I am a proud graduate of Dartmouth College and last evening I watched Bill Moyers' interview of the new President of the College Dr. Jim Yong Kim. The topic was health care. Dr. Kim spoke of how he believes we can improve health care delivery in our country and the world. He suggested that the way to do so was to invest our time to thinking about delivery systems for health care. In his experience, he has noticed that health care providers are not trained in delivery systems. Meaning they are not taught to understand the science behind delivering the care they provide. He feels we are inconsistent in the way crucial information is passed from one care provider to another, often to the detriment of patients. Through understanding this science and utilizing the knowledge gained from analysis of these systems, Dr. Kim believes we can improve our health care system making it more efficient and cost effective. He suggested that the health care industry would benefit from utilizing similar practices to companies like Toyota and Southwest Airlines who have developed sophisticated information delivery systems which make them market leaders. It is a terrific interview and I highly recommend viewing it as well as keeping an eye n Dr. Kim's future accomplishments.
Dr. Kim got me thinking about the theater business and how we could improve our delivery of crucial information amongst all members of a production. In any given Broadway production the information seems to flow to and from the producers through the General Manager to and from the rest of the 'company' (see photo). Because it is cost-prohibitive, most productions do not have in-house staff to handle the myriad tasks that must be accomplished to produce a play or musical. Therefore, many different people are contracted to manage the various needs of a production. The key departments are the creative staff, the production crew (stage crew, backstage crew, set builders, load-in crew), the cast, the advertising and marketing staff, the internet marketing staff, the PR staff, the theater owner and, the general management staff. Communication between these departments is key to the efficient running of the company. So where can we make changes and improve the flow of information? I would suggest some of the following;
- Wherever possible, hire staff to fill key positions that are able to work on your production and your production alone. Having key members of the production within the same office will allow for more efficient transfer of information.
- Require the key creative decisions to be made in a timely manner to allow for the reverberating repercussions of those decisions to be completed in a cost efficient manner. (For example, in a musical choosing understudies for major roles early allows the costumes to be built simultaneously with the regular costumes and saves the production time and money.)
- As a show continues its run, analyze the recurring production costs, such as rehearsals, set maintenance, etc and weed out unnecessary time and costs.
- In the development phase of a production make decisions slowly but implement them rapidly.
- Use technology to support, not replace people. Focus on process and people first, then add information technology to support them. This is a difficult one as we are very slow to utilize technology on Broadway and when we do it seems that we overspend on it. We should also use low-cost alternatives to expensive new technologies. (Spiderman's budget would prbably a lot lower that way.)
- The great thing about live theater is that all you need are actors, a stage and a great story to tell and people will be moved. The current cost of tickets makes people feel that they need to be wowed by the production values for the money they are paying. I think we need to focus more on the storytelling and less on the production value. (Now I'm not saying all shows should be Encores versions of musicals, just the thinking should be appropriate to the project.)
- Use computer software to help departments efficiently communicate their needs amongst each other.
There are many other ways to improve the systems on Broadway and within the theater industry. please comment and add more that you think would make a difference.