I have been working towards a new look for my blog, and experimenting with wordpress.  I think I could wait forever before thinking it is good enough to publish, so instead I’m just doing it.

Check out www.toddelliott.net.  That’s where I’ll be.

As a technical person, the process matters to me a lot. How we go about achieving a desired outcome is just as important as the outcome. So much of our jobs as technical artists involves planning and executing someone’s creative idea. However, I can be so focused on the process that I can shoot down most of the ideas that people have. Because I am the person responsible for pulling off some crazy idea, how it gets done matters a bunch to me.

I have been kicked out of so many creative brainstorming meetings that I have lost count.

Over time I had become known as that person who cared less about having a great service and more about having the perfect process. Every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed mattered more to me than whatever the final outcome was. Eventually, I learned two things: most brainstormed ideas never happen; and most people in the brainstorming weren’t designed to think about the process required to pull off their idea, that’s me.

So my job is to care deeply about the process because that’s the way God designed me and the way He needs me fulfill my role in the body of Christ. I also need to be good with people who care deeply about the product, because that’s the way God designed them and the way He needs them to fulfill their role in the body of Christ. God needs us to work together to do both: a great product and a great process.

Be a champion for the part that matters to you. Let others champion the part that matters to them. We must have both.

Here’s another thought about defining technical excellence:  excellence is being better today than yesterday.  I love this idea because there is an element of striving, of trying new things, and possibly making mistakes along the way.  Being better today than yesterday puts excellence into which ever context we find ourselves in.   What is excellent for me, isn’t necessarily excellence for you and vice versa.

You could argue that there is a baseline for excellence, a level of acceptability.  I probably wouldn’t argue with you too much on that point.  But I would argue that there needs to be some flexibility on where this line is, based on each of our abilities and our experiences.  I would also say that if my ability and my experience create feedback at every event I am apart of, there is a problem.

Being better today than yesterday requires mistakes to be made and risks to be taken.  However, if we make the same mistakes over and over again, how can we say that we are achieving excellence?  But if we make mistakes and make adjustments for them not to happen again, now we are moving the line of excellence.

I was once training someone in the role of technical director, and he kept making the same mistake several times in a row, and each time, in the moment, I’d step in to talk about how to improve.  Then, during a break, he asked me how he was doing and I said “I’m ready for us to make a new mistake.”

In order to achieve excellence, we need to be ready to make mistakes.  When mistakes happen, we need to let the mistakes make us better today than we were yesterday.

Are you open to mistakes happening?  Are you getting better as a result of them?

Be excellent.

When it comes to doing production in our churches, what is technical excellence really?  Is it the best gear?  The best volunteers?  As close to perfection as possible?

After thinking about my post, “A Clean Stage is a Happy Stage“, I came across another Marty O’Connor classic: Excellence is doing the best with what you have.  This doesn’t say anything about perfection, but simply using what you have currently, and doing your best with it.  This is something we can all do, regardless of what church we are a part of, regardless of the conditions we work under, or the kind of equipment we have.

When I was at Kensington (groan from Willow people, cheer from Kensington people, indifference from everyone else),  I used to look at Willow Creek and think “Sure they can do excellent production.  Look at all the gear they have!”  After coming away from a Willow conference depressed, I started to realize that I could take the equipment I did have and do the best possible job with it.  I could get the most out of it every Sunday.  I could wrap it in duct tape one more week to keep it going until we could afford to replace it.  As a result of this change in perspective, I was able to appreciate that things weren’t perfect, but that we were, in fact, achieving technical excellence on a weekly basis.

Some of us need to release the idea of perfection.  Having a flawless service or event is a honorable goal, but very rarely achievable.  Always trying to be better.  Always learning from mistakes.  Always stretching ourselves to try new ways.  Using what I already have to its fullest potential.  This is the kind of technical excellence I want to shoot for.

I was reading in the book of Hebrews today and wanted to tweet the verse I was reading, but it was too many characters…so here’s Hebrews 6:7:

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.

The thing that struck me the most about this verse is that the crops that are produced are for “those for whom it is farmed”.  The rain doesn’t fall to grow crops for the benefit of the land, but for the benefit of the people for whom the crops are grown.  Thinking about receiving from God and drinking in all that He has for me, I assumed that it was all for my own benefit.

The idea here is that I can drink in God’s goodness all day long, but the growth, the result of all that drinking in, is for the benefit someone besides me.  This is my family, my co-workers, the people in my sphere of influence.  Ultimately, the blessing of God comes, but it isn’t the goal.  I drink in the rain so that God can use me to change the world.

How am I going to live differently today because I have soaked in God’s rain this morning?  What will you do with God’s generous rain today?

A little longer than a tweet🙂

This is a phrase I have been hearing since almost the first moment I started doing production. My friend and personal hero, Marty O’Connor used to say this all the time. In fact, I would imagine he still says it.  The basic premise is that taking time to make the stage clean matters.  Running cables straight, finishing a job correctly, cleaning up trash, and resetting the stage to an agreed upon “normal”, are just a few examples of what this phrase means to me.

I have heard it so many times, it feels like something everybody knows and everybody values.  We have had a few conversations about this part of our ministry lately and it is interesting how easy it is to lose sight of or to get comfortable with how things look.

At my house, when something needs to make its way back upstairs, my wife likes to put piles at the bottom of the steps to remind the kids to grab what belongs to them and take it to their rooms.  It is amazing to me how easily that pile becomes invisible.  We all just end up walking right by it, like it isn’t even there, and as a result the pile keeps getting bigger and bigger until we cant take it any more…or we have guests coming over.

When was the last time you took a good look at your stage area?  Your booth?  Backstage?  Has the pile at the bottom of your steps become invisible to you?  If you had guests coming over, would you be embarrassed by all the piles?

Keeping the stage clean is a simple yet foundational element to everything else we do.  Take a walk around with eyes open, and take your piles up to your room.

I realized yet again, that I love to collaborate. As a Technical Director, I don’t necessarily “do” anything, other than try to set other people to do what they do. If I can get out of the way or get other things out of the way so people can bring their best, then I have succeeded.  This doesn’t happen without lots of collaboration.

For people to bring their best, means they need to be allowed to make choices that I wouldn’t necessarily make.  For them to succeed, I need to learn the difference between my way being right (and theirs wrong) and my way just being different.  On some level, it would be so much easier to not collaborate and just tell everyone how I want everything to be.  The problem is that most people can’t function very long just being told what to do at every turn.  Eventually, they turn off their brains and just become robots…but at least things are done the exact certain way.

I will wrestle and struggle my way to collaborate as a first choice every time.  I know that collectively, the group as way better ideas than me alone.  If I restricted our team to just what I know and what I think, it would be a very stale and dull environment.

There is definitely a baseline of how things should be.  That should be defined and everyone should know what those things are.  Above the baseline, I want to release people to bring their best so that what we do can have the maximum impact.

If you lead production folks, how can you release people to bring their best?  How can you change your process to allow for more collaboration?