I got a new job last week. My daughter was appearing in Annie at the Retford Majestic Theatre. She belongs to the Mini-Operatic Bunch (MOB), the junior branch of the Retford Operatic Society and each year the kids (upper age limit 18) put on a show which the public pay to see. I was recruited to work backstage. It was a new experience for me and I quickly had to learn a new set of skills (like putting up scenery) and learn a new language (I now know what a dead drop is and it has nothing to do with premature mortality!).
The backstage crew swiftly had to learn to work as a team. For each scene there were a specific set of instructions and our job was to ensure that we understood what was expected and deliver it. We had standards to meet. We made mistakes—but we only made them once. We learnt from our mistakes and would remind each other not to repeat them at subsequent performances. The importance of clearly communicating what needed to be done and making sure everyone knew their role was critical to success. No one individual could do what was required; we had to work as a team. No matter how many times we did it, between scenes we went over exactly what we were going to do for the next scene change. Although we had a plan and it should, theoretically, have been straight forward, we had to be flexible and adaptable to individual circumstances. A set could jam, a prop be temporarily mislaid and sometimes we had to take on a new role if a parent wanted to be out front for one performance to see their son or daughter perform. We all contributed and did what was needed and what was asked of us.
We accepted that someone needed to co-ordinate what we did and make sure our actions were integrated and focussed. That happened at various levels. We had a stage manager working the “cans”—he helped co-ordinate the specialists on the lights and sounds. However, the backstage team would be split across the wings and co-ordinated working on the separate sites was vital, with the freedom to make decisions and do whatever was necessary to achieve the outcome.
That was what drove us to remain focussed, committed, and prepared to work as a team. We had an ambitious outcome which was ever present in our minds—to support the MOB to deliver a consummately professional show for the public, who came with high expectations and were not disappointed.
I know I am biased but it was great being part of a team delivering an ambitious outcome. You can’t ask for a better job than that.
Martin McShane qualified in 1981 from University College Hospital Medical School. He trained in surgery until 1990 then switched to general practice where he spent over a decade working in a semi-rural practice on the edge of Sheffield. In a fulfilling job, with a great lifestyle, he decided to give it all up and take on a fresh challenge. He entered NHS management, full time, in 2004 as a PCT chief executive after experience in fund holding and chairmanship of both a primary care group and subsequent professional executive committee. Since 2006 he has been director of strategic planning for NHS Lincolnshire, where there are 5,600 miles of road but less than 50 miles of dual carriageway.