Category Archives: Books

The Checklist Manifesto

checklist

‘The Checklist Manifesto: How to get things right’ is an excellent book by a practicing surgeon about his quest to get things right. The book outlines his painstaking efforts to pick up the best practices from various industries and champion the cause of checklists. He presents several interesting examples from aerospace, financial and other sectors where experience and expertise are complemented by procedures and checklists.

He also makes a solid case for heroism out of discipline instead of autocratic individual actions, as we tend to glorify the word. How can we learn from failures and how can we repeat success…these two questions form the main theme of the book, while making a case for individual talent and expertise, getting benefited by checklists.

The book also presents quite a few pointers on how simple and effective a checklist should be, around pause points. Must read for all those who believe in the words of process, procedures and checklists…and need a quick refresher on their importance.

While the book itself itself is not a step by step guide in creating checklists and implementing them, it provides several pointers in this direction.  It also showcases the true intent behind the checklists, which is improving communication across the teams and make the individual voice count.

Excerpts

“They trust instead in one set of checklists to make sure that simple steps are not missed or skipped and in another set to make sure that everyone talks through and resolves all the hard and unexpected problems”

“The philosophy is that you push the power of decision making out to the periphery and away from the center. You give people the room to adapt, based on their experience and expertise. All you ask is that they talk to one another and take responsibility. That is what works.”

“Thinking of these essential requirements (of checklists)–simple, measurable, transmissible…”

“When you’re making a checklist, Boorman explained, you have a number of key decisions. You must define a clear pause point at which the checklist is supposed to be used (unless the moment is obvious, like when a warning light goes on or an engine fails). You must decide whether you want a DO-CONFIRM checklist or a READ-DO checklist.”

“It somehow feels beneath us to use a checklist, an embarrassment. It runs counter to deeply held beliefs about how the truly great among us–those we aspire to be–handle situations of high stakes and complexity. The truly great are daring. They improvise. They do not have protocols and checklists…. May be our idea of heroism needs updating.”

“Just ticking boxes is not the ultimate goal here. Embracing a culture of teamwork and discipline is.”

“Discipline is hard–harder than trustworthiness and skill and perhaps even than selflessness. We are by nature flawed and inconstant creatures. We can’t even keep from snacking between meals. We are not built for discipline. We are built for novelty and excitement, not for careful attention to detail. Discipline is something we have to work at.”

Related links

Pictorial depiction of the book

 

Shameless Exploitation In Pursuit of the Common Good

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‘Shameless Exploitation…’ is an interesting book about the madcap business adventures of two friends who incidentally happen to be a famous movie star and an accomplished writer.  Just like their business journey the book follows  an unconventional style with the narration shifting from the points of view of the authors–Paul Newman and A.E.Hotchner– to third person.

Some excerpts

From a published letter in the book. “During dinner,  my girlfriend mentioned you were a movie star. I would be interested to know what you’ve made. If you act as well as you cook, your movies would be worth watching.”

“I wish I could recall with clarity the impulse that compelled me to help bring this camp into being. I’d be pleased if I could announce a motive of lofty purpose. I’ve been accused of compassion, of altruism, of devotion to Christian, Hebrew, and Moslem ethic, but however desperate I am to claim ownership of a high ideal, I cannot.”

“I wanted, I think, to acknowledge Luck: the chance of it, the benevolence of it in my life, and the brutality of it in the lives of others: made especially savage for children because they may not be allowed the good fortune of a lifetime to correct it.”

“I really cannot lay claim to some terribly philanthropic instinct in my base nature,” PL says. “It was just a combination of circumstances. If the business had stayed small and had just been in three local stores, it would never have gone charitable. It was just an abhorrence of of combining tackiness, exploitation, and putting money in my pocket, which was excessive in every direction.”

“Now that I’m heavily into peddling food, I begin to understand the romance of the business–the allure of being the biggest fish in the pond and the juice you get from beating out your competitors.”

“And the best part: we always thought the people on the other end of the checks would be the beneficiaries. But as with the exploitation–there’s a kind of circularity here as well. A reciprocal trade agreement, so to speak.”

“Publicize the generosity in order to become more generous. That’s been the most difficult part of it. But overcoming the dichotomy has provided with the means of bringing thousands of unlucky children to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps.”

“Without realizing it, by being both stupid and stubborn we stuck to our guns, insisted on all-natural, no preservatives products, and in some small way caused an industry to change its ways. A business we ran by the seat of our pants, without plans or budgets, is now a significant player in the world’s markets. A camp be built in Connecticut for sick children has not been duplicate for afflicted kids all over the world. A vision realized. Like the grain of sand in the oyster, it just grew, and for us, these camps are indeed the pearls. So, whatever it is, whatever it amounts to, whatever it does or doesn’t do, we grabbed it by the shirttail and hung on. Sure makes a believer out of you.”

Related links:

Newman’s Own Foundation

Newman’s Own Products

Newman Time Line

Newman’s own USD 500MN mark

 

‘The Everything Store’

My first shopping experience at Amazon.com was in the year 1998 when I bought a book (invoice copy below). Infact, I think it was my first online purchase (?) even though I had helped a colleague of mine to put together a small e-commerce site :-) After 15 years, and with billions of sales and operations in many countries, Amazon is a fore runner in e-commerce in many countries, with a recent foray in India as well.

“The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” chronicles the journey of Amazon.com and its founder. It does a good job of balancing both.  Right from the point where Amazon.com was (supposed to be) just an online book store to the gargantuan ‘ Everything Store” that is today, Brad Stone, the author does a commendable job in providing us some valuable ‘behind-the-scenes’ footage

My favorite chapters from the book

  • Chapter 4 (Milliravi), where Jeff Bezos has to take on the Wall Street and its (Indian) detractor.
  • Chapter 7 (A technology company, Not a retailer), where he guides the company’s seemingly impossible transformation into a serious technology player.
  • Chapter 8 (Fiona), where a combination of luck and hard work results in the successful ‘Kindle’
  • Chapter 10 (Expedient Convictions), which provides an excellent example of the founder struggling to re-imagine his company’s popular perception.
  • Appendix (Jeff’s reading list)
My favorite quotes from the book
  • “Communication is a sign of dysfunction. It means people aren’t working together in a close, organic way”
  • “He (Jeff Bezos) had this unbelievable ability to be incredibly intelligent about things he had nothing to do with, and he was totally ruthless about communicating it”
  • “Didn’t want to repeate Steve Job’s mistake”
  • “We are the unstore”

The book is a must read for all the online enthusiasts and professionals alike. Any resemblance of to ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘Rosebud’ is purely coincidental :)

Btw, here’s a must-read excerpt from the book on Livemint