I’m having some difficulty with Chapter 3 of Good to Great. This chapter is about putting together your team: the second step to achieving “Disciplined People” and the first phase of a company’s buildup/breakthrough transition. So far, the book’s general concepts have been easily applicable to theater, but with Chapter 3 being all about getting and keeping the best people, I’m a bit stuck.
Stuck Issue 1: Getting. The “First Who … Then What” MO sounds difficult when placed in the context of the theater world–a world in which no one gets paid for performing essentially full-time jobs, work comes sporadically and is case-specific, individual egos are strong, and when you get down to brass tacks is dog-eat-dog. The best people aren’t always accessible or available, or are–if you live in a city with a disjointed community–unbeknownst. Stuck Issue 2: Keeping. If you managed to get a group together, it’d probably be difficult to keep motivation high without a specific common goal. By nature of this business, we tend to place focus on the end result: a well-received production. (And I hear a fair amount of “don’t wait! make a show!” advice as well.) Also, the good-to-great companies were able to do what they did because they began with massive capital–even struggling companies fronted the money necessary to assemble the right teams. Artists are not going to turn down paying work elsewhere in order to stay exclusive to your group for nothing, so I’m not sold that this part of the equation translates well. I’ll have to keep thinking about it.
But for the sake of exploring the chapter, let’s assume that you’re already surrounded by a group of like-minded artists focused on a common objective, whether that be a strong mission statement or show idea. Now you’re in business. If everyone in your group is on the same page and is interested in the success of the company over their own, the work will flow naturally. G2G lists three truths that the leaders understood and employed:
1) If you begin with ‘who’ rather than ‘what,’ you can more easily adapt to a changing world
2) If you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away
3) If you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction; you still won’t have a great company
Recognizing whether or not you have the right people is a very difficult, scary and highly political row to hoe, because suddenly things get personal. It’s easier to just not ask these questions of yourself or your company–the results may be too much to handle. We are in the industry of the individual; our bodies are our instruments, art-making is deeply personal and theater cannot be made on one’s own. A good leader can successfully restructure his/her company–or decide to close its doors–but it won’t make for popularity in a field where popularity truly matters. Collins says, “It might take time to know for certain if someone is simply in the wrong seat or whether he needs to get off the bus altogether. Nonetheless, when the good-to-great leaders knew they had to make a people change, they would act.” Has this ever happened at a theater company? I’m not sure, but would be interested to know. An intuative leader should be able to sense if they have the right people in the right seats, but here are some questions I might ask myself to tighten up the process:
Of a particular person:
–Does this person’s ideas fit our mission?
–How does the company fit into the person’s life and dreams?
–What role does the person play in the company?
–How does his/her role contribute to the company?
–Is the person happy?
Of the group:
–If asked separately, would each person descibe the company the same way?
–Do people have overlapping roles? Are they working together or locking horns?
–What, if anything, is missing from the group?
–What are some ways I can build, encourage and strengthen the group?