The Commish’s Blog

The Commish’s Blog

AV Lessons Found in the Laundry

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It’s about the journey, not the destination.

AV 9000 Standard Checklist Item Under Test:  

Prepare document report, certifying that the product, performance, and practices are in compliance, and noting any exceptions below. Distribute accordingly.

Testing Reasoning: 

Whether you are commissioning a system as a third party, or as part of the quality assurance team in your company to make sure your client has everything they paid for, the integration process can be more important that the testing itself.  It certainly is where profits are made.  If the way the systems are being installed are not in harmony with the commissioning (the end game), finishing projects is going to be painful.  If, however, the way the systems are being installed is done with the end in mind, the checklists are an afterthought.  They just confirm that your great work is…great.  Systems integration should be performed while focusing on the client instead of rushing through the process and relying on a series of tests to catch the issues.

The Story:

I was folding laundry the other day, and I found myself getting flustered.  Every one of my wife’s shirts was inside out.  Every one of my shirts was normal.  I could simply fold my shirts, but had to spend a lot of time fixing her shirts before I could fold them.  If I’m being honest, I didn’t fix all her shirts in a passive aggressive attempt to teach her a lesson (it’s not going to happen, but I did gain some satisfaction from it).  Anyway, it was clear to me that if she had spent 2 seconds making sure her shirts were not inside out when she put them in the hamper, I could save 10 minutes when I had to fold them. 

Naturally, this got me thinking about AV Commissioning.

I was reminded of this quote:

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”

-Greg Anderson

The power of AV 9000  Standard is in the periodic testing of the system as it progresses along the schedule.  If the only quality testing is done at the very end of the project, it is often WAY too late to fix the issue.  Think about a floor box being in the wrong position.  If this is only caught after the carpet, furniture, cables, and client have been installed, it is very expensive to fix.  However, if the system is tested at the design stage, at the shop fabrication stage, at the delivery stage, and ultimately at the end of the installation, any issues will be brought to light as early in the process as possible and be remedied with as little cost impact as possible.

Applying this quality assurance thinking to “Focus on the journey, not the destination”: what if designers performed mini design reviews as their design package progressed, or every time there was a client requested change?  What if rack builders verified all the connections to a device once it was terminated in a rack, and checked that all the labels were oriented the same way?  What if installers field verified all their cables and tested the impedance of loudspeaker lines before hooking them up to the amplifiers?  Sure it would add minutes to these pieces of the puzzle, but it could save hours in the end.  I am also pretty sure that this is what separates the great team members from the “fine” team members.  The great ones have that reputation because once their task is complete, they are pretty confident it is going to be in great shape.  Where does this confidence come from?  I believe it is because they have learned to be great at the journey instead of hoping to catch the mistakes at the destination.

I also see the difference between great integrators, and “fine” integrators, by their approach to commissioning.  The “fine” integrators always get a little nervous when our team arrives, worried about what we are going to find.  They did a good job, of course, but their process isn’t aligned with the checklists, so there are bound to be some oversights.  They are essentially relying on us to catch their mistakes.  The great integrators, however, see the commissioning as a chance to show off.  They are confident that the system is 100% complete with zero defects.  They dare us to find something.  They have internalized the commissioning (destination) tests to their process (journey).  It becomes an AV party, and my team usually tries to learn as much from their work as we can.

If people can find pride and joy in their workmanship, it no longer because tedious.  It becomes a meld of art and science.  I’ve always said that a properly dressed rack is truly a work of art, and if it performs well, there is a ton of science behind that art.  The checklists are the bare minimum testing required to make sure the client has received what they expected.  However, an organization’s process has to be honed to meet the client’s needs as effectively as possible.  The checklists will confirm that all the needs are met, but great AV service providers don’t just rely on the checklists for the confirmation.  Their process has been improved over years of business to not only satisfy their clients, but to do so with healthy profits and with as little stress as possible, on them as well as their clients. 

The journey should certainly be guided by the destination, but they are both paramount to an organization’s success.

(Also, my wife has since argued that I should focus on the joy found in the journey of folding laundry instead of her journey of throwing clothes in the hamper.)

Originally appeared in Sound & Communications Magazine, April, 2014 

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