Thursday, December 17, 2009

Some pitfalls in productions

Or "throw me the idol; I’ll throw you the whip".

More thoughts on project management:

Here are some very sobering statistics on project success rates worldwide and encompasses all types of projects:

34 percent of all projects succeed.

An average of 15 percent of all projects fail.

Projects that are considered “challenged”—usually due to cost or schedule overruns—account for 51 percent of all projects.

There are probably more reasons for this than there are craters on the moon but lets take a brief look at some of the more typical pitfalls one could encounter.

Student syndrome

This is essentially the phenomenon of waiting to the last moment to apply oneself to completing a given task. Usually done with good intentions. “If we get a bit more time to complete this portion of the project, think how much better it will be!” Leads to project scope change and an over complication of the task and usually results in delays and going over budget.

Scope creep

This phenomenon can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled.

Parkinson's Law

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. This tends to creep into larger projects with many people involved in the studio. A schedule is created for a department and those in the department, consciously or subconsciously; make sure the work done fills the time allotted even if it could be done faster.

Peter Principle

Competent workers are rewarded through promotion until they reach a position in which they are no longer effective at which point those that have not reached this level continue to complete the work.

Hofstadter's law

It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.

Social inertia

Being resistant to change or being caught up in how it how it has always been done.

Murphy's law

My favorite:

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Because we work in a very creative business I find that the most common pitfall is related to project scope creep. It can be a very difficult thing to quantify on any given project and relies on a common agreement and understanding of the scope from all parties involved. Whether it is a co-production or a small commercial project it can show up at the most inopportune times.

Having a defined list of artistic parameters can help but this can also lead to a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the parameters by all parties. It can start as seemingly small events that build into huge unmanageable processes and can usually be seen as a direct result of lack of communication. I think one of my all time favorite design revisions that caused a huge cascade effect and created delays due to a misunderstanding of scope was, “This does more to destroy than to create”. The pebble was tossed and the production went off the rails. Much time was lost trying to understand the ultimate direction asked for by more and more designing always seemingly to be in the wrong direction. The team was very eager to please and was willing to go the extra mile but, as far as I know, the question was never really asked/answered as to what exactly did they mean. I was at the time an ink and painter at the studio and only saw the disaster from the sidelines.

We all want to be the absolute best at what we do. That’s why we work in this industry. To be better than the rest you should always keep in mind what the main constraints are. Style of art can be the most challenging constraint to understand or agree on and it requires a great deal more communication from all parties involved to overcome early on.


Andrew "Big Show" Blodgett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew "Big Show" Blodgett said...

Ahem brother!

Here is the big dirty secret of animation production(and most other forms of production and project management I would suspect)...

... wait for it...

50% of animation production...


If you whimp-out at the start...

...your SCREWED before the end.

Rob A. said...

Hey man. I agree planning plays a huge role but I'm not sure about 50%. I would argue 100%. Everyday should be a chance to revisit the "plan" because the "plan" will evolve.