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How to Create a Checklist

How do the most successful VCs make investment decisions? Checklists.
COLLABORATORS Atul Gawande, Geoffrey Smart
How to build effective checklists for decisionmaking

"The Checklist Manifesto"

View a larger version of the checklist above.

Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto has been a best-seller for months. In it, the author, who is also a medical doctor, discusses the value of creating checklists for a huge range of tasks, from disaster response to investment banking. In a recent Harvard Business Review podcast, he turned his attention to the business world, citing a study of venture capitalists by psychologist Geoffrey Smart, who looked at how the VCs made important investment decisions.

The bottom line: “The ones who took a more checklist-driven approach had a far higher success rate [in partnering successfully],” Gawande says. They also had a higher return on their investment. And yet “only 13 percent,” Gawande says, “took the…checklist-driven approach.”

One way to get comfortable with the process of making checklists is to…use a checklist. The one we show here comes straight from Gawande’s book.



Notice that the “Checklist for Checklists” is so specific that it even advises you to use a sans serif typeface. How does that translate to commonplace word processing? Simply choose one of these fonts: Arial, Chicago, Helvetica, Tahoma, or Verdana.

Avoid Garamond, Palatino, Times, and Times New Roman; the tips of letters in these fonts sometimes contain small projections, or serifs, which can make them slightly more difficult to decipher in a pinch. Now, that’s what we call thorough.

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