Taking Care of Business

Okay, I’ve never attended the Harvard Business School and I don’t have an MBA from Stanford. However, I’d like to think I have a modicum of common sense when it comes to doing business. I am not without some experience having run my own production company back in the late sixties and early seventies. My partners and I have produced no fewer than dozens of animated and live-action projects and we’re not strangers when it comes to film production.

Some years ago, I was employed by a studio that shall remain nameless. Not as large as the mega studios of today, it did employ a fair number of talented artists. This is where my story takes place. Production does not always go according to plan and the allocation of work can often time be somewhat erratic. In this particular situation our crew had just completed a show and most of the artists sat waiting for their next assignment. However, no new assignment was forthcoming, so most sat at their desks with nothing to do. Hardly a good idea, I thought.

Suddenly, I had an idea and I took it to my top managers. I had storyboards ready to be put into the pipe line. Why not allow my team to move the show into production. My bosses were wary. “We’ve decided not to produce that show,” they countered. “Putting that storyboard into production simply doesn’t make any sense.” At this juncture I knew I’d have to be convincing. “What’s the worse that can happen?” I said. “Should you decide to produce this show one day, you’re already halfway there. In the meantime I’ve got work for my crew and they needn’t even know the show they’re doing may never be produced. They’ll be working and motivated. Plus, they’ll be sharpening their skills and be primed and ready to go when the next assignment comes along. “How can you lose,” I said. “It’s a win-win for all concerned.”

The next thing I knew the storyboards were being handed out and the show moved into production. My team set themselves to the task and energy and enthusiasm filled the room.The completed work looked pretty darn good even though the show was never produced. Of course, I doubt our talented staff ever knew that. Most workers are not attuned to the major decisions being made “upstairs.” All talented teams need to feel motivated and know that something worthwhile is being accomplished. Push ahead several decades and I see this scenario being repeated as managers, caught in gridlock, can’t seem to make a decision. Even today, it would appear nothing has changed.

Once again I’m no Harvard MBA, and I sure don’t have a business degree. But, it strikes me as incredibly wasteful to have employees sitting around with nothing to do - when so much needs to be done. It’s hardly an effective use of resources and it’s a poor way of doing business. But then again, the top managers are still in charge. And, after all - what do I know?

I wouldn't want my employees sitting around like this. Apparently, there are some companies that seem to function this way. It's a management style I find incredibly wasteful.

I wouldn't want my employees sitting around like this. Apparently, there are some companies that seem to function this way. It's a management style I find incredibly wasteful.