necessary to list her academic credentials on her book's cover. That "M. Ed" qualifies her for...?