The Book Club: The Checklist Manifesto

Atul Gawande: “The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right” was recommended to me by @displaylink (over the years, numerous times ;)):

I’ve just started to read it and really enjoy - Gawande is a surgeon, and describes the complex challenges modern medicine faces and how checklists can help us tackle this complexity. I find it well written, really interesting and very relateble - checklists are a useful tool in software development, testing and actually in general - worth knowing about.

Has anybody else read it? What are your experiences and did it influence how you use checklists?


I have not read The Checklist Manifesto, but I’ve heard about Gawande’s writing and his work with checklists from my wife, who is a medical writer. From the title I’m guessing he writes about agile software development as well as medical applications. Is that right?
I worked on a project using checklists during maintenance windows for a group of web services. This was during the late nineties at a large company trying to become more responsive and competitive. The services were to be available 24x7, except during brief late-night maintenance windows, weekly if needed. Yes, availability statistics were measured and reported.
Development had to be incremental, and the installations and maintenance were done jointly by the development and operations organizations. Details were planned and practiced. Checklists were an important part because the work was complex and done with a time limit, by people who would usually be sleeping then.


I read this book last year and it’s had a big impact for me and we use have been rolling out checklists all over the business, from Test Session debrief checklists to checklists for the Marketing team on publishing blog posts. I have even created a checklist for onboarding new team members

I completely agree with you on the quality writing by the author, furthermore, it’s backed by both anecdotes and more crucially, evidence.

With all my checklists I add this little statement “This checklist is a guide only and represents the minimum standard of work expected. Please add and adapt it”. I was a little concerned that people could switch off using them or don’t think about there context and how it applies.


Hi George,
I’ve not yet read all of the book, but I believe he actually doesn’t cover software development, although he looks into some areas apart from medical context e.g. he has a look as checklists used on construction sites, restaurant kitchens or in aviation.
Which I think quite brings his point across that is a general useful thing, e.g. also applicable in software developement :slight_smile:
Sounds like your checklists were quite a safety net!


Hi Alan,

that sounds great!
Would you be happy to share an example? E.g. your test session debrief checklist?
Many thanks,


Based on reading Being Mortal, I’d agree that Atul Gawande is a good author with important things to say.
I’ve been a fan of checklists for many years. They’re not a substitute for documentation and training. But they certainly can help avoid errors and omissions in complex work.
I’d like to hear more examples from development, test and operations too.


Challenge accepted! @jamesthomas has created a Checklist for Checklists after reading the book:


I read this book several years ago when I was working in the patient experience/CQI arena. At the time, I was already an avid checklist user for a variety of things both personally and professionally.

I was always amazed at how reluctant health care professionals were (and many still are ) to adopt common sense and relatively easy to implement process changes that help improve patient safety

In terms of testing, I use checklists to make sure that I’ve covered all the important things pre and post deployment to production. As I’m testing I keep checklists (more like a mind map really) to keep myself organized, report back to my developer and note things that I want to take a closer look at.

As a mobile tester, I keep checklists to ensure I test quirky OS’s/devices as all are not created equal. I especially need to test the quirks, so having a checklist of each quirk is helpful for regression checks.

Overall I’m a huge fan of Dr. Gawande, his writing is provocative, articulate, relatable and inspiring.


I read this book a few years back and loved it.

I don’t do much testing these days, but at MoT we’re a bit addicted to Trello and have been developing check lists for many of our processes.

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