Advice to Managers – Stop monkeying with the machine
Here’s what I tell most new managers – let’s call it proactive guidance.
If a crew is running well and morale is good, then stay out of their way.
If you want to do something (if you feel like you aren’t contributing enough), then figure out how to make your crew’s life easier. Start by listening and watching.
Get them better tools / resources OR clear roadblocks for them. Often young leaders think they always need to be involved – they tend to micromanage to either assert their position or to feel useful. This is a mistake.
Sometimes crews might actually need training, but more often it is just a nudge that’s needed. Unless the wheels are falling off the cart, training may not be the move. Just keep them pointed in the right direction.
The skipper lets the crew do their job and stays out of their way so they can do it well. She watches the crew to see where they need help and continues scan the horizon making sure they are headed the right way.
Sometimes people think there is some sort of secret schedule, technology, pipeline, budget – whatever specific target you want to imagine is the root cause why a show works.
“If I could just get my hands on that budget…” Well, if you did, you would probably find a few items that were a small surprise, but it will just be a normal budget. No secrets – it’s not unlocking the mystery of production.
It’s the equivalent to saying, “If I just had Tiger Woods’ clubs, I would be much better at golf.” That’s an obviously ridiculous statement.
People visiting the studio love taking pictures of our schedule on the show, finding out how many crew we have, or writing down how many weeks we spend doing something – as if having that equation would be the secret. It’s not a secret. It’s just a solution to a problem.
Each production has problems – to critically evaluate each project and apply the correct amount of time and resources and pair the plan with the right talent, that yields the CHANCE to make something great.
Being skilled at analyzing and predicting allows you to be able to make these models tighter and more accurate. It also helps if you have put in some mileage so you have the needed references.
Applying the wrong model to a project aimlessly because it was proven to have worked somewhere else will typically yield poor results. If you happen to see this slowly becoming apparent mid production, it might be time for a pivot (if anyone will listen).
Get input from the right people when building out new projects, but don’t worry about the ‘secrets.’ If anything, it might lead you into a false sense of security.