PDCA with Omar Combie
What is the most important thing to any creative? Obviously, it’s their craft. Whether you’re into photography, graphic design, filmmaking or maybe a combination of areas, what defines you as a creative is your portfolio of work. We can all agree that whatever work we produce, we want to do it to the best of our ability. So in this article, I’m going to share a tool that will help you do just that; the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle or the Continuous Improvement Cycle.
I learnt PDCA from my mother, and ever since then I have been using it for all projects I take on and hopefully, after reading this article, so will you.
Plan - “If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Whether you’re designing a flyer, doing a shoot or making a film, you have to plan. Proper planning involves three main things:
- Identifying your objectives.
- Noting risks and ways to avoid them.
- Gathering the information and resources necessary.
For example, earlier this year I produced my second short film “Too Late”. In planning for this film, I began with the end in mind. What was the purpose of my film? What elements did I want included in it? What reaction did I want from my audience? Once I began thinking of the outcome I wanted, it was easy to come up with objectives to achieve it. Some of you may have experienced this when working with clients. Your goal is to satisfy the client so you ask them what their expectations are, and from that, you set your objectives.
Next is knowing what some potential obstacles are. Example: When a photographer is setting a date for a shoot, especially one that is outside, it’s important that he/she is aware of the weather forecast, right? If it rains, then the shoot is ruined. In my case, I paid extreme attention to the weather forecast because one of my main scenes had to be shot outside. The weather isn’t the only risk, there are an infinite number of things that can go wrong, however, focus on the most likely risks that can affect you job’s success and then have steps in place to avoid them.
Finally, make sure you have all the information and resources you need. For my film, a few key things I needed were a camera, microphone, tripod and a computer to edit. For information, I needed permission to shoot at certain locations. Having all your resources and information is key for completing the job smoothly.
Once you’re done planning, it’s SHOWTIME!
Do – “Throw caution to the wind, and just do it” – Carrie Underwood
This part doesn’t need much explanation; you have your plan, so execute! Be confident and be willing to experiment (just because you have a plan doesn’t mean you have to follow it to the letter). When I shot my scenes, I tried out way more angles than I initially planned out and allowed the actors to improvise lines so that they felt more comfortable. You always have to be aware and be able to make changes when needed. Most importantly, always keep a cool head.
Check – “I just know keeping track of what I'm doing…is important to me.” – Demetri Martin
Have you ever sent a flyer design to a client and forgotten an important element, or do photography for an event and missed a key moment? Yeah that sucks! Checking goes hand-in-hand with doing. To ensure that you meet your objectives, it’s good to have a checklist, either written down or on your phone. For instance, I made sure I had a list of shots that I needed for my film on my phone, and while shooting I would tick off the shots taken. Using checklists helps you to remain sharp while on the job and allows you to track your progress as well.
Act (to Improve) – “What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.” - Ralph Marston
So you’ve completed your shoot/design/film…what’s next?
Do you just move on to the next project? No, this is the time where you reflect. No matter how smoothly a project has gone, there is always something to be improved upon. Maybe you could have chosen a better angle or use a more appealing font for the design? After every project, just sit down for a moment and write the things that worked well, the things that didn’t work well and the things that were unexpected. By writing it down, you force yourself to analyze the completed job and come up with ways on how to improve. So for the next job you take, you don’t repeat mistakes. Once I completed my short film, I wrote what I learnt in a book (which I take notes in after every project), so for my next film I can use it as a reference.
This is PDCA! Hope this tool empowers you to continuously refine your craft as you continue to grow as a professional.
Omar Combie is a St. Lucian digital media practitioner who dabbles in filmmaking, graphic design, photography and videography. His future goal is to have his own media company.
Click here to watch Too Late (Short Film)
Follow him on Instagram: @o_combie