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Monk's Corner
by
Ray Powers

*Level III Judge

*WOTC Tournament Organizer for Arizona & San Diego

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 Monk's Corner
Almost Done
By Ray "Monk" Powers
3.09.05

Well, I am two weeks into my new job. I have successfully transitioned my way out of Upper Deck and WizKids events, and by the time you read this I will have run my last Pokemon event: Pokemon States. Next weekend is the Wizard’s of the Coast Tournament Organizer Conference in Vegas, and that should be fantastic. The only thing I don’t like about the organizer conference is that I can’t share virtually anything I learn there with you all due to Non-Disclosures, but such is life. If I do learn anything fun I can share, rest assured I will.

 

Also by the time you read this I will have run a Pro Tour Qualifier this past weekend. The format is extended, and it’s the same week as Grand Prix Seattle. Jon, the guy who runs my store has informed me that he’s been getting an overabundance of calls about the event, but I can’t picture it being too large. Extended never seems to do well here. I have to admit though that I would be happy to be proven wrong. We have our new house that will be ready in about one month and have a lot of new house purchases coming down the pike that I could use the money for.

 

Meanwhile, on the job front, I am having a blast. This company does a lot of fast paced moving and there is always an overabundance of High Priority tasks going on. As a Project Manager working in this environment, there is a suitable challenge in trying to track bottlenecks in projects and identify timelines when the priorities often change on a daily basis. This has led me to take a step back at some of the people “doing the work” so to speak (as opposed to managing/delegating) and forcing them to step back and do what I call a “90% list” or “almost done list."

 

The problem with a fast paced company like this is often there are so many projects going on at once, and so many changes in priority, that sometimes projects simply get lost and never get complete because the resources is never allocated to “finish it off” so to speak. Even worse, the poor guy who started this project still has it on his list of things to do, and this list keeps growing and growing, and slowly becomes a morale issue. People want to think that they are accomplishing things, not that they are slowly drowning in tasks. Finally there is the issue of dependencies. Quite often one “almost done” task was holding up three other tasks from getting done.

 

So, even though each individual “almost done” task may not be high priority, or considered important, giving an employee the chance to “clear their plate” by getting some of these done makes the employee feel better, provides benefit to the company, and helps get other tasks moving which may have been dependant on those tasks.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, you want to know what in the world this has to do with Magic.  Well, from a Tournament Organizer perspective, “almost done” lists are essential to me. Small simple things I never got around to doing often drastically impact me on event day, and not following through on these things makes my events run worse, and my players unhappy.

 

One of the big things I recently tackled on my almost done list was the purchase of a new printer. This may not seem like a big thing, but the old printer printed four pages a minute and had to be hand fed. While it worked, it was slow, and it probably slowed down the entire event to some level. Buying a new fast laser jet (24 pages a minute now, yay!) made it so much easier for me to print result slips and get them out in a timely manner to the players. Pairing went up ten seconds after the last result was in. This simple small thing had a big impact.

 

Another was the creation of a staff list. Every time I ran an event, I would parse through my address book, find the judges I remember for that area, email them to ask if they were available, and wait for responses. Sometimes I missed judges and sometimes I sent things to the wrong person. So finally I created a staff template for staff communications. Now all of the e-mails I send out are in a certain format, and sent to a mail list for that region/game. This ensures that a) I hit all the right people and b) I always have all of the information in each e-mail without worry, so I don’t forget silly things like when the judges should show up, or where the event is (which believe me, I did all the time).

 

The next one I need to do; and I need to practice what I preach here and just get it done, is to create a task calendar. When you show up to an event, it’s likely you don’t really think about what it takes to get the event going. I, being a project manager, have a checklist, which looks something like this:

 

1                    Get Event Request from Company

2                    Schedule potential dates with surrounding tournament organizers so as not to conflict.

3                    Determine site possibility and request availability for the sites

4                    If no site is available, go to 2.

5                    Select site from available list

6                    Put event on web site

7                    E-mail request for staff

8                    E-mail request for vendors

9                    Select staff

10                Select vendors

11                Order Product for event

12                Prepare supplies for event

13                Event

 

What I don’t have is a calendar that I can use to plan these timelines out. This often creates situations where I get polite e-mails from game companies saying “were you planning on running this sealed event with no product?”

 

“Oops.”

 

So, now that I typed this out and admitted I do it, I’m going to have to fix it. In some way this article just became a motivator for me.

 

In Magic, this theory of the 90% list applies as well. I see a large number of people that come to a Pro Tour Qualifier “almost done,” and wonder why they never win. When trying to play Magic at a competitive level, you need to have a checklist of things to do to be successful, and make sure you accomplish all of the tasks.

 

My checklist for constructed event PTQ's looks something like this.

 

1.                  Research current archetypes in the field

2.                  Determine deck to play

3.                  Obtain cards for deck

4.                  Create Playtest group

5.                  Determine decks to play against

6.                  Obtain cards for decks

7.                  Playtest

8.                  If Deck Choice = poor, Go to 2

9.                  Determine sideboard

10.              Obtain cards for sideboard

11.              Determine sideboard cards for decks to play against

12.              Obtain cards

13.              Playtest with sideboards

14.              If sideboard choice = poor, go to 9

15.              Research current archetypes in field AGAIN, after a couple of weeks of playtesting.

16.              If deck choice = poor, go to 2

17.              If sideboard choice = poor, go to 9

18.              Pre-write deck list

19.              Get good night’s sleep before event

20.              Eat good breakfast

21.              Examine deck types on site. Modify sideboard if required. Modify deck list if required.

22.              Play

 

Now, that looks like an anal retentive project manager’s version of fun I admit, but well, that’s what I am.

 

Quite often I see people skip steps here though, primarily 11, 13, and 14. 19 is another biggie I see people skip on. As a result, when it comes time for them to play at the PTQ, their deck and their skill playing it, is “almost done,” and someone who has put in that extra piece of time will beat them and they’ll wonder why. They did research, too! They playtested, too! But the reality is they were only 90% ready to play, and they were beat by someone who was 100% ready.

 

So, while it took me 1300 words to do it, it really comes down to be prepared, take that extra step, and get everything done you plan on doing. If you do, you’ll see your success rate rise, and your morale is better going into something new, because you’re coming off a fresh feeling of accomplishment.

 

And we all like to have a fresh feeling.

 

See you next week!

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