A presentation on personal leadership in game development given at SIEGE Con, Atlanta in 2016. Do you need to have followers to be a leader? No. All the best practices still apply, even when you are by yourself.
As a kid Art. But a real artist is an Advertising artist. Got accepted to JKS Freelance UI software – design Then Production since 2005 EA on a handful of franchises – now to MS Also as a reminder, everything I say here is my opinion – all that means is that it’s the irrefutable truth.
Quick note, Usually I find funny pictures on the web I thought it would be lame And there may be certain issues with that so… PANIC But I had a fall back plan, never let’s me down…
Art degree! Awwww Yeeeahhhh Take pictues if you want – I shouldn’t get sued for these. But if you want to make a t-shirt…. Cut me in for piece of the action
This is a game conference and the topic of leadership as it applies to game production – so I thought I’d refresh folks on the talk I did a before at GDC EU
Roots in Music Production – creative. Film producer tends to be more $ & sched Understands all disciplines Supports tension, break ties.
Standard bearer, not necessarily the creator Facilitate, support, unblock, clarify, influence, align Up/Down/Out Set goals, establish standards
Communications HUB Competency in each discipline helps communication Have competency but trust expertise – you are surrounded by experts Communication helps trust and building motivation ON MMA I wasn’t the creative director or the driving marketing but I was the first stop when somebody was reaching beyond their domain. Competent and informed enough I could communicate key points across the divide. More details would go to the experts
That talk and most of the rhetoric around Game Production is based on the “all-eyes-on the producer” model Somebody with reports that need direction and teams that need leadership That’s Kirk. What about everyone else? We can’t all be Kirk – all-Kirk enterprise/all steve jobs apple My experience is that leadership can be personal and in fact it all starts as a deeply personal endeavor.
Let’s start with the words: This being the internet I picked my own version of the facts Feel pretty easy to say this is “the Self”
Let’s talk about leadership … Phrases like “enlist the aid of others”, “Common tasks” This definition has inherent “followers” to work.
I’ll do it myself… The ability to define direction for yourself Responsibility for yourself Set standards and goals for yourself and hold yourself accountable There is a simpler term for this…
Discipline – makes sense … who’s more disciplined than Spock? This is the secret to the whole talk, take care of your own shit. BORING. Oh yeah: Chores and vegetables too! Don’t break the build, come to work on time, play well with others, take notes, don’t fumble the follow-ups If you want to go now, that’s ok –(I really should pace these things out better…) Slightly more interesting because of the word “leadership.” We have to consider some of the more forwards thinking, visionary components to being a leader and how to works when we’re just talking about just the self. So let’s understand “Leadership” better
Let’s put some nuance on that … people paid for tickets fer shatners sake! Personal is easy enough to get right? It’s you. I don’t think I need to unpack that part of the term. Leadership has connotation that relates to followers – not necessary
Libraries of books have been written on the subject – much of it very interesting, some … dreck I’m going to walk though a few of my favorite “vignettes” of Leadership studies and paradigms. And how I’ve seen them relate to my experience is game development I encourage you to listen and take what you like and ignore the rest – this is about personal leadership at the end, it’s about you. Leaving the Names of these authors and leadership thinkers hoping you go off and read a few books on your own….
Sad Spock Start with the big one, most folks involved with management have heard the team “Emotional Intelligence” or “EQ” comes from Daniel Goleman – he’s used this term extensively in his writing and consulting. His point is that Non-cognitive skills are more important in leadership than the hard skills These are based on 5 traits - These are more like virtues Virtue is a good thing that you do regular, not just once. Regular behavior
Self awareness – what are your strengths and weaknesses? How do you showcase or work around them These people are not overly critical of themselves or others Who they are, what they can do. Not defensive or boastfull.
Self regulation – Discipline () controlling your own impulses Integrity, methodical reasonable, - no flying off the handle or panic change-friendly ready for Adoptive Work
Motivation – Achieving for achieving sake Always with energy to improve the current status. Love the work. Optimism is contagious (Poise), Fake It Till You Make It. TR
Empathy – Understanding others emotions. Feelings matter – these people know it. Ethos, cross cultural, diversity Kirk likes poker more than chess
Social Skills – Building connections with “Rapport” Influence, Persuasion – through alignment, through empathy, not nefarious. Finding common ground. Sharing experiences.
It’s worth saying , that there is another more common term for a person that displays these traits “Maturity” This is about being a good person, nothing about being in charge or not. <Spoliers!>
People often think, “I’m a leader because I’m a manger” – or, “How can I be a leader if I’m not a manager?” Leadership is different from Management – Different and Complementary systems of action. They frequently go together but they do not need to accompany each other. A Manager can be in charge of a process but not lead the vision. A leader doesn’t necessarily need to be managing the process or people to direct the stratagy
Management is about coping with complexity by applying order and predictability Building and maintain a structure about a well defined process Leadership is about coping with Change, Adaptive work. What once gave us success, can no longer be relied on – what do we do next? Envisioning, defining and generating a new process rather than apply
M: is about Planning (plan to hit goals); How are we going to do it? What are we going do with it? What’s next on the list? What list? L: Looking for patterns, future risks setting goals against it U use L: traits to define goals and M: principles to plan & Exicute how to get there
Management is about Org structures and Staffing FOR EFFICIENCY Communication plans and Deliverables. Work order.
Leadership is about alignment. Regardless of hierarchy. This goal is important to you because… The outcome we share, results we both want. All our work leads to this
Ina game leadership provides the vision define what is important to the user, the intent of the feature. Then we manage a schedule to get there
Management is about Controlling and solving problems (understanding context and mobilizing); Do this because it’s on fire! M=Reactive
Leadership is about Motivation. Motivation is about understanding the fundament “Why” before we get to the how. L=Proactive
I want to make this very simple and personal M: is always about having a process to reach a goal L: is about understanding the fundamentals of Why we will do that.
AC: When we find that the thing that made us successful in the past are the things that must be challenged now. Heraclitus said it, or Master Splinter I’ve changed team structures and Dev structures half a dozen times: Iterative, Waterfall, Cabals, Silos, pods, scrum, points… Change is stressful on everyone. Change is complicated – it’s needed Wherever we find good, meaningful change there is leadership everywhere
Leaders can ask tough questions – Why did we fail? Where will we fail? Retrospectives – celebrations (but on hitting goals and commitments) MMA Shorts. Week after week we cheered the blood, finally somebody asked “what about the shorts?” in a room full of people. After that the party notched up on the declared goals and tuned out the others.
Kotter refers to this as “Getting up in the balcony”, … looks for patterns Retrospectives are good for this Surveys have been invaluable to me
Never forget, Change is hard, stressful – however necessary. Regulate distress, Poise, Optimism, Confidence Use Empathy to know when you are pushing to far Support and encourage
Discipline! THAT WORD AGAIN! I didn’t write this people, wait no, you’re not gonna fall for that are ya? Too easy to start scapegoating, pushing blame out. Stress does bad things. Rely on the clarity of what needs to be done. Look back to those patterns, the needs, the why focus on the good that will come from this pressure.
It may take perspective to understand what change is needed but that change doesn’t happen up there it happens at the front. It’s easy to say I’ll back off until someone else figures this out. That’s not leadership be diciplend enough to take on the challenge of change.
Kotter Makes a very pragmatic statement that I’ll paraphrase here – with Quotes…. Because… Jetlag… … Oh No! Foreshadowing! Subtext! Spoilers!
Finally Let’s talk about tactical actions of great leaders. Drucker is a go-to guy to leadership at the highest level. Frequently he talks about Efficacy for the team, the org, But I think you’ll start to see some similar patterns here as it can pertain to the self In general, he looks to identify things all great execs do, common actions
What needs to be done? Not “what do I want to do?” This is not supposed to be reactive as it sounds, at the executive level were already talking about strategy here. It’s not, “The build servers kept falling over last night”, it’s, waking up in 2012 and saying, “So, VR looks like a thing we might intersect with…?”
What is right for the enterprise? The company, the game, the …? Recognize you are part of something bigger, You either understand that or make it that way. So profound it’s hard to really unpack that here.
Develop action plans Napoleon, “No successful battle ever followed it’s plan.” But he planned extensively Patton, “No plan survives contact with the enemy” read Rommel’s book to plan for engagement in north Africa Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” – his plan was to punch people in the face. Physics engineer, plot out his sprint, it great detail. Only guy, interrupt driven. But could always fall back on his plan. When things get really busy, I do the same thing – Pen and paper Having plans at all time protects you from panic or slow reacting
Take responsibility for decisions Inform, review, retrospectives, sprint commitments Take responsibility for communication Input feedback, follow ups
Focus on Opportunities rather than problems MvL Problems are consequences of the past Opportunities are chances of the future Problem solving can’t produce results, only prevent damage. By looking for Opportunities we identify future risks for mitigation and find growth. which leads to change. I hope this is landing, I’m not very good with subtext. Restarting a build is reacting coming up with a tech road map that keep infrastructure ahead of the curve of dev is strategy
In Game production you are highly visible – Hand to shake, Throat to Choke, Source of truth. You are surrounded by experts and you need to make them better every day. Force Multiplier This is through trust and understanding support and service. Standards and Policy Goals and Direction
Personal Leadership was leadership as it relates to the self Discipline. Be on time. Don’t break the build Play nice with others
Leadership in general, None of the prior items are about controlling groups, the actions or the livelihoods of the others Everything I just went over, Go back to the notes check out the video. I never reference needing followers – the principles remain solid when considering only the self. The leadership tidbits can be done alone, in the vacuum of space… or a cubical… whatever All it takes is discipline
Support yourself Support the org Support the job Support your reports Twist ending!
Dun. Dun. Duuuuunn! All that talk about “the self” and internalizing the virtues of leadership. Yes, but in the end, it doesn’t matter if we bosses or reports.
Sometimes you are someone’s Spock, sometimes you are someone’s Kirk. When you're Kirk – you’re looking out for everybody as the leader. When you’re Spock, your looking out for Kirk – but all the stuff we just talked about still applies to both. Follow through with PL and you’ll be the best damn Spock in the Galaxy. And you can expect the same from you Kirk because all your Spocks will be expecting that from you
Too many kirks in the kitchen
Where Are All The Spocks?
Who is Nick?
UI ArtOther ArtDesignProduction
A Crash Course on the almost award winning
presentation from GDC Europe 2015, “How to
be a Producer the hard way”
What Is Game Production?
BALANCE POINT OF COMMERCIAL CREATION
• Project Management
• Creative Direction
What Is Game Production?
• All eyes on you
• Facilitate, support, align
• Establish policy and business vision
What Is Game Production?
• Establish trust
• Align Up/Down/Out
• Stay optimistic
• Make them all better