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Its been 5 months since I decided my future is going to be in films. Its like those fb quotes that you don’t post thinking either its inappropriate or i am not big enough to post it yet but safely store it in a corner in your notepad which surfaces in fb after some time :) You really can’t run away from your innermost calling. So here I am. making films! 

I have been writing all these years but always thought I will save them for now. I would just write synopsis. But before I quit, I had written a full length feature script. But I can’t approach anyone with it so decided I am going to make short films to prove that I can tell a story. For a person in formative years, reaching wider audiences is crucial to gauge popular feedback. Honestly, the critics will always have something to fault. here’s an illustration – adapted from the aesop’s fable ”The Miller, his son and their donkey”.

Image

Adapt, adapt and adapt. Finally what you have is so NOT you. How do I defeat this? 

  1. Have a clear guideline. For example, say your films will (1) be realistic (2) be simple to understand — no elitism (3) communicate in layers i.e. readily understood but when peeled convey profound meanings/feelings. (4) Whatever… just know your ambit. Adapt within these guidelines. Guess what, Adaptation is the Beauty and Curse of all living beings. So leverage it for the good. 
  2. Try and have reference points which your team can relate. Guidelines are ambiguous. For example, say you want your films to be like Balu Mahendra’s films, Bala’s films, K Balachander’s films etc or Film X, Y, Z etc. 
  3. Try and target a wider audience to gauge popular feedback. For example, I formulated what I call a “bus theorem” or lets say “motel theorem“. The motel theorem goes like “What percentage of people in this motel will understand and pay to watch this movie.” Why motel? Because it has people from all walks in right proportion. You have govt buses, omni buses, you have fewer people in personal vehicles like car, you have workers, you have women, you have children. This sample would closely reflect the population. 

Here comes the problem for today’s independent(indie) film makers. 1 and 2 is well within the film-makers control but how does he reach sufficient people in various walks of life. That there is very limited, practically no, avenue for revenue from short films is well documented. While this is also linked to the absence of a distribution system, more importantly, offline distribution is even more crucial for “popular feedback”. The problem with online is that 1. you generally reach only the literate. 2. you get feedback that is regurgitated after seeing – this is no way equal to say 50 people watching it live. You can check the pulse for every dialogue and scene. Obviously, the avenue that is working as of now offline is small screen competitions. But it can accommodate only a handful. If one is selected though he will have to quit his job! So it isn’t covering Indie’s really. 

Recently my friend and college junior Selvakumar Vinaiooki had posted about “one reel movement” an arrangement by which 10 minute shorts were shown in theaters before movies. This was in 2008. But I learnt later that this flopped because it was an authoritarian initiative – a production house made films and screened in their cinemas (which showed mainstream films) but didn’t survive for long. Perhaps they started too early. 

While I was pondering over this, my friend Rajavel Subramanian, invited me to a play in the city. I was expecting a well established theatre or the typical places I have seen plays in Chennai in the past. I was mildly surprised at “Spaces” near Besant Nagar Beach, Chennai. It was quite spacious and had the awesome aura to the place – natural, contemporary, artistic. We saw a street play! Pretty cool!. The only rule is that you can not charge entry and you get the space free! You are allowed to keep a donation box. 

There came my Eureka moment. 

IDEA: 

Why can’t we, film-makers, leverage such facilities across cities in a co-operative society model. Hire same location weekly and same time. Say Spaces, Friday 7pm.  For Spaces, rent is nil and can host 100 people easily. We just need projector and screen. We can rent or one of the members can lend. The operational cost is peanuts. We can market in FB initially. Audience should know if I go Friday 7 pm, I can check out some short films. One hour every week, 3 shorts. This way we could get footfall from the offline population. We can utilize some offline marketing later. Of the 3 shorts we could keep one international and two from community. We need a team to select and screen every week. The three 3 shorts besides giving an avenue for distribution will also help widen our own horizon as film-makers. 

For other cities…I wonder, wouldn’t film schools have such arrangements for their young alumni? Can’t we talk to them to take our films as well? Can’t we talk to college cultural groups for screening in their auditorium. VisComm departments could spearhead such initiatives. It’s educational for them as well! 

We need a name. What if we became huge offline distributors :) Just kidding.. but for brand sake and what we stand for – offline distribution of independent cinema we need a name. StreetCinema? GulliCinema? RoadieMovies?

If you want to contribute/participate join the fb pages Indian Underground Cinema and Film buffs rendezvous.  Folks there have been debating for a while. Will we make it? Hope so. For now, let’s focus on what’s in our control – the path, the team and our commitment. 

Its fairly clear for Chennai. What we need is a few thousand bucks for renting projectors [ or a projector donor :) ] , a line-up of movies and the show is on. I am on and will need some volunteers. 

Whoever you are, you can help us. Spread the word. Come to see our films. Shape our distribution model – share your thoughts here.

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Jan 12 was officially the 90th day for me. To be honest, I didn’t follow first 90 days to the extent I imagined – with a timeline etc. But certainly there were some key things that I leveraged which proved useful.

  1. Promote yourself – it is not to go around with tantrums but to actually imagine yourself in the changed job/role for one or two days before the switch
  2. Build network – understand people as much as the new processes and tools.
  3. Build learning agenda/plan – I think this is one area which has helped me immensely. In what could have been a case of drinking from a fire-hose, I now feel very comfortable with the new setup.
  4. Securing early wins – not necessarily a big win – but what I like to describe as “moments of truth”. In a relationship role this would be credibility building. Performing value-creation activities and communicating an image consistently. If the image involves few values – these moments of truths should highlight them.

I will leave you all with a final insight – Shut the doors!

Shut the doors on other options – the biggest deterrent to success is doubts, allowing buyer’s remorse to build and loosing focus on job-at-hand. It is related to what Watkins says as “promoting yourself”. I will say after ‘promoting yourself’, stay there. Especially for next 30 days, do not keep “testing” – any testing on whether it is the right job/role should be before joining! You will give yourself a best chance to succeed if you “accept” the change completely and put your wholehearted effort. You will find a similar point in “trust your boss”.

I can describe what I am saying above in an “emotions” curve.

The Emotions Curve [I preferred to embed – but couldn’t get it soon enough. Don’t have the time, for now, to figure out which widget/plug-in/codex to use. Please bear with me and click this link.]

This is so true for first job after MBA. The problem with the first cycle is that you will never know if the job was alright or not. This is no survey of all MBA pass-outs. Just, my honest observation from people I have interacted with. Please note the y-axis is not “success scale”. It’s an engagement scale. Staying involved doesn’t mean success and vice versa too. Also, engagement depends on multiple factors – some of which you can, and some of which you can not, influence. Going through emotions curve-2 is one of the things you can control.

The First 90 Days and the series end here! A lot of you, my friends, followers and mentors, have been encouraging me consistently and have liked/followed this series. My sincere thanks to all of you – only because of you I feel a lot energized everyday I write about this series.

The entire series:

(1)  First 90 days – prelude; This is about strategies for leaders in new roles/jobs.

(2) First 90 Days Insight-1: Trust your boss

(3) First 90 Days Insight-2: Be Sympathetic

(4) First 90 Days Insight-3: Be Decisive

(5) First 90 Days Insight-4: Where to?

(6) First 90 Days Insight-5: Shut the doors & Conclusion.

Pre-read

(1)  First 90 days – prelude; This is about strategies for leaders in new roles/jobs.

(2) First 90 Days Insight-1: Trust your boss

(3) First 90 Days Insight-2: Be Sympathetic

I wrote about this in the first insight itself that you can’t really postpone decisions in first 30 days. In the next 30 days, the problem is different. You know stuff but you don’t know enough probably. You could fall into the trap of indecisiveness and/or less communication.

The thumb rule is – you will never know enough. Especially, so, if you continue in this state. From whatever you know you will have an opinion. State it openly and confidently if in a brainstorming session or act on it if in a decision making situation. The catch is, be open to be corrected. But demand enough information before being corrected.

How many of us believe that Decisiveness and Flexibility do not go together? I believe they are a strong combination.

I must share (without specificity for obvious confidentiality reasons) an experience recently about how people reacted to such decisive remark in a brainstorming session. Few reacted with disdain and dismissed it. The official discussion took a more objective and constructive approach and I felt it led to meaningful dismantling of few myths. During the lunch/coffee people had thought about it and gave some excellent counter-arguments which I agreed on.

Overall, the discussions certainly made me wiser. I believe vice versa is true too, but I can’t be the judge.  For me, I understood about some nuances of the business I was getting into and got closer to few people.

Pre-read

(1)  First 90 days – prelude; This is about strategies for leaders in new roles/jobs.

(2) First 90 Days Insight-1: Trust your boss

One of the concepts I liked from the ‘First 90 Days’ book is the “STaRS” framework.  Every business situation can be categorized into one of these: Startup, Turnaround, Realignment, Sustaining Success. Each situation needs a unique approach because the priorities and challenges are different. For example, quick decisions are critical in turnaround versus realignment. In realignment and sustaining success scenarios measuring success is not easy as against startup or turnaround. What is considered ok performance could have been worse and what is seen as good could have been better! In turnaround the focus is on dropping dead-weight, in startup it is on building solid team and so on and so forth… While I am at it, ensuring key personnel in organization go through STaRS situations grooms them. In fact, its one of the four ways selected people can be groomed:

1. Give cross-functional exposure

2. Expose to different geography

3. Prepare for career crossroads

4. Increase breadth of exposure to STaRS business situations

Hmm… makes a lot of sense! Anyone who has gone through all of this will be a lot wiser!

By the way, the insight I wanted to register was related to STaRS – Keeping my promise that you don’t have to read the book, I wrote a bit about it.

Unless you are in a turnaround situation, you are likely to encounter pockets of excellence in your new organization or group especially in a realignment or sustaining success situations. Consciously look out for these islands! General tendency is to be skeptical  or create a completely fresh setup. More often than not, if you are sympathetic to what is being said – you will realize there are interesting stuff that exists which can be leveraged or built upon. Some of this holds good for a new bride or groom – you enter a new system which needs to be respected. Understand first. Later, tweaking can be done for peaceful co-existence.

So, be sympathetic – this will help you spot more of those pockets of excellence!

#BaldevSingh suicide allegedly due to depression in job change made me to write about the book I read on “critical success strategies for new leaders”. Mr. Singh had taken over as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s Director of Corporate planning and marketing few weeks before his suicide. Before that he was Executive Director Flight Operations and the Chief Test Pilot.  If you thought he just wasn’t capable enough to handle job change, read this: Sqn Ldr Baldev Singh did early schooling in Bangalore at St. Joseph European High School and later joined St. Joseph College. He joined the National Defence Academy in 1970 and graduated from the academy in December 1972 and was commissioned into the Indian Air Force in June 1973 as a fighter pilot. He is a Qualified Flying Instructor and holds a diploma in Aviation Flight Safety from the Naval Post Graduate College, Monterey Bay, California, USA. He was 58 when he moved to the new role.

By the way, whether his death had anything to do with job change or not, I had realized reasonable enough value in the book that I wanted to blog about it. The book “First 90 Days”, written by leadership transition expert and Harvard Professor Mr. Watkins, gives Dos and Don’ts when moving to a new role/job.

Disclaimer: A lot of things said are common sense. But unless this is your 5th job in 10 years, you are less likely to intuitively do these things right. From personal experience, I can confirm I have had my bumps. Moreover, it brings a structured framework/approach to the transition and I am sure you will find it useful. Fyi – Author has claimed many executives/HR after reading this book have made First 90 Days as structured transition kit in their organizations.

And by the way, I am moving to a new role within my company. The next 90 days are the first 90 days for me! So keep watching this space as I write about my insights from my “trial” run in the next 90 days.

First step: Follow this link to browse a 20 slide PPT that tries to summarize the framework. [Well I thought I would create this PPT but its been crazy settling in the new job, new location, new BU, new people plus finding place to stay, school for my son and managing to disengage from current commitments including school fees, gas transfer and what not! Add travelling from one corner of the country to other for celebrating Diwali with family! So I figured if you are curious enough you would read the first comment in the amazon link I gave earlier on the book name. If not, here it is again: First 90 Days. On my part, I will not assume you have read the book or any reviews or any excerpts when I publish insights! Deal?]

I will certainly publish the PPT later. So here you go: The PPT is and is not certain things:

The PPT is not a step to convince you about the framework. For that read the book. This is a clear step by step guide assuming you are a “BELIEVER”.  I have also tried to sequence steps and put a timeline (hhmmm… what’s with us Project Managers in sequencing and adding deadlines). Author has not given timeline explicitly. This is just an attempt by me.

It’s hard for the incumbent to move to new, faster model.

Google chairman Schmidt opined like this about Microsoft in an interview with salesforce.com CEO Benioff. I thought that was so true. I could think of several such examples – salesforce.com itself is a good example of leveraging this advantage against “not so nimble” giants that occupied the CRM market. Google with the internet, facebook with social network, makemytrip/monster over traditional facilitators are all few case-in-points.

I had read many cases during my MBA about how IBM which stood the test of PC still lost some ground to newer players who leveraged offshoring like Infosys; How GM, Ford lost ground to Honda, Toyota; The point is that as companies age, they develop processes that fit the existing model. The people selection and development and other systems also comply with the incumbent business model. These processes become the huge ship that can’t turn quickly when they spot the iceberg (assuming they do spot it!). With time, when a new need emerges, a new entrant leverages a new model to effectively satisfy the new need. The incumbent then is unable to swiftly change their model to stay relevant. The people, processes and systems not only create friction to change but also groupthink makes company happy with status-quo. I have to note here the concept called “Theory of Business” – the idea is to stay relevant to the market i.e. to spot the iceberg. But that does not address how a company stays nimble with its people, processes and systems.

But then is it really true? Does a company become less agile as it ages? I wondered. Well, tell Steve Jobs that “It’s hard for the incumbent to move to new, faster model.” Following responses are possible: Smirk, Slap or rolling on the floor laughing out loud. :) From an existing company he kept giving new products that, as someone put it in TechCrunch, were not just hits after hits but were home-runs after home-runs. First the iPod that took good care of the “incumbent” Sony. You could argue that iPod and iPhone are in fact the case stated by Schmidt. Just that it’s an existing company that entered a new market. But take PC market. First with Mac, Apple defined the edge of computing, usability and even form factor with iMac. With iPad they are defining the next evolution of personal computer. After I come back from work when I hop onto fb, twitter, linkedin, google reader, youtube and my internet reading list why would I switch on my laptop again? To call a desktop a personal computer is so stone-age Microsoft! Let’s think for a moment. Why couldn’t a new entrant come up with a tablet and surprise the PC market incumbents, to name a few – Apple and Microsoft? Not with Apple, because Apple defines the evolution and not the new entrant!

This is what leaders do – they don’t just have market-share, they define the market. Now what does it make Apple so successful in staying nimble even as it ages??? Certainly, it’s a worthy topic for a research paper. Let me speculate on this a little bit and please share your thoughts:

  1. Have being nimble as part of the strategy itself – then your people, process and systems or more comprehensively the 7S of McKinsey will be designed towards nimbleness – huh…It’s so easy to lay down these terms know. That is why MBA is easy but businesses are not!
  2. Keep the radar on – to check if the assumptions of the business (theory of business) are relevant for the current changes in the society, markets, customers, products and technology.
  3. Depending on the industry and the company strategy keep a portion (more for say hi-tech, pharma as against say construction) of the company focused on innovation. Focus on the five tenets of innovation development: read this article I wrote.

Obviously the list is not complete. Let me know what you think your company is doing to stay nimble. Or is it really hard for the incumbent to move to new, faster models?

Recently I was thinking about how to effectively sell transformation or big change. [This was from a PPT perspective but still this is a good approach, I thought].

There are three major aspects – one, be clear on what is the macro level objective – what are we after? Two, address customer’s major pain point or dream. Three, demystify change.

1. First, value must be simple to be understood.

2. Second, what does every CXO/function head dream of?

The most pertinent question is “How will my company/function mature with time?”

This is the reason why SEIs Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and Gartner’s Hype Curves are famous – they show how a phenomenon/company matures or transforms with time.

ð  Insight: With time as an axis show maturity progression & savings at each stage

3. Third, what will de-mystify change?

Big bang brings opacity and high risks;

Baby steps and phased approach de-risks change/transformation for customers & us equally.

ð  Insight: Sequence activities/changes;

What comes first, Why so?, How much savings, What is the stage-gate etc. Again in my opinion, sequencing is the reason why CMM was so successful: first repeatable process then defined process, then measureable processes are quantitatively managed – this gives a structure to how you are going to evolve in a continuum – to me this is critical in any change management process.

Ps: How an individual faces change and how an organization faces change are very different like B2C and B2B marketing. I once read this “Who moved my cheese?” book on managing change when me and my wife were grappling with a change. My initial reaction was: ok there is some truth but this is an idiot’s book – telling what is apparently clear! But as days passed I started thinking I am not all that one-dimensional when it comes to change – sometimes I even resisted change! [Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw are mice characters in the book. Sniff – foresees change; Scurry – adapts to change quickly; Hem – is lethargic in changing; Haw – totally resists change. This book is a great (and quick) read either as a professional or simply as an individual.]

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