A movie set? That’s Hollywood and Hollywood is filled with troubles of its own! What can your organization possibly learn from what takes place on a movie set? The answer is PLENTY!

I have experience as a part-time actor on the stage, television and in film and in each situation there are plenty of habits and attitudes that can help an organization or team function at a higher level. I invite you to be open to learning what others who are successful can teach. The traditional organizational “climate” can be a bit closed when it comes to applying principles and strategies outside the world of business. However, I always ask this one essential question:

Is what you’re doing now getting you the results you want?

For many organizations, the answer is simply “NO”. Well, if this is the case why not look at what others are doing to create successful outcomes? When it comes to performance and/or teamwork, organizations spend a great deal of time, money and energy in an attempt to create high performing people and teams. Some fail miserably while others “get by” and still others operate very effectively. A lot of time and money gets thrown at the problem with varied results. I’ve worked with professional athletes, large and small business organizations and both can learn a great deal from each other.


When I showed up on my first film set I was immediately amazed at how so many diverse people and skills could band together to create a wonderful finished product. I remember thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if people in business worked together as well as these folks do?” I was stunned at how the elements that go into a successful production worked both independently and then eventually together to reach their goal. I was also struck by the tremendous individual diversity of the people on a film set. They came from different cultures, educational backgrounds, and experiences but one thing was clear; they were all there to do one thing; produce a terrific film! I then paid close attention to see what was going on behind the scenes to make it all work so well. This article is the result of the learning points I took away from they are points that can help any organization thrive. After each item is some short questions to ponder about your organization.

1. Diverse people come to work with the expectation of “making a great product”

That’s right. Everyone comes to the set to produce a great product. This includes makeup, choreographer, camera people, scriptwriters, equipment people, assistants, lighting, producers, and directors who all come to the set with one idea in mind:

To make a great product/production

It doesn’t matter what obstacles or personal differences people have, and they have them for sure. There are always artistic and attitudinal differences but the bottom line is: everyone wants to be part of a great finished product. The reason: their name is stamped on everything they do and it matters to them. Here’s another built-in success factor. Movie sets usually have a great deal of diversity on them. People of many backgrounds and cultures come together to create a successful project. I can tell you that everyone on a movie or television set comes to work with this goal in mind and it positively affects everything they do.

Questions for your organization:

o How many people come to work in your organization with this mindset?

o How many people come through the door or become part of a team where the overall goal of each and every day is to craft a great piece of work?

o If they don’t; why don’t they?

2. Everyone knows they add value

It doesn’t matter how large or small your role is on the set, everyone knows that everyone else’s function matters. Everyone is hired for a reason and it’s very clear what they are doing on the set. Even if job descriptions “merge” or get a bit blurry; each person knows that what they do helps create the best product. The best directors and producers understand this and treat everyone accordingly because they realize that any discontent or improper treatment causes distress and unnecessary tension on the set. A director has so much to focus on that he/she certainly does not want or need undercurrents of displeasure or people walking around feeling disrespected. On a film or television set, each person knows their job matters because their “imprint” is felt on every scene.

Questions for your organization:

o Does everyone feel they are valued?

o How does your organization demonstrate its valuing of people?

o Do people in your organization feel their “imprint” is felt on what goes on?

3. People are invited to flourish and create

On a film or television set, people are expected to offer new and creative ideas. The creative process of their world invites and expects it. Everything is worth bringing up and talking about. There is always a seed of possibility in their minds and doing things differently is something they want and need. It doesn’t matter what your role is; any new idea is welcome. Maybe it will save the production money. Maybe it gives the production a better look and feel. It doesn’t matter what it is; it’s worth mentioning. Because this open atmosphere exists, people are more comfortable expressing themselves. Everyone is well aware that a final decision will be made by the director/leader but it doesn’t stop them from speaking up. There is no negative consequence for an unused idea.

Questions for your organization:

o Do people really feel free to express their opinions without fear of consequence?

o Do you establish an atmosphere that invites ideas?

o Do you know how many great ideas are left unheard?

4. They monitor their work and give effective feedback

After each day of shooting the director, producer, and editor review the days’ work. They know right away what’s working well and what is not. Monitoring the work is highly important to save time, money and energy. They understand that making a film is not a right; it’s a privilege. They are aware that someone has invested a lot of money and faith that they will produce their best work. They are always interested in doing the best work at the least expensive but will not sacrifice the work because it bears the stamp of their name. As they monitor each day’s work they create feedback that is immediate and effective. Actors, assistants, lighting, camera, etc. all want the direct feedback because it means their job expectation is more clear the next day.

Questions for your organization:

o How often are people monitored to identify what’s working and what’s not?

o Is feedback effective and timely?

o Is there a coaching process that allows people to hear give feedback in a timely fashion and for people to use it effectively?

o Do you hold only “annual reviews”?

5. Ultimately there is 1 leader who makes decisions

There are often disagreements and differences of opinion on what camera angle to use, the right light, the wording of the script, acting, editing and so on. Ultimately, there is one person who is responsible for making the final decision and that is either the director or the producer. This is no different than life within any organization. If people are allowed to create and come up with ideas then there is bound to be a difference of opinion. On the movie set this is welcome but at some point, a decision needs to be made. The director is the leader. The director holds the vision and passes that vision along to the actors and everyone else who help create it. Steven Spielberg is known for his clarity of vision. He knows what every scene needs to look like. Certainly, the actors add their input into the characters but it is Spielberg who makes the final choices. Film and television are predicated on the vision of the director/creator. The vision is more than just a set of words and sentences. People on the set SEE the vision because it is explained and shown to everyone involved. Organizations work most effectively when their vision is clear and communicated to everyone. On the set, the vision is clearly communicated so everyone knows the direction they are headed.

In addition, the director has the big picture of the project in mind. I know, as an actor, we cannot possibly see the scene the way the director does. He/she sees how we look together, what we sound like, chemistry, etc. When we are performing we don’t have that luxury because we are too immersed in the scene. This is why it is imperative the director communicate the vision in a very clear way.

Questions for your organization:

o How clear is your organizational vision?

o Is it clearly communicated to everyone involved?

o Can people clearly state the vision beyond words?

o Do people truly understand why the vision is what it is?

A movie or television set can teach an organization how to build high-performance individuals and teams whose purpose is to create a great “product” no matter what it is. There is much we can learn from this process.

Source by David Breslow