Can a New York Times Bestseller Help You Become a Better Proposal Professional?

Can a New York Times bestseller help you become a better proposal professional? I am not talking about the latest novel from James Patterson or Stephen King but Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (2010). Over the holidays, I read this book and found many ideas in it that we proposal professionals could use.

Gawande is a rarity – a surgeon, staff writer for The New Yorker, professor at Harvard University Medical School, a MacArthur Fellow, and the bestselling author of several books on medicine. He writes clearly and well and in The New Yorker tradition is a gripping storyteller.

The Checklist Manifesto had its origins in a project Gawande undertook when he lead the United Nations’ World Health Organization’s Safe Surgery Saves Lives program. After several years of development, he and his team produced a one-page “Surgical Safety Checklist” to decrease morbidity and mortality in patients undergoing surgery.

It appears at the back of the book along with sample one-page checklists from airlines. The “Surgical Safety Checklist” has been tested in more than twenty countries, including the United States, and has been proven to reduce surgical complications and save lives.

For Gawande, the checklist is a simple, elegant method to deal with the incredible volume and complexity of information that we routinely face. Gawande moves beyond medicine to look at other fields such as disaster recovery and the airline industry to show how simple checklists can help us deal with two problems that plague us all – ignorance and ineptitude.

Gawande believes that the checklist is an effective strategy for overcoming these problems because it takes advantage of our knowledge but at the same time makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies. The checklists Gawande discusses provide us with protection against the failures that occur when important steps are not followed.

They also provide us with verification procedures while instilling within us a discipline that leads to improved performance. To help us develop our own checklists, Gawande provides us with a one-page “checklist for checklists” that takes us from development to drafting to validation.

Gawande’s approach has obvious relevance for proposal professionals. Like airline pilots and surgeons, we must go through a step-by-step process to produce competitive proposals. Read The Checklist Manifesto and you will learn through stories and actual checklists how to develop your own.

Create your one-page proposal checklist. It will help make you and your proposal team more likely to succeed.

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