We all know that it’s smart to continually examine and improve our process. After all, there’s always room for more growth, increased efficiency, and better use of resources - especially in the Arts where budgets are tight to begin with. We know that doing these things can lead to reduced costs and fewer hours worked.
So why don’t we do it more? Or if we do try, why do we often give up before meaningful change has occurred?
Because it is really intimidating to get started. It feels like it takes more time than we have (because let’s face it we already pull magic out of thin air every day). But the reality is we often emotionally sabotage ourselves in this process before we even begin.
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
“Every process is too connected with other departments. There are too many conflicting priorities. I can’t even begin wrapping my head around all the implications of this change! And there is no way [Enter Name of Colleague or Boss] will be on board with this.”
At Tinc, we’ve run into these same challenges time and time again. The biggest lesson we learned was to not tackle all our problems at once.
Envisioning the complete overhaul of your organization is like trying to visualize the shifting of continents. Even if you could move them, it would take more time and effort than you have. After all, you’re already strapped just trying to get through the day.
While that may feel like a show-stopper, the reality is that tiny improvements WILL move the rock. Figuring out a place to start is critical, so let’s discuss some ways to get started.
1. Start with your organization’s mission
All of your processes should contribute towards the reason you're doing this in the first place. Ask yourself, what are the 3 most important tenets of your organization? For example, at Tinc, these are:
- A business-first approach to Production Management
- A recognition that preparation makes all the difference on-site
- The health and well-being of our employees
Each time we look our process, we ask ourselves if we’re contributing towards one or more tenets.
2. Start small and easy
Start simple and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. Begin with a single process, even just one task on a single show - something manageable enough so you to have the brain space to tackle it.
We often want to start with the area that’s causing us the most stress. Chances are that process definitely needs work, but starting with the big problem first might not actually pay off. Get some quick wins first. It will build confidence and increase buy-in across the organization for future improvements.
3. Give yourself some structure
Start by analyzing and documenting your current workflow. Don’t worry about changing anything or identifying problems. It is common for us to get sidetracked by things we don’t like or exceptions to the norm. Staying focused on the current state gives a baseline of understanding from which to start.
- What are the steps in this process? What happens first, second?
- Who is involved with each step?
- What is the communication pathway?
- What is the result of each step?
4. Ask the right questions
Once you’ve outlined the current process, start questioning everything about it. Your organization is probably making a lot of assumptions about how things HAVE to be done. Try to identify these assumptions and then rigorously question them.
- What is the end goal of each step (desired outcome)?
- What is the business need behind doing each step in the first place?
- Is this task in the efforts of our mission? If not, how could you align it better?
- How do other team members use this information? (Perspective shift to the viewpoint of others)
- How much time is spent on each step? (Be Honest)
- What things are the same on every production?
- Where could building templates help us?
- Can a checklist make sure we don’t miss any steps?
- Where are we being redundant?
- Where are we making the most mistakes?
- Are there new tools out there that might help us do this easier?
5. Implement one thing at a time
Once a possible solution is identified, we tend to want to implement all the changes NOW. It is better to make one really good change, than to make 10 partially realized changes. Measuring the success of a change is also harder to do if you have made many tiny adjustments. How do you know that the results you see are from this specific change?
6. Choose wisely who to work with
Obviously you can’t do this alone, but that doesn’t mean you have to involve everyone from the start. If you have 10 shows and you’re going to implement a new process on one of them, make sure the people on that show will be open to the challenge. Explain why you want to try something new. Admit that it might feel a bit odd.
It’s never easy to make organization-level changes. Particularly in a budget-strapped industry where we spend the majority of our time focused on relatively short-term goals like getting a show off the ground.
You will not be able to change your entire organization at once, but admitting it’s possible is your first step. And who knows, spearheading a small change might allow your colleagues to see that change is possible and that it feels good. Really really good.