Study Hall

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Playing To Win: Checking Our Strategies For Showtime 

Objectively, if you scored your overall performance during your most recent production, how well did you do?

One of the very few “non-productive” activities I enjoy is a good strategy game.

I say non-productive only in the sense that it’s not earning income or accomplishing something directly tangible, but these games aren’t entirely useless. They’re mind-challenging exercises that can be applied to our work in professional audio production.

They can help our planning and execution skills. Ineffective strategies demonstrate shortcomings in the ability to plan and anticipate movements. Failure to win can prompt us to reexamine our processes and techniques to see what was missed.

Your last gig probably offers the same opportunity.

Objectively, if you scored your overall performance during the most recent production, how well did you do? How many decisions helped things move along better than previous attempts? What could you have done differently to conquer the challenges that had a negative impact? What were the roadblocks and obstacles that slowed you down? Thinking along these lines can greatly improve your performance – and your income.

My early years in this business were inundated with star-struck techs who considered a certain large theme park operation to be the pinnacle of production excellence. Although their reasoning was fair enough, at the time I was a bit dismissive: “Sure, anyone pulling off the same gig eight times a day runs out of excuses pretty quick.” But how many similar gigs do we do regularly without significant improvement?

Folks who manage to find an excuse for the same problems over and over aren’t thinking clearly. They’re missing a significant opportunity to do what they do with greater efficiency and effectiveness.

It starts with the nuts and bolts, the little things.

Find one aspect that can be fixed or improved to streamline your movements. Time is money in production. Use it wisely. Break it down into each stage of deployment to see where and how efficiency can be improved.

How fast can you pull a system and pack a truck? How many trips back to the shop does it take before the gig happens? Did you fuel the truck after the last show or is there time to do it on the way? If there’s not even a systematic procedure to the relatively straightforward matter of getting gear where it needs to be, there’s likely to be significant inefficiency throughout the entire process from beginning to end.

What factors continue to cause aggravation at every system deployment? Which road case makes you cringe at the thought of touching it? One busted caster wheel can slow down every load-in and load-out. Once is enough.

Time management and maintenance are two critical areas to study closely. Even a well-oiled machine needs regular inspection and repair. Don’t wait – actively look for the weak links.

If you’re using software or an app that isn’t really effective, rethink how you’re using it or switch to something better. Calendars and schedules that are consistently delivered into the hands of the right people is another big one.

Don’t overlook client interaction in this state of affairs.

Think back to the most recent point of contention; don’t just brush it off as “everyone’s an idiot.” That’s not going to fix anything. Try to find one aspect on your side of the fence that could have been done differently to improve things.

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The bottom line is that we’ll never run with the big dogs if we’re content with excuses and mediocrity. We can’t expect to win if we don’t even understand the rules of the game. For the next show to be truly better, we can’t rely on luck.

Proper planning prevents poor performance. Of course plans change constantly, but the constant search for solutions rather than excuses is powerful.

Check your strategy, let the games begin, and play to win.

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