Checklist Manifesto

The Art of the Checklist


I have a secret...I am a checklist junkie.

Checklists have an amazing amount of stimulus control over my everyday life.  After reading Atul Gawande's book The Checklist Manifesto * it is clear they should for everyone.  As a surgeon, Gawande provides stories of how checklists keep surgeons organized, save lives while patients are in triage, and provides many additional examples of how checklists have saved and changed lives.

Though I am not a surgeon, and would not dream of comparing my mundane everyday life to the life in the ER, there are parallels in how I use the checklist to "triage" the tasks I need to complete everyday.

The field of Behavior Analysis also has shown the benefit of the use of checklists to shape behavior.  We have demonstrated their success in classrooms to set the occasion for responding to problem behavior in children in general education classrooms (Witt, Noell, Lafleur, & Mortenson, 1997), as well as to increase the rate of safety behavior in the workplace, especially when used to support managers in providing feedback to workers (Cooper, 2006). 

 As business leaders, parents, and teachers, we need tools to organize our daily lives and to serve as reminders of the  tasks needed to complete everyday--to help us triage, but also to help us set the occasion for the behavior of those we lead and teach.  When we get overwhelmed with the tasks we need to complete, or the people around us need support, we can use checklists to change our behavior, and the behavior of those around us.

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Witt, J.,  Noell, G.,  Lafleur, L. & Mortenson, B. (1997). Teacher Use Of Interventions In General Education Settings: Measurement And Analysis Of The Independent Variable. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 30(4), 693-696

Cooper, M.D. (2006). Exploratory Analyses of the Effects of Managerial Support and Feedback Consequences on Behavioral Safety Maintenance. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management 26(3), 1-41