In an earlier blog post Tools Don’t Make the Craftsman, I mentioned that I was reading Neptune’s Inferno by James Hornfischer. I really loved this book and learn all kinds of new things about the amazing effort of the US Navy in the Pacific during World War II. While what we do as technical artists in the local church doesn’t even come close to the sacrifice of these men and women, there are definitely some great lessons to be learned.
One lesson involves training new officers. In the early days of the war, no one had any experience. Nobody had fought in a naval engagement before. As a result, the only way to get experience was to dive in and learn by doing. Unfortunately, this usually meant learning at the cost of people’s lives.
Again, not to compare situations, but this sounds pretty similar to my own experience learning to do production. I was basically making it up as I went; learning along the way. Fortunately, no lives were in danger (except for that close call with Mike Franks in the mid ’90s, that he hasn’t let me forget about). Since I was the most knowledgeable person there, it was always the best it could be…which wasn’t saying much.
But what happened over time is that I gained more and more experience.
Now here’s where the US Navy really impressed me. Once an officer had some experience, they would pull them out of the fight and send them away from the front to train new officers. As you can imagine, most of these officers wanted to stay with their men and their ships to continue to fight the enemy.
In the short term, this meant that the Navy would continue to be led by inexperienced Captains and Commanders. But the leaders of the Navy held a longer view. They told these officers, “We need you at the front, but you can’t come back until you train 100 other people to be like you.”
As a result, the more time that passed, the number of experienced and well-trained officers kept increasing. The Navy went from inexperienced officers to a mixture of experienced and inexperienced, to a Navy full of highly trained and experienced leaders.
There are 2 things that really captured my imagination.
1. The Navy had the discipline to take out their best chance of immediate victories, i.e. leaving their experienced commanders at the front as long as possible, to invest in the next round of leaders.
While we might not be in a similar life and death struggle, what would your production team look like if you leveraged your star volunteers to start training other potential star volunteers? Instead of putting that volunteer behind the console each week, what if you pulled them off of the rotation so that they could focus on pouring into one or more other team members?
2. The Navy took chances on the rookies. They knew their survival depended on giving people chances to succeed, which also meant there was a chance they could fail.
Any time you put someone new behind the ProPresenter computer, you are taking 2 chances. One chance that they fail, the other they succeed.
Failure is not something any of us love. It violates the value of creating a distraction-free environment. Yet if we don’t take a chance on someone, eventually we won’t have anyone who can do it at all.
What if we could take the longer view. If they fail, we’ve learned where that person doesn’t fit and we can either move that person to a different role or if we see potential we can keep giving them more chances to succeed. If they do succeed, we’ve just increased the capacity of our team.
Not only are we able to do more now, but we have engaged one more person to use their gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ. Everybody wins.
Are we willing to not be held hostage by the immediate needs of the moment to invest and risk with the next round of leaders?
Todd is a writer, speaker, technical artist in the local church and founder of FILO.