Tuesday, July 14, 2009

#0015 Priority One

changed priorities

Today I thought I'd start a series on PIPELINES.  But, something else came up, and it got me to thinking about priorities.

As a CG supervisor, VFX supervisor, producer, Computer Graphics artist or compositing wizard; in any job one has to balance priorities.

All the planning in the world and good intentions can be wonderful, but at some point it comes down to what gets done today, and in what order.  As an artist using any tool, be it Maya, Softimage, Houdini, Nuke, Shake, After Effects or whatever, you may map out your tactics for getting your assigned task done.  Along comes the supervisor with a bombshell: you need to drop what you're doing on task A and get task C (which you thought you could defer working on) out as quickly as possible.  Likewise, as a supervisor, your plan for the day may be to get certain shots moved forward a step closer to completion, others started, and still others wrapped up and archived.  But along comes your boss, or some crisis or some other unexpected interruption --and there goes your priority list for the day.

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 Every project, whether it is completing 50 shots before the staff leaves on holiday or landing a man on the moon, involves establishing a plan of action; designing processes (aka workflows aka pipelines) to get the job done; and effort to work the plan and use the process.  At every stage there are priorities.  While these may seem like they should be cast in lead and baked in stone, priorities can be fluid and changing because human beings, serendipity and tide and wind are often contrary to our expectations.

The inevitability of this is so powerful that among the personal skills we all must develop, and supervisors to a higher degree, is the ability to be flexible and adapt to changing situations.  The less flexible and adapting to the environment a supervisor is, the more difficult it will be to get jobs done.

All this may seem fairly obvious truth, but I tell you some people in the workplace are rigid and inflexible.  Things must be done in a certain way and in a certain order.  In a boss, this may be annoying or aggravating, but the boss is the boss for a reason, and making these decisions goes with the job description.  But in a co-worker of equal authority, this becomes the source of friction and can lead to personal disagreements if neither side is comfortable with being flexible.  Even worse, in a subordinate, this can be disastrous, because the rigidity of a worker can make your job as a supervisor so difficult you have no choice but to move the subordinate on to a new employer.

A discussion about PIPELINES, which is something near to my heart and vital to our work, would best take place after looking at how we deal with issues about setting and adapting our priorities.  As a supervisor, you need to look at how you communicate your priorities and help your subordinates understand them and set their priorities to your company's best advantage.  As an employee and colleague, you need to look at how well you understand your bosses' priorities and how flexible and adaptable you can be.

This, it seems clear to me, is one of the top priorities in being a Computer Graphics Supervisor.


Isa A. Alsup said...
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