production should be simple

37signals.com, the makers of project management software Basecamp, have some pretty cool values that help determine the kind of company they want to be.  After a short break from looking at these values, we are back to check out value #7, Software should be easy:

Our products are intuitive. You’ll pick them up in seconds or minutes, not hours, days or weeks. We don’t sell you training because you don’t need it.

While production tends to not be easy, this value made me think about simple and intuitive. 

When I was the TD at Kensington, way, way back, we met in a high school auditorium.  We would have to empty our 3 semi-length trailers and set up the entire church in under 2 hours…then naturally need to tear it all down at the end of the day.  As the leader of this process, and as a newly graduated Industrial Engineering student, I was always thinking about more efficient ways to get this job done. 

One of my first thoughts revolved around making each task a one-person job; to reduce each part of the process into a series of jobs that one person could accomplish.  There were definitely things that we needed several people to lift or to get into place, but the majority of the tasks could be done by just a single person.  What this did was keep everything very simple and doable within the time frame we had to work with.

As a technical artist, I was always finding myself fighting against this idea, simply because I wanted to try new things or expand my technical capability.  Keeping things simple enough for one-person jobs was not easy, but it helped us involve the largest number of volunteers possible, and it sustained us being portable for so long.

In my current life, my boss Bill Hybels is always pushing me and my team to not make things too complicated.  He has caught onto the fact that as technical artists, we are trying to push the technology envelope, and wanting to try new ways of doing things.  However, what can sometimes happen as a result of this push for new, better ways, is that we can make something so complicated that it is bound to fail.

We have this joke between us that why would we have a person do a task if we could figure out a way to have a computer do it?

37signals.com says its products are intuitive and are easy to use.  Does what you are doing make the most sense to the largest number of people, or is it so complex you need a Ph.D. to figure stuff out?

In our drive for the newest technology, or “better” technology, are we losing sight of doing things most effectively?  Most simply?  Will the new way introduce new levels of risk that we don’t need to take on?  Is a new way necessary or just cool?

At the foundation, the technical arts in the local church are in place to amplify the message of God’s word.

Our use of technology should only be as complicated as the content/message requires.

Are your processes and systems so complicated that they are getting in the way of the message we are trying to support?

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