Production Fundamentals - 3 Years Later
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
In early 2015 I wrote an article titled “Production Fundamentals”. Everything in that article I still believe to be true, however since writing that piece I’ve added a few additional fundamentals to the list, and I wanted to share those.
Do keep in mind the following section from the aforementioned blog:
It’s also worth mentioning that Production is different things to different people and companies. We’re sometimes called Producers, Project Managers, Product Managers or everything in between. The below is my take on Production based on my experience thus far.
With that out of the way, here are the additional Production Fundamentals I believe are critical to everyday work. These fundamentals won’t fit everyone or everything, but I believe they are strong pillars for any Producer, after that, it’s about tailoring or adapting based on your role, team and studio culture.
If you think I’ve missed something or disagree, comment below or find me on Twitter: @RetroCrumpet
I think the easiest problem Producers can create for themselves is not being repetitive with their behavior. By this I mean, it’s very easy for stand ups to stop happening, or be sporadic, for reports to not be consistent or for milestone deliverables to be too fluid.
Repetition in your actions and processes are critical – assuming they work. Stand ups are important, reporting is important, one on ones are important, if you don’t do them over and over, in the same manner, it’s easy for people to let them slip and then communication and project momentum can break down.
Please do keep in mind I’m not saying do stuff for the sake of doing stuff, we’ll cover that in Why, but too often I find Producers, including myself in the past, are willing to skip a stand up or end of sprint report, which can settle into skipping another, and before you know it, you’re being ineffective in communicating to and from the team, not being impactful, and potentially impeding progress.
Be repetitive, remind people of the goals daily, do the tasks that need to be done. Think of it as getting buff at the gym, you need to do the same weights over and over and over for there to be an impact, and then you need to maintain that by doing more reps.
This is a reminder for me as much as it’s a point I want to share with you:
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
Accountable for Change:
It’s very easy to blame something else, someone else, a process or simply say “that’s the way it is”. It’s a lot harder to look at everything impacting your team and say “That’s my fault”, but I think that’s what Producers need to do, and it’s something I’m really trying to push into how I think and approach my work.
I feel a lot of people may disagree with this, but keep with me, if your team is working slowly because of old equipment, unclear direction, too many distractions, or simply because they don’t gel together as a unit, my suggestion is consider this as a list of tasks that you assign to yourself in the same way designers or engineers would assign tasks to themselves.
This first step is easy, and I guarantee 99% of you already do this, but we, and I change to we here because I’m not perfect, often don’t deliver results due to the aforementioned ability to blame process, a manager, a budget, something else. We’re failing and need to be accountable.
This is where Accountable for Change comes into play for me. In the same way an engineer is accountable for the robustness and quality of his/her work, I feel Producers should be accountable for making things better, no matter how difficult. Does it mean you’ll fail? Yes, of course. But being open with that failing and the journey of how you got there makes you accountable and those around you aware of what’s happening and the current status.
My suggestion is to create a Kanban board and consistently update it with all the issues you and your team / project face, then work through them, one after another, showing the team you’re working to improve.
You’ll succeed. You’ll fail. But you’ll make a difference to those who you work for (you work for the team).
Why am I writing this blog?
Because I want to take time to write down my thoughts.
Why do I want to write down my thoughts?
Because it helps me ascertain what is important to my processes.
Why is it important to ascertain what’s important to my processes?
Because I want to be a great Producer.
Why do you want to be a great Producer?
Because I want to love my work, and being a great Producer means I’m turning up every day and delivering value.
I could go on, but I hope you get my point. Games, Digital Projects or, hell, anything, can take a long time to finish over the length of the project, the macro, but during the micro we go very fast. We prototype, we tinker, we test, we create, we do it fast and we look to have the micro done quickly so that the macro can be done well over the long haul.
Sometimes you can work so fast day-to-day, week-to-week that you don’t ask Why you’re doing something. I can speak for experience that on a team, or as an individual, I’ve sometimes looked at what I’ve been working on and wonder how I got to this point, Why a feature worked in such a way. We often need to challenge our team, ourselves, our customers and the company itself on Why we’re doing something. It can be a hard question to ask, but that’s your role.
Why don’t you ask Why more often?
And that’s it, an update to the Production Fundamentals I shared three years ago.
I hope this brought value to you, writing it down reminded me of what I should be doing every day, if you have 5 minutes write down the core things you as a Producer, a Lead or, whatever you do, should be doing every day, I guarantee you could improve on something.
Find me on twitter - @RetroCrumpet