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Who’s in your symphony?


Are you one of those people who hangs around to see the credits, every last one of them, at the end of a movie?

I am.

Back in a former (corporate) life, one of my responsibilities was producing TV commercials at a financial company, a national brand.  It gave me a glimpse of the sheer number of players involved in bringing a simple 30-second TV spot into our living rooms.

I soon learned that these productions involved the same ingredients as making a full-fledged movie.  The scale may be different, but the same roles are required – whether it’s a sweeping epic like The Godfather (still my pick for best business movie ever) or a 30-second commercial that sells toothpaste.

The list of players is surprisingly long, including:

  • The director, who calls the shots.
  • The producer, basically a project manager on steroids.
  • The writer, usually from the advertising agency.
  • The Director of Photography (“DOP,” head camera guy).
  • Other camera operators.
  • Gaffer (lighting head).
  • Best Boy (not what you call your dog, but the Gaffer’s assistant).
  • Key Grips (electricians and such).
  • The props master.
  • Location scouts.
  • A set designer.
  • The construction crew.
  • A casting director.
  • Wardrobe specialists.
  • Make-up artists.
  • Boom operators.
  • Caterers, providing three meals on long shooting days.
  • The ‘craft service’ (for snacks between meals).
  • Drivers, for shuttling cast and crew.
  • The post-producer.
  • Editors.
  • Graphics experts.
  • Voice-over people.
  • Sound mixers.
  • Musicians.
  • And let’s not forget the actors too.

You get the picture.

There are many more roles – these are just the ones that popped immediately to mind.  Any TV commercial has a cast and crew of at least 40 or 50.   For the typical movie, the number is easily in the hundreds, often more.

Ours is the era of specialization and collaboration.

We’ve all heard that phrase, “it takes a village.”

Those commercial shoots I witnessed years ago were the epitome of the village at work – an army of specialists coming together as a team.  Every role was necessary, each with its own zone of expertise.  None of the players were inconsequential.

We needed them all. 

And a lot more of this will go on in the future.  It’s how we work now.

Even the smallest companies – maybe especially the small ones – will rely on a broad mix of skills, both inside and outside their walls.  Some will be full- or part-time employees.  Others will be contractors for hire.  Come in, do the job, get out.

We’ll need them all.

Collaborating is a lot like a symphony – we need an assortment of good players (with different instruments) to achieve the sound we want.  In the end, there’s a beautiful concerto.  If you’ve ever built a house, you’ve seen this same dynamic – a long line of specialists parading in to do their precise thing, do it well, leave things ready for the next guy, and get out.  In the end, you’ve got a home to call your own.

For you and me, regardless of how big we are, we’re drawing on our own “village” to get things done, aren’t we?  This applies to practically anything we do – from technology and operations and finance, to sales and service, marketing, planning, even the tiny things like clearing the snow in the parking lot.

It takes a village.

Consider something as small as producing the content you’re reading right now, if you’re so inclined:

  • Someone needs to plan it… and write it.
  • A different person may edit it, spruce it up, polish it.
  • A designer makes it look good on any screen, any size.
  • A techie formats it in an e-mail software program and manages the distribution to cyberspace.

That’s four requirements for a tiny sliver of content.  You could decide to do this all yourself (quite doable).  Or you might, just as likely, assign specialists to do it for you, get it off your plate and on to theirs.  Or a combo of both.

Whatever you’re up to this year, chances are you’ll need to harness the skills of people inside and outside your company – collaborators– to accomplish what you’re really after.  You’ll need to be your own symphony conductor, your own movie producer.

Because it takes a village.

So, ask yourself:

  1. Who are your collaborators?
  2. Who’s on your production crew?
  3. Who’s playing in your symphony?

~ Craig