Atul Gawande: On Cowboys

It’s commencement season, and I loved this speech at Harvard Medical School given by Atul Gawande of the New Yorker. Gawande has written a number of excellent articles on heath care over the last few years. As a practicing surgeon, he has an insider’s knowledge of the heath care system – and some interesting ideas for how to improve it. He believes that doctors should act less like maverick cowboys and more like systematized pit crews:

Recently, you might be interested to know, I met an actual cowboy. He described to me how cowboys do their job today, herding thousands of cattle. They have tightly organized teams, with everyone assigned specific positions and communicating with each other constantly. They have protocols and checklists for bad weather, emergencies, the inoculations they must dispense. Even the cowboys, it turns out, function like pit crews now. It may be time for us to join them.

Anyway, you might want to keep this in mind the next time you call someone a “cowboy coder.”