The Details

Not that anyone else needs to write/blog/tweet or whatever about the Miss Universe mistake. But I saw this article…


…and I thought two things:

  1.  This guy has more time than me to follow up on the things he thinks about;
  2. Why don’t we think more like this guy?

He raises some great points. And his article made me think of the book “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande (which is about the importance of checklists to prevent medical mistakes, written by a surgeon). What struck me was that both the article and the book are about things that don’t relate at all to “normal” business, like the entertainment team I lead now or the finance shared services team I used to lead, or the accounting firm I used to work for. But their points couldn’t be more relevant:

  •  Simple is better.
  • The more complex and important the problem, the more important it is to bring it back to basics of design.
  • It just takes a discipline to think things through to get it right, but most of us lack that particular type and level of discipline. That discipline can be assisted greatly by involving others.

Think about it, someone on the production of Miss Universe has the sole job of making sure the materials used by the host are correct, and they came up with that card to announce the winner. Too close to the situation, unable to see the problem; possibly too proud to let others provide a different opinion; others most likely not thinking it’s their job at all.

In the surgery room, the doctor has one thing to focus on, the safety of the patient, and they often go about it by feel and ingrained memory (since they do it so often); they have immense pride in their work and aren’t usually willing to listen to others; others either believe or “know” it’s not their job.

Who knew that in either case, a focus on process, simple documentation, and getting others to help as part of the process.

I am working with very creative, spontaneous and “feel”-based team members in entertainment. It’s their nature to go by gut, to assume every situation is different. You might expect that getting the to do checklists, or think about process, or simple design philosophies would be difficult. And it is. But you know what? It’s actually just human nature, and I had just as much difficulty getting accountants and finance people to do the same things.

I am still not sure exactly how to get large groups of people to do the things discussed in this article and this book – Atul notes the difficulties he and others have had getting the medical profession to adopt his simple, incredibly powerful recommendations. But let’s all try to make a little dent in each of our workplaces, who knows if someday it might save a life, or just an incredibly embarrassing mistake.



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