Regular followers of my blog know that I've been creating audio podcasts since 2006. Later today (at 3 PM), I am publishing #86 in the series, an interview with David Sundahl, PhD of Rule 4 Consulting. I've made mistakes every few podcasts, including:
- Linking to the wrong file name on the post page for the podcast (leading to a 404 error)
- Forgetting to update the main podcast page when a new episode is out
- Loading the wrong streaming player onto the podcast page (leading to Episode 51 playing on the page for #52
- Forgetting to update the guest info (leading to guest #58 being listed in podcast #59's iTunes info)
I'm not a dummy (I'd like to think) and I have enough experience with Podcasting that I know the steps involved and I've certainly published most of them without error. That said, I'm a huge fan of the Checklist approach, as written about by Dr. Atul Gawande in The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right and Dr. Peter Pronovost in Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals: How One Doctor's Checklist Can Help Us Change Health Care from the Inside Out.
Checklists can have a huge impact in healthcare – reducing errors and infection rates, improving outcomes for patients and reducing costs for the healthcare organizations.
I'd be a major hypocrite if I didn't use checklists myself… so I do use checklists. When I've participated in some live internet video broadcasting for our Healthcare Value Leaders Network members (and our public event), my colleagues and I have used checklists to make sure we didn't forget key steps.
Because of my podcast errors (none of which were anywhere close to life-threatening), I started using a checklist to help my podcast prep. A picture of that checklist is below:
Some of the key points for the checklist that, I think, are consistent with the Gawande approach (and I haven't yet read Pronovost's book, but I assume the recommendations are similar).
- I do the work, I created the checklist. I didn't take a shortcut to find a checklist on the internet that someone else made (some hospitals purchase an O.R. checklist, which might stifle their ability to create one of their own).
- This isn't a detailed step-by-step procedure. There are probably 100 steps in making a podcast, but the checklist has the things that are easily forgotten or missed.
- It's a single page.
- The steps aren't necessarily a precise sequence. Some steps can be done in parallel or in a different order — I don't spell this out. This is a checklist for my benefit, not a procedure for someone else.
- The checklist is tested and revised over time, as needed.
- It's not a ton of paperwork.
So let me walk you through how I used the checklist in making Podcast #86.
In the picture below, you'll see I checked off steps as I completed them (not necessarily right after each task was done). You'll see that I wrote in something new — a new error I hadn't made before.
You can see I wrote in a new item, “Confirm last episode #.” I made a new error that I hadn't made in any previous episode. I recorded the intro for the Sundahl podcast and said, “Welcome to Episode #85 of the Lean Blog Podcast.”
D'oh! Episode #85 was the last one, my conversation with David Meier. The fact that I said the wrong episode number and I didn't catch it right away, that led to rework. I had not published the episode to the public yet, so I had “containment” of the defective podcast episode. I had to go back into Audacity to delete and rerecord the intro. I had to re-publish the file as an MP3. I had less rework than if I had caught the error later.
So, with a new failure mode, I changed my checklist. I am adding a new check and I'll edit my document for use next time.
I continued with the checklist… and it helped me catch two more errors, just as Dr. Gawande reports that checklists catch an error in his operating room on a weekly basis.
As you can see in the photo below, I made notes that I had two different typos in the two file links, one for the MP3 file (I spelled “Sundahl” wrong) and one for the AAC file. I enter these file names by typing, so it's error prone. I use a standardized naming convention, but sometimes I mess up. Maybe there's a way I can copy and paste that file name in the future.
I still have two items unchecked until after I publish the podcast episode. You can see that part of my reflection was a note to update the Checklist when I am done.
There, episode complete. The checklist was incredibly helpful. Unlike the lawyer who wrote the WSJ review that ripped Gawande's book, I don't find that the checklist hampers my creativity one iota. The creativity comes in finding guests and trying to plan and craft a good discussion. I don't have a checklist that tells me how to be a good interviewer during the recording (I don't think I'm the best interviewer and I stumble over attempts at asking improvised questions, but I try to improve).
I love my checklist. You couldn't take it away from me. It catches errors and improves quality (and saves rework time). I'd call that a success and a helpful tool.