System Staging

Why it doesn’t happen more.

AV9000 Checklist Item Under Test: All AV9000 Staging Tests (Section 5).

Reasoning: Whenever staging is discussed, everyone agrees that it is a crucial process in successful AV projects. However, it is commonly disregarded, or not completed, due to there being “too little time in the schedule,” even though skipping it will lead to more time in the field. If staging is so important, why is it neglected so often? There is a three-to-one ratio when it comes to shop fabrication versus installation that says it will take three times as long to do anything in the field as it does in the shop. So, if tracking down an issue takes an hour in the shop, it will take three hours in the field due to various reasons, including the lack of human resources (engineers, technicians, etc.), tool/equipment resources, good internet connectivity, dedicated phone lines, etc. Why is such a valuable process so consistently unheeded?

The Story: January is the busiest time of year at the gym. So many new faces on the treadmills. So many Instagram #NewYearNewMe posts. As Robert Frank says, “Swole is the goal; size is the prize!” Come February, though, spots start to open up again. Super Bowl weekend, in my experience, is the point at which many of us give up. We had a good six weeks of “doing work,” getting our blood pressure under control, sleeping better, eating healthy, reducing stress and just feeling great. But, sometime in February, the urge to hit the gym started to dissipate, and we went back to our old habits. We didn’t put in the time to change our lifestyle, and being unhealthy is so alluring.

Naturally, this got me thinking about testing AV systems….

Staging systems is a crucial process for all providing AV systems. All devices are tested and proven to be functioning well before shipping to the site! The control system is sorted out at the shop. All firmware and communication conflicts are addressed. Network devices are preconfigured with their actual IP information, so they can be plug and play when they are delivered. Staging certifies that the system is ready to be installed. All the bugs are flushed out so that, if anything arises during the installation, the issues are mostly reduced to field cabling problems, because everything else has been thoroughly tested. It makes the installation go like a hot knife through butter.

So, why doesn’t everyone do it?

The major reasons I see are as follows:

1. No buy in from management. Quality has to come from the top down to be truly effective. And, if the boss continually pushes for systems to be delivered without having been totally staged, it sends a clear message to the entire company where the priorities of the organization lie (sizzle > steak).

2. No holistic vision of the project. It is very easy for companies, especially large ones, to adopt a “not my monkeys, not my circus” attitude between departments. A shop manager might be inclined to ship a system before it has been staged, just to pass the buck, despite the fact that doing so will jam up the installation team. It might be great for the shop schedule, but the installation schedule is destroyed, the project schedule sees delays and the service team might be tasked with finishing the installation…again. If people are focused only on their piece of the puzzle, rather than the big picture, it is very easy for them to ignore the value of quality.

3. Lack of education or experience. If people don’t understand the purpose and/or value of staging, they are less likely to do it. If the people building the racks never had an AV Installation Nightmare (check them out on “The Facebook”), they are less likely to do it. Whenever staging is taught in an AQAV class, participants—designers, installers and technology managers alike—are constantly saying things like, “This would have saved me a week in the field…if I knew about this.

4. Lack of discipline. If a single person isn’t responsible for the staging, and the company just expects “the team” to get it done, it very rarely happens. The responsibility of staging must be designated to one person on the team, and it must become a habit of the organization. It takes discipline, but, once the process is ingrained in the entire team, projects begin to go smoothly. As Jocko Willink says, “Discipline Equals Freedom”—freedom from stress, worry, having to remember every little thing…oh…and losing profits.

You can see why these thoughts came to me at the gym. The comparisons between going to the Glorious House of Gains and staging AV systems are uncanny. First, ain’t no one going to the gym without management’s (aka “the spouse’s”) buy in. There are costs involved and time away from the family, but the benefits cannot be argued. Second, looking at one’s health holistically is the only way for it to be improved. We are suckers for “mouth pleasure.” Grabbing that extra slice of pizza, marching toward that carb-coma, often trumps opting for the bowl of kale. So, overall wellness must be the focus. Third, if you have never hit that runner’s high, nor ever experienced what your body feels like when you live clean, it is very easy to dismiss it as mere myth—so why bother? Lastly, if going to the gym doesn’t become a habit, it won’t stick. Diets (temporary fads) don’t work; you need to change your lifestyle.

It’s the same with AV. Applying cute, little project-management tools and tricks won’t produce the results that adopting the AV9000 approach can. Your team has to live, breathe and be quality. It’s gains o’clock, my AV peeps. Let’s gooooooo!

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