Maintain Your Focus

According to Wikipedia, “control freak” is defined as “a derogatory term for a person who attempts to dictate how everything around them is done. It can also refer to someone with a limited number of things that they want done a specific way.”

In production circles, being labeled a control freak doesn’t necessarily have a negative connotation—most production teams require someone who must maintain the control of each situation that arises and similarly exude that control to provide the direction. I contend that in the production business, those who are not control freaks at some level and have not become successful at controlling situations are the same ones who do not play consistently at the top of their game.

So in the spirit of full disclosure, I have a confession... I am a control freak. I’ll state it again—I am a control freak... but I don’t care. I spent many years on the road watching people, bands, and management operating out of control (and with no control in sight, mind you). No one at the helm, no one to take control of the situation, no one to make the hard decision or at worst, even throw out a guess as to what direction to head in. These experiences have proven to be the largest elements of learning in my professional life. All of the negatives that arose from these particular situations only proved that someone, anyone, had to take control—and over time, this control freak mindset was birthed.

So using this as a basis in managing our production crew, I attempt to make qualified decisions as to how we operate within our constraints while still serving the church in the most excellent manner available to us.

Most people might assume that the most important thing to making our team a success is how much experience each person brings to the table or how much cool gear we know how to operate, etc, but herein lies the secret... In my humble opinion, the best way to be successful in production and team management is simple: MAINTAIN YOUR FOCUS. That’s it—a very simple strategy that allows everyone on the team to work to their maximum potential. Freeing them up from the doldrums of unnecessary interruptions and concerns allows them to direct all of their focus towards the goal (that sounds like I copied it from a self-help book but that was all me).

Maintaining the focus is largely based around time management. Once a creative plan is in place, our time is largely controlled by the “literal”—logistics, timeframes, deadlines, rehearsals, schedules, load-in times, etc. Is there still time enough to “do it” or was all the time taken up on the planning and talking points and now you’re behind the 8-ball with not quite enough time to pull it off? Don’t get me wrong—spending time developing a plan, set, or design is huge but does everyone have to be a part of this? Can the team be split up with some people planning while others remain focused on the “doing”? I devote a great deal of energy in planning out the time our crew will be spending doing each event or project. The result is that I maintain the control of what is to be done now and what can be accomplished at another time.

A key element of this is making sure others outside of our team understand how we function. The production office is the hub—everything hits me first, then I can disseminate information as needed and at my discretion according to whatever else we are involved in. If the crew is getting barraged with calls or interruptions from other departments that need something done, built, repaired, or dealt with, the tendency would be for the production crew to make it happen. That’s just how they roll—they want to serve and help solve issues. BUT it doesn’t mean that their current project load has to be dropped or put on hold. Actually, our deadlines really don’t permit that very often, so we strive as a crew to make sure that the control stays in my court. I spend the time necessary to work through the unplanned projects that inevitably come up and determine when, how, and if they will come into play.

Oftentimes, it might just be that someone didn’t know who to call and I can simply assist in getting the right person or company hooked up on the phone with them. No big deal—problem solved, the other department is happy and satisfied and my team kept their eyes on the ball. I will also slide this gem in here—managing a production of any size is largely based on what contacts you have at your disposal AND how slick you are at pulling the right people in on a project. For teams built on logistics and multi-tasking environments, there has to be a point person who possesses the skill set to solve the issue at hand OR has the knowledge of who to call to get it done.

The result of all this is that even with all the services, events, rebuilds, adapting, and maintenance that the production team is responsible for week in and week out, we manage to stay on top of things. Peter Drucker says in his book, The Effective Executive, “A well-managed plant, I soon learned, is a quiet place... Similarly a well-managed organization is a ‘dull’ organization. The ‘dramatic’ things in such an organization are basic decisions that make the future, rather than heroics in mopping up yesterday.” I can’t have my team running all over the place playing “catch-up” bouncing between their must-do projects to the “emergencies” that have popped up. We’ve got big projects that require our attention first and foremost with very little time to maneuver in between. If I effectively manage the distractions, everybody can stay on task and get it done right.

Admittedly, maintaining the focus is tough—it’s something I have to constantly be mindful of... and constantly work at—but it’s worth it. The well-being of my crew demands it, the people who make up COTM deserve it, and in my opinion, it’s just the right way to do it.

Thoughts? Hit the Comments button below.

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Andrew Stone
Production Manager
Andrew Stone is the Production Manager and Audio Director at Church on the Move in Tulsa, OK. His 27 years of touring experience have brought a unique, and sometimes unorthodox, perspective to his approach towards production in the church. He has been a key part of changing the culture behind COTM's live events and he loves sharing his knowledge with other churches. He's been married for 20 years, rarely wears anything but black, and genuinely loves to rock. You can find him on Twitter (@stone_rocks), Instagram (stone.rocks), and is a blog contributor on Seeds, COTM's free resource site.
@stone_rocks