Book Review – The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

41kbppigf7lI finished reading the Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande on the weekend. What a read!

It has been surprising on many fronts. And I have known the premise of this book for a couple of years.

Where to start?

My favourite aspect of the book is that the answer is mentioned right up front. It is in the title. At the end of the first chapter, he tells you what he is arguing for.

As I read the last sentence of the chapter I admit I was thinking “Is that all?”.

“What is he going to write about for the next 200 pages if he has given the game away?” Continue reading “Book Review – The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right”

Handpicked: My Week of Learning

Here is my weekly post on what I have been reading or listening to.


Book am I reading (Non Fiction)

41kbppigf7lThe Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande.

This book has been on my reading list for a while. A project I am on at the moment brought it to the fore again. How often do we over engineer a solution?

I have referred to checklists often in the last few years. I  have used them effectively in the past. Particularly with repetitive tasks.

Why would you want to figure out a set of steps again if you have done once before? Unnecessary effort, and you might miss a step.

The checklist also aids learning. Remembering what worked before and what didn’t. It helps make sure the same mistakes don’t happen again.

Checklists come in many different guises, from a task list, to standard operating procedures, to run books, and sometimes as far as a project plan.

More to come on this book .

Favourite Highlight from the week?

“Four generations after the first aviation checklists went into use, a lesson is emerging: checklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realized. They provide a kind of cognitive net. They catch mental flaws inherent in all of us—flaws of memory and attention and thoroughness. And because they do, they raise wide, unexpected possibilities.”


Podcasts I Heard

Hidden Brain on NPR: How To Build A Better Job

“Why do you work? Are you just in it for the money or do you do it for a greater purpose? Popular wisdom says your answer depends on what your job is. But psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski at Yale University finds it may have more to do with how we think about our work. Across groups such as secretaries and custodians and computer programmers, Wrzesniewski finds people about equally split in whether they say they have a “job,” a “career” or a “calling.” This week on Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam talks with Wrzesniewski about how we find meaning and purpose at work.”

Continue reading “Handpicked: My Week of Learning”

What did YOU do?

It started to rain. I knew a book-store close by so headed for it to wait for the shower to pass. I visit this store fairly often and knew the shelves I wanted. On one side philosophy and psychology, and on the other business books.

One book caught my eye. The name of the book had been on my mind recently, and I had seen a short video interview with the author.

I picked the book up and opened on a random chapter.

I started to read.

I kept reading.

I bought the book.

Continue reading “What did YOU do?”

What Are You Leaving Out?

It feels like I am back at school. I have drawn a few set diagrams (Venn diagrams) recently. So perhaps not surprising the following images came to me while listening to the new podcast from NPR called Code Switch.

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These diagrams are so simple and powerful. As soon as I see them I start asking questions about why the lines were drawn where they were. The boundaries fascinate me.

But why this particular diagram? Why did this one pop into my head? Continue reading “What Are You Leaving Out?”

Handpicked: My Week of Learning

This is the start of a weekly post on what I have been reading or listening to over the week.


Book am I reading?

Secrets of Consulting by Gerald Weinberg.

Favourite Highlight?

“In the end, the most important part of overcoming resistance is to prevent it from becoming frozen in place. That’s why I must always avoid “resisting the resistance.” I may win the argument, but I may also place the clients in a position where changing their mind is a form of “losing.” The risk of losing face in the here-and-now always seems bigger than the risk of losing a million dollars in the there-and-then.”

There is little to gain by ‘scoring points’. The aim should be to keep dialogue open if you are going to be effective. If you experience resistance, acknowledge it, listen. If you push too hard you may make it too hard for change to happen.


Podcasts I Listened To

I listen to podcasts on the way into work, when I walk at lunch, on the way home, when I cook, basically when ever I can. Here is a selection of the episodes I listened to that are worth mentioning. Continue reading “Handpicked: My Week of Learning”

Can You Learn from Your Own and Others Resistance?

What do you do when you feel offended by a comment or resist a point of view?

Have you ever paid attention to that feeling and asked why?

In her interview with  Tim Ferriss  on his podcast, Tim asks Whitney Cummings  what question she would ask of his audience.

Her first response is ‘Watch Comedy. It’s good for you.” (2:29:26)

Tim then says he will dig on that for a second. He asks what some new to comedy should pay attention to or asks themselves if they want to see another layer.

Whitney says “Look at what Offends you.” (2:30:00)

She continues “If something offends you; Watch Richard Pryor, watch Daniel Tosh, watch the most incendiary comedians, Bill Burr, maybe Louis CK …”.

“If something offends you, look inward. That’s a sign that there is something there. What offends someone says a lot about them.”

That question has stuck with me ever since.

Pay attention to that feeling of offence. That feeling is telling you something about yourself. About your own views and values. 

Similarly, someone else’s offence, or resistance, tells you something about them and what they value.

Continue reading “Can You Learn from Your Own and Others Resistance?”

What Can You Learn From Watching a Five Year Old Play Soccer?

My son started school this year. As he turned five our weeks started to fill with sporting commitments. In particular for us hockey (the field/grass/artificial turf kind) and soccer.

Every time I watch one of his games of either hockey or soccer I am reminded of this post Business Strategy and Kindergarten Soccer by Nick Malik

On the Inside Architecture blog for Microsoft, Nick writes the following back in July 2011:

It is interesting to watch very young kids play soccer, because the instructions are so simple: kick the ball into the goal.  With instructions like that, what do you get?  Bumblebees, of course.

Continue reading “What Can You Learn From Watching a Five Year Old Play Soccer?”

The Exam Question: Home Ownership

He likes to ask his teams ‘What is the Exam Question?‘.

Muktesh Ghatak was my Project Manager on a Finance Transformation project in 2008 while I was at IBM Global Business Services.

When team meetings and other conversations would get mired in confusion and ambiguity he would ask us ‘What is the Exam Question?’.

It was a great question. Great at pulling you back from the detail. Great for re-orientating your perspective. Great at reminding you to get back to why you are here in the first place.

When you are stuck in the middle of it. When it is too confusing and ambiguous, remind yourself what you are trying to do.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Why are you here?

Where are you trying to get to?

That is the exam question. A question specific to the current situation and context.

Now keep that in mind and as I dive headfirst into a political and generational minefield.

Continue reading “The Exam Question: Home Ownership”

Show Early, Show Often

I once worked on a team supporting an internally developed and maintained application.

This application was the beating heart of the organisation. Every organisation has one of these.

You know the application at your company, the one that can’t be bought off the shelf? The one that reflects your company’s business model?

That one.

Continue reading “Show Early, Show Often”

Which one is it?

This used to be a restaurant I walk past on my way to and from the train station each morning.

At first I was excited by a new store … hopefully a restaurant with a great breakfast …

… Then I was confused …

Pay attention to what you are saying and look out for conflicting messages.