To produce something truly special, I find you have to embrace creativity and allow freedom to experiment, encouraging individuals to deliver even better than expected and to break boundaries. That comes with a built-in risk factor.
Not every risk pays off. Not every part of a production goes smoothly.
There are times when you have to recognise that some things are just not working. You have to recognise it fast and tackle it, because the truth is things almost never get better on their own. Problems within a system will result in a downward spiral that can cripple a production. Before long, you’re just firefighting.
In this situation, blind optimism is your enemy. The only way to prevent this is to accept you have a problem and actively deal with it. For me, there are three main steps to take as you build a new strategy…
1 – Stop
You will not fix things while scrambling for the next deadline. You are going to need time to evaluate, to repair and reboot to get things going properly. So stop. Create a space in the schedule. It may delay things now but it will pay off in the long run and may indeed be the only way of delivering excellence in the end.
2 – Look
Evaluate your entire process. Not just the individual problem, because there may be many more factors than are initially apparent. Look at each step and recognise what works, what could be improved and what is plain broken. Look especially for those areas eating up more time than they should – on any production, time is incredibly valuable. Make sure you know where time is being improperly spent.
3 – Listen
Listen to your team, listen to advice. Most of all, listen to yourself – your gut. If you find yourself unhappy or even just vaguely unsettled with something (or indeed someone) you have seen in your evaluation, listen to that. Those are the things you need to change. And as you build your strategy, if you find yourself uncomfortable with any part of the new plan, listen to that too.
Seeing it written down, it is clear that it is not unlike crossing a road – stop, look and listen. And like crossing a road, all this is to stop you running ahead and getting crushed by oncoming traffic, in the form of your own deadlines. Once you have done all this, you have one last step. The most important. You have to cross. All the plans in the world won’t matter unless you take action and implement them fully. Commit and cross that road. Then continue on your journey towards excellence.
Problems almost never take care of themselves. Deal with them directly.
On Cosmo, the show has managed to exceed all our early predictions. It is easily the best show we have ever produced. But the rise in quality brought greater challenges and it has not always been an easy production. Some time ago, we had to go through these very steps and now we continue on our journey with new systems and strategies, delivering the excellence we expect with far fewer headaches.