Production Principles

Now that we’ve established a mindset and a culture, what is it we actually practice doing? Well, before we get to common practices, or even a production-oriented twist on a common practice, we need to establish the values and principles which drive the practices. Remember that practices without the mindset don’t actually create an agile organization. In fact, this is where you might see agile management failures. The leap between the mindset and the practices is to understand why there is a practice. And then we measure how well the practice fits the motivation. If the practice does not accomplish the goal — the why that is driving the practice, then the practice should evolve.

This is where we could take the values and principles from the Agile Manifesto, and refine them for our Production Principles setting. Note in Johanna Rothman’s book Create Your Successful Agile Project she simplifies and streamlines the principles description (see page 6 of this excerpt). I will do the same with a bent toward production,

Values

The values from the manifesto, noting the possible refinement for production:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools – straight forward translation to production
Working software over comprehensive documentation – visual delivery over engineered technique
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation – artist collaboration over pointing fingers cross dept
Responding to change over following a plan – straight forward translation to production

In production, the director and the supervisors drive the visual direction of the shot, while the producers manage the cost. The artists and technologists execute the vision for the cost. So value sits somewhere in how we measure the execution of the vision relative to cost.

Principles

Note that in the translation from software development to production, we must come up with who the customer is, since it is mentioned quite often here. In some sense, it is ultimately the director, and the supervisors feed that vision. But there may be many customers in the path toward the director. A production is a very large collaboration, and the path it ultimately takes from team to team to the final result may not be as direct as planned

From the Agile Manifesto principles:

1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

In production, deliver visually significant improvements toward the vision early and often.

2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

Welcome changing vision. Brilliance in the process of movie making often comes from the collaboration itself.

3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

Deliver visual results often. Don’t necessarily wait for the perfect result to present. The practice of showing dailies fits right into this principle.

4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

Producers, production and production management works together daily with artists/technologists throughout the project. This is pretty common already though what they do may be refined, clarified and itself measured.

5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

Trust those who are motivated and empower them.

6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

Face-to-face communication is best whether between artists, TDs, programmers, …

7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.

Visual improvements measure progress. That’s what makes production exciting.

8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Keep production to a sustainable slow burn rather than a sequence of exploding fire storms. Firefighting triage should be built into the methods.

9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

Refactoring and architectural thinking can apply to artist workflow to enhance agility.

10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.

Simplicity increases the effectiveness in support of the vision.

11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

The best production practices emerge from the collaboration of a team. Isolated pipeline thinking can hinder this improvement cycle.

12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts
its behavior accordingly

In production, make retrospection regular; it happens, but not often enough, or too late.

 

So with these principles, we drive some tangible Production Practices. These practices may be as different as the production houses are unique. But there may be some common threads to start from, as we dig into them in the next post.

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