Adventures in Podcasting & New Technologies; Starting the Year with Failures (Disasters or Learning Opportunities?)


face-palm-squareI jinxed myself by starting the year by blogging about silly errors.

Today was my first attempt at doing a live broadcast via YouTube and “Google Hangouts on Air” when I interviewed my friend Paul Akers about his book Lean Health.

It helps that Paul has done podcasts with me before and he's been a great friend in the Lean community over the years. He was incredibly patient with me through some of the errors and missteps that took place in my attempts to bring his message to people.

That's me, at left, doing a “face palm,” as they call them. That's from a past mistake.

My Usual Process

I normally do my podcasts as a Skype audio call. This is, what Toyota would call, “reliable, thoroughly-tested technology that serves your people and process” in the Toyota Way philosophy. Yes, a Skype phone call might be more likely to drop than a traditional phone call, but Skype makes it easier to make a high-quality recording, compared to a conference call line and its recording feature. The extra risk and complication that a Skype call drops or gets fuzzy due to bandwidth problems is worth it. I've got that down to a pretty reliable and repeatable process.

Except for that one time I forgot to hit “record” and didn't realize it until the end. I forget which guest I did that to. I had to own up to the error. I didn't blame technology. I admitted it was my mistake… and we did the podcast a second time.

I've been pretty fanatical about using checklists for podcasts (and now for KaiNexus webinars) to prevent screw ups.

Why Did I Use This New Technology?

It would have been easy to do the podcast with Paul via Skype.

I decided to try the YouTube live broadcast for a number of reasons… not all of which were necessarily customer-focused.

Some people like seeing video of a guest (although some people don't care about that… feedback I got when I did recorded video podcasts via Skype a few years back). I gravitated back toward audio-only podcasts because they're easier for the guest and for me, as host, and they still deliver a lot of value. Video added just a marginal amount of extra value.

Paul has done a lot with video via YouTube, so I thought he'd enjoy the chance to do this (and he's tech savvy enough to give it a try). I thought it would be good for people to SEE his weight loss and fitness.

Did customers directly say they wanted a live broadcast? No. I could have done a recorded video as I'd done before via Skype. We had about 20 people watching live… it would have been a higher number if I hadn't made some errors that I'll describe in a minute. Far more people will watch the recording… so my reflection is that the value of video is not necessarily in it being broadcast LIVE (although we did get some live viewer questions).

I wanted to play with some new technology, to learn something. I enjoy technology and learning. I do these podcasts for free and for my own enjoyment… maybe it was the wrong decision, but I wanted to try this technology.

Paul and I had done some planning. I had participated last year in two live broadcasts for the Lean Startup Conference see one here). I had been a guest, but not an organizer. I read the documentation online. Frankly, the interface was a bit confusing between Hangouts, Google+, and YouTube Live. Once, I mistakenly scheduled a “Hangout,” which would have been just a private video call between me and Paul, instead of a “Hangout On Air” broadcast.

I fought through mistakes and learned.

Paul and I did a practice session on Sunday afternoon. I could blame the user interface (or I could blame a lack of planning on my part), but I made a few mistakes during the test… but figured things out and learned from those mistakes.

I added some notes into my checklist to avoid repeating problems (such as leaving the camera on me the whole time instead of letting it switch between me and Paul).

I thought I had planned and prepared. But, sometimes you don't know what you don't know until you try something. This is one theme of my eBook Practicing Lean, that if we really think about it, we were all probably pretty terrible at “implementing Lean” in our first attempts. Our mistakes might have created problems and frustrated people, but they were pretty private.

My mistakes with the broadcast… they were frustrating, but also embarrassing because they were pretty public.

What Went Wrong?

I signed in about 30 minutes early… a good practice, I suppose, to test things and make sure the broadcast was set up properly before Paul signed in.

My major mistake was hitting the “START BROADCAST” button too soon. I'm not sure why I clicked there before the scheduled start time. I use GoToWebinar a lot and you can “start” the broadcast there before you separate hit “record.” In YouTube/Hangouts, it's one and the same.

Oops! Error one.

My checklist NOW has a line that reminds me not to hit START too early. I had mistakenly thought Paul couldn't get in without me starting. That was a bad assumption based on a mistake I had made during the practice session (sharing the public viewing link with him instead of the private “call in” link).

So, I hit stop broadcast.

Oh no. That's where it all began to unravel. Apparently (confirmed by frantic web research), once you stop a YouTube broadcast, you cannot restart it. That means the link that I had shared on my blog, through social media, my newsletter, and Paul's newsletter… the link was now dead and invalid, basically.

I created a new, second broadcast. I updated my blog post. Paul sent out a new email to his list.

I was hoping to reduce confusion by deleting the first recording, the one that was really short when I mistakenly hit START. Somehow, either through user error or a tech glitch, the system allowed me to delete the current second recording, which was already active and waiting to start, instead of deleting the first.

Oops! Error two.

It was probably my screw up, but I'd propose Google shouldn't allow you to delete an active event.

I now had to send out a THIRD link to folks, including Paul's list. I was starting to get messages about the first links not working. We were now running late. I almost “scrubbed the launch” to go back to my old technology.

But, we did the recording. Here it is… I've, for now, trimmed away the “false start” that happened when we started the interview, but then Paul's internet cut out after a few minutes, so we started again.

I think we had a good discussion about the book, as it turned out.

That said, Paul's video cut out a few times. If that happened during a non-live recorded podcast, I would just edit that out. Instead, we had dead air and me promoting Paul's book to kill time until he got back in.

I'm going to do an edited audio version of this in my regular podcast series.

Final Reflections – Disaster or Learning Opportunity?

Again, the “value add” of being truly live on air probably wasn't that great. The risk and problems of being live (the video cutting out) caused more problems than the technology was worth.

I joked about never doing a podcast like this again. That might be giving up… or a good “Study and Adjust” reflection of a PDSA cycle.

If one makes a big mistake in our first attempt at Lean, should we give up and say “Lean is too hard” or “Lean didn't work for me?” Or, should we move forward, knowing that we learned something and are unlikely to repeat the same mistakes?

I appreciate George Trachilis for posting a comment:

Look guys, an experiment is just that – we don't always know what is going to happen.  Good work on this!   Keep on experimenting.  

Nobody was hurt. Paul barely even seemed annoyed with me (see what a great guy he is). I kept pretty calm and didn't panic too much. Some of my customers… the blog readers (and Paul's fans) were inconvenienced or annoyed.

For that, I apologize. But, I learned a lot…

What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Also, it’s a fine line between reflection and beating oneself up.

    It’s also a fine line between trying to add value in a new way and just screwing around with technology.

  2. Mark,

    I feel your pain and thought, in the end, it was a good webinar. I am also a visual learner and like seeing the person talking. We are going to undertake some webinars with our team this year, so I may be calling for your checklists.

    My only comment about your video is that it might be a bit better if you raised your laptop up about 10 inches off the table, more like Paul’s angle. It’s a minor thing, but it shows more respect for the audience. I also liked the publishing discussion. I have done super fast books in 3 months, but for me, I like the back and forth that makes the book better. Looking forward to the new edition of your book.

    • Thanks, Steve.

      Yes, I normally prop up my laptop so the camera is at eye level. I was scrambling during that last half hour and ran out of time to go get that stand.

      I’ve heard it said that putting the camera at eye level helps avoid unflattering angles from below your chin (which make a person look heavier, I guess).

      I’ve never heard an argument about it being more “respectful” do to that… what do you mean?

      I agree that collaboration and iterations make a product better. The traditional publisher has very few cycles like that… again, with the batch size being “book.” It’s frustrating and it doesn’t have to be that way…

  3. A nice comment from LinkedIn…

    Karsten Speckmann wrote:

    Failure..? You took action to deliver value; You encounter obstacles; You take action again; You deliver the value, regardless – and add even more value by sharing the lesson. No fear of “looking bad” as You ensure others can learn from this procedural mishap, for Continuous Improvement..! You walk the talk of the Lean Leader, Mark! Thank you.


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