Sunday, March 05, 2006
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Tackling RCN Entertainments communication hang-ups
Eric works at a small non-for-profit television production company called RCN Entertainment. It has been producing family orientated shows since the 80’s most notably Reading Rainbow. As the name implies they are part of RCN, a large telecommunications company. Therefore, it relies on the funding from RCN for all of its projects, which limits its capabilities to gather the adequate resources it needs to properly produce quality programming. It is run by two presidents and everyone else takes on the assistant/producer role and in the post-production department there is a coordinator and four assistants. One of the organizational communication problems we face comes from the distribution of projects to individuals instead of to the group as a whole. For example, if an editor needs the footage from a mini DV tape digitized into the computer he or she will leave a list of clips for someone to do overnight. The first problem with this kind of messaging system is that they are not specific in who needs to complete the work. Secondly, when the editor comes in the next morning and cannot find the footage from the person who did the assignment it is usually because the person is not there since we have rotating schedules. Besides this there are many other instances of miscommunication. We also have the problem of being handed assignments within close proximity to their deadline. This is a result of the fact that the post-production needs of our clients are usually told to the supervisors of the company and then the assignments slowly trickle down to us. They are usually consumed with meetings, conference calls, and/or lunches to respond to a question regarding something as simple as time code on a VHS. These affairs bog them down to the point where they can never be reached on a personal level, especially with verbal communication. Another issue is the constant need of approval from the supervisors, and finally the company only has one page of representation on the internet and it is on a link to the company’s defunct cable channel. However bad this may seem we are not as bad off as Carrie Tupa's accounting deaprtment. Although, assignments are given in an untimely fashion and sometimes are not clear RCN does not heavily rely on the unstable form of transportation communication such as messengers or the mail. Information is usually harder to grasp for newer employees because they are not accustom to the flawed procedure of communication within the department. They often have experience alot of redundancy from their superiors because the way information is dispersed is unclear and informal. Typically with assignments nothing is made available in a viewing format where all people can look at and access what needs to be done. Usually an assignment is given to the post production coordinator who has alot of jobs and often forgets to tell the lower employees in a timely and proper fashion. The post production coordinator's other tasks can be considered the "noise" within the "channels" of information, since word of mouth tends to be the surce of communication in which they rely the most heavily upon. The post production coordinator's large load of tasks distract him from properly giving out information. He on the other hand is often told these assignments in a formal way that can be revisited, such as email but he lacks to recipricate this quality to others. Therefore, newer employees have to experience repetition of their work because if an assignment is given through word of mouth it might need to be repeated for clarity or for refreshment of the memory. The Plan So what we suggest to help better the communication system in Eric's department at RCN is to create a blog. Because Eric works in an organization that has such a small group of members having only one blog that all the people in the department can access would be the best idea as opposed to creating several blogs per ech person. There are approximately 20 people in the department and there will be a blog created through blogger that everyone can post to. So for example if one of the two President's of the company need an assignment completed by the pot production coordinator he can see this on the blog. If he has any questions or misunderstandings baout it he can as we have seen in Professor Dave's blog refer to the comment area at the bottom of the blog where his (post production coordinator's) superior can respond. Ultimately the best way to communicate is to have evryone together in the same spot at the same time and speak to one another face-to-face, but in our fast paced world today this is not possible. That is why we have been afforded all of these gadgets and creations to get around fac-to-face time, but we have to use them properly to get the best results from them so that communication is not lost. The presidents are liasons in the compnay because they connect to isolated cliques for the benefit of the organization. The are isolated from the prot-production department in the fact that they are not directly involved with your day to day tasks, but through them you are given assignments because of their connections to other "cliques" who need reproductions of specific shows that the company has produced. Usually when RCN produces a show they collaborate with a larger network in order to compensate for resources, most specifically monitary, that are not available. This larger company dictates what is the priority of the project. Once this project is completed this larger company requests copies from the post-production dept and their request needs to be completed correctly and quickly, which pushes back intern al objectives. Currently RCN Entertainment is producing a show in collaboration with Noggin, which is a subsidary channel under Viacom. The producer at Noggin needs to see the latest versions of the episodes that will be airing on Noggin. The episodes need to be reproduced from RCN who has the master copies on digibeta to VHS or DVD. We received that assignment through the long system of hierarchy from the president to the president's assistant to the post-prooduction coordinator to the assistant editors. This process is lengthy, inefficient, and goes against the phrase "time is money". How incorporating blogs into our message chain this assignment could be completed much more quickly without jeopardizing any other tasks that need to be completed in the dept. So instead when the President receives this request by email from the producer at Noggin for the reproductions of the episodes the president can just copy it and post it to the departments blog. Than if there are any questions or repsonses they can be placed in the comments box at the bottom of the blog or made into posts themselves. Plus any other additions that the president's assistant might make or find helpful in completing the assignment can be added as a post on the blog also. Informal Networks Post Production Department A. Presidents 1. Liaisons who started the company B. Executive Assistant 1. Gate Keeper 2. This person is the distributor and keeper of information told to them by their superior to the rest of the staff. C. Post-Production Coordinator 1. Bridge between assistant editors and the Presidents and their assistant 2. Has been working with the company for 2 years 3. Knows more about post-production that his superiors. D. Assistant Editors 1. Their assignments are dependent on the Bridge and the Gate Keeper 2. 2 New Editors who have been with RCN for 2 months 3. 2 Editors that have been with the company for 10 months 4. Seniority is determined by tenure Six Conditions Necessary Resources The resources RCN would need for these transformations are easily accessible. Obviously we would need full use and access to the Internet, and a computer in order to make the blog. Then we would have to teach this creation capability to the staff and any other outside members of the organization who would have to use the new blog system. We will also need a scanner in case there are any personal pictures that might need to be added to the company’s blog to make it more exciting. However, the more technology we add the more efficient the innovation will be but the slower the companies adaptability will be to it. Like most homes and office the building is equipped with high speed broadband Internet. Luckily we are a subsidiary of a telecommunications company who house their infrastructure in our building and therefore Internet the companies Internet connection is free. The office is equipped with computers that are proficient for Internet surfing and word processing, and general tasks, but besides that they are very limited. Another benefit of the computer system at RCN is that they are networked together. Next the resources we have will be used to implement the blog system. Most likely this will be the job of the post-department. Three free resources that we can use to create the company’s blog are service providers like Blogger, Ebloggy, or Blog City. It was stated before that the more technology that will be put into this blog the more difficult it will. be to implement it into the staff because people will have to learn new things and not often are people willing to change what they are most comfortable to using. But the more technology that is applied to this innovation the more efficient it can and will be for the speedy communication between the staff. So it ends up as a two way street where you can either choose to make it more difficult technology wise and take longer to implement it into the system or you could apply less and only minutely increase the channels of communication. For example, one of the major problems at the office is that communication is mostly verbal. This requires the information to be processed and recorded during the first interaction. Also, the information is not archived in a way that is readily accessible and there is disrupting interference by the office ambiance. To get rid of these downfalls the sender of a message would record to a device that automatically transcribes their speech into a word processor that is synthesized with the post-production blog. This device will have to be mobile so whenever the sender thinks of an idea they can easily post it. With today’s technology this could happen even through the use of a cellular phone. The number would be set up to call a service that processes their words using a talk type system. If that person receives an email from an outside organization they can just forward it to their blog. This capability can be described here. Support (formal and informal) The problem in the office is that it is not a democracy. The people who have the power make the decisions without any consultation from the workers. So in order for Eric to gain support for the innovation he must appeal to those in power. By power this is not only exclusive to just the people who run the company, but this also includes the people who have the closest connections to those who run the company such as the in house company lawyer or the accountant. First, what would have to be done is Eric will have to target the informal authoritarians at the company and use them as test subjects who lend constructive criticisms to the idea from the hypothetical perspective of the decision makers. Change must show instant and clear results The beneficial results of the innovation will be shown through the lack of verbal dialogue between the post-production department and the Presidents of the company. If this new innovation is a success the communication that goes on between the two departments will be civil, more efficient and will strictly adhere to the blog. But if it is unsuccessful and is not to the liking of the Presidents than the blog will be left behind and not only will there be a discussion of displeasure between the two heads of departments, but the company will be reverted back to the unsuccessful system of verbal communication Change must be gradual and organized In order for this digression back to the old system not to happen there must be an initial meeting where all of the policies of a blog and what it does be displayed to the staff at large. The change will take patience from everyone to be completely implanted. The first step is to get everyone aware of their part and the benefits of the blog. The second step is to teach everyone all of the capabilities of a blog and how it works in order for everyone to take full advantage of the new communication channel. The law of requisite variety says that, “if you want to make sense of a complex world, you've got to have an internal system that is equally complex.” The entertainment industry is only complicated by deadlines. Deadlines are used for motivation to get things accomplished and if they are not there will be consequences. We must imitate this philosophy with the blog. Whenever a new post is made containing instructions for a project it must have the deadline visible on the same page. To make things easier the deadline given should be sooner than actually required by the requested party. This leaves cushion if something goes awry and also increases productivity. For example, if the network we are collaborating with requests twenty-five dubs of the master in two weeks the blog will say go to one of our dub houses and have this assignment completed by the shop in one week. “Stamping out utility is holding on to practices that are inefficient in the short term.” Even though it is mandatory for the posts to be online it would not be detrimental to copy them to a local hard drive or even handwriting them because a computer is not always available. It is very naïve of those who rely so heavily on the new technologies we have to day without making any back up plan for themselves. Although these things have been afforded to us and are readily available for our constant daily use we must make an extreme effort to keep some sort of back up plan just in case these things fail us. So if this plan fails, which it will not, we will have a way of easily maneuvering back into the old system. The Tablet PC is the best example of a way for RCN to keep using both the new technology and having the safe keeping of the old. "galumphing" - a kind of purposeful playfulness John Geirland’s says that galumphing can be used as a sort of purposeful playfulness. This in office playing can be the source for new ideas while also competing daily assignments. This will help to keep the spirits light in the office. The post-production department will be able to use the office equipment for their personal projects at their leisure. This will make the Presidents happy because the post-production department is practicing their craft and working with the new equipment and also the post-production department will feel that they are doing something besides some of the usual mundane work. Once this innovation is implemented into the office this will help to make communication much faster because it eliminates the middle parties who slow down the connection between one party to the next. This will also give us a record of what was said and assigned and therefore, make it known to everyone if an assignment was or was not completed. This will also eliminate any confusion as to what an assignment is and when it is to be done, and whose responsibility it is to complete it. Nothing will be left up for question. Hopefully once this innovation has success in the post-production department it will carry over into other departments and relationships within the company. Most specifically between that of the Presidents and their assistant because they have so much contact daily with one another that they should have their own blog between themselves. Eventually this will rule out email all together.