Sunday, May 23, 2010

#0036 Company Culture Effects Pipeline Design

One may rightly ask, how can the culture of a company effect pipeline design?

Cappuccino at Coffee Break in Lund, Sweden.
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By company culture, I mean the policies and traditions that the company may have.  Policies about leadership development, employee roll-over, and technology updates and investment can all effect your pipeline.  Traditional work patterns and team structures may be difficult to revise.  Methods may have become ossified into some too-holy to change permanent existence.  
If you're walking into a new job, you may have little knowledge of the company culture.  If you're a seasoned employee, you may be aware subconsciously.  Let me encourage you to be conscious about the company's culture s you design your visual effects pipeline.  If you don't know, ask someone who does.

Rollover and Layoffs
Suppose you're designing a pipeline for the next big project.  How will your company handle rollover and layoffs?  What is the cultural norm or policy?  How will this effect your available staff, team building and training?  What impact might it have on morale and productivity?  What are the ramifications for training?  Will there need to be a ramp-up to replace people?

Assume for example, that your company culture is that most of the staff is hired by the show.  The consequences of this effect both the beginning and ending of your schedule, and anything that effects the schedule does effect pipeline because your pipeline must be deigned to meet the schedule.  

As shows wind down employee distraction and absenteeism may increase as employees worry about their next project, chat amongst themselves about opportunities and concerns, and take time off for "doctors appointments", which we suspect are probably job interviews.  Especially when they suddenly want to leave a few weeks before we were planning to lay them off because they need to get started now on the next job to avoid a gap in their work calendar.  Each of these by itself can effect productivity.  Together they can cause all sorts of problems.

On the other hand, suppose the company culture is that most of the staff, while contractors, are retained from show to show.  In this case employee confidence in their income source is high and morale and productivity should be unaffected.

As shows ramp up, new employees are trickling in, getting assimilated and integrated into the crew, and are being briefed in company policies and project parameters, accommodated with work space, given additional training, and chatting up new and old friends about their work histories and industry gossip.  All of these may distract them, their co-workers and the supervisors.  Again it causes a drop in productivity.  At this point it may not impact your show, which may not yet be in full speed, but suppose another show is starting up and yours is winding down --the new show and new people can distract your show and pull personnel off the line to help with new employee integration and training.  

Thinking - Year 2 - 297/365
Image by Amarand Agasi via Flicker
These may seem like minor, routine issues.  But image you have a crew of 300 and they each loose 1 hour of productivity this week because of the distractions.  That's 300 hours, that's about eight weeks of lost labor.  And an hour is nothing --what if they each loose an hour a day the last week due to wind-down/ramp-up distractions?  Now you're losing 7.5 weeks of labor a day.  By the end of the week you're 37.5 weeks in the hole.  And two guys quit to get new jobs.  Have you designed your pipeline to accommodate this loss of manpower?

Another area of company policy that may effect you is how the company handles leadership development and hiring.  Are all supervisors promoted from the ranks?  Do you bring in new supervisors when new technologies and methods are needed, or do you re-train existing leaders who are familiar with other aspects of your basic production pipeline?  Will supervisors be spending time teaching new methods and software or will you have separate trainers for that?

[We'll look at leadership issues in greater detail in another article.  At this pointm what we're asking is, are there any company policies we need to consider regarding leadership? ]

Technology Expenditures
A third key area to look at are the company's current  attitudes about technology expenditures.  Does the company have funds to invest in new applications and equipment?  If not, how can you use existing tools to meet new needs?  If funds are available, what new technologies will work best with your other tools and what specialists or staff training are needed to use them?  What will be the ramp-up and implementation time for new technologies or the development time to make existing technologies work?   

When does the company make upgrades?  Are there any major releases ready to install or coming soon that will impact your production schedule, training needs, or alter existing production methods?   Is there a company culture of training and mentoring in new software and methods, or are employees expected to put in their own time?

If you don't know, ask someone who does
Give it some thought.  As you set out to design your pipeline for the new project, get the answers to these questions and consider what other aspects of your company's policies, procedures and culture may impact your pipeline and delivery schedule.    Adjust your pipeline needs and implementation plan accordingly.  Anticipate problems and head them off.
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