Case Study of Change Management and Online Magazines

Continued from my last post, probably the most difficult thing to do is bringing in “change”. In my experience, this is so usually because of the following reasons

  • The person(s) trying to bring in the change did not completely understand the incentives that drove the activity/function as it was being done.
  • The “soft” issues: wherein the concerned people get attached to the status quo and change being brought from outside seems to them an affront to their authority.
  • New ideas take time and effort to implement. The first roadblock or small failure is usually trotted out as the reason why the “new way” cannot work, discouraging even the few who might have believed that it was the right thing to do.

As always, I’ll use some live examples here. The general culture in Indian MBA colleges today is to publish magazines; magazines on Finance, Marketing, Trade or whatever other specialization. Why are magazines published?

  1. They’re supposed to show the students’ expertise in a particular domain.
  2. Being an indicator of the quality of students, they’re supposed to help in building the brand of the institution.
  3. And finally, they’re supposed to help spread knowledge.

Currently, the model being followed in most places is thus

  • The Magazine Edit Board decides on a theme for the month.
  • The Ed. Board puts out a “Call for Articles” through various fora like Dare2compete, Facebook, email newsletter and on an internal message board. A small prize in the form of cash/gifts might be offered for the best/all articles.
  • Entries are received from the MBA ecosystem and while the rest edit, one member of the team (the designated “designer”) starts either crafting a whole new Corel Draw/Adobe InDesign file or tries to force-fit the articles in to an already existing template. This edit+design job goes through multiple revisions.
  • After finalizing, PDF is generated and then this is distributed through as many channels as possible; Facebook, Twitter, own website, emails to alumni and the student bodies of other colleges, Slideshare, etc.
  • In certain cases, actual paper copies might be printed.

In terms of time taken, a monthly magazine can be divided in to something like this: 15 days to get articles, 10 days to edit and design and about one or two nights when the magazine is “marketed”, or tried to spread as far and wide as possible. That means the mag comes out a couple of days before end-of-month.

What about the numbers?

No idea. There was no way of knowing how many people read the magazine, because there is no way of actually knowing how many people downloaded the PDF from their inbox and then went on to open it. After opening, again no way of knowing which articles were of most interest to the readers.

So we started putting all our magazines (PDFs) on a website (www.mbadox.com) and tracked downloads + views through Google Analytics.

What are the incentives for the volunteers in the Magazine Edit Board?

The biggest incentive is a “CV point” and then there are the additional benefits of knowledge, social standing (within the college) and contacts one might acquire while following up with an industry person for an interview or an article.

What was the change suggested?

Take magazines online to a format on the lines of http://www.cbsnews.comhttp://www.smashingmagazine.com/http://www.businessinsider.com/, etc.

Why?

The reasons were various

  1. Submissions can be put up as and when they arrive after only the editing process (grammatical, factual & anti-plagiarism check). Since a CMS (WordPress) handles the design part, there is no need for extensive time spent on force-fitting or creating a new template.
  2. The author’s are attributed by linking to their FB and LinkedIn profiles. Since authors are likely to share it on their FB, LinkedIn and Twitter, it was anticipated that there would be more sharing of the content/website.
  3. All references are linked in, meaning readers can go off exploring related tangents.
  4. A discussion can ensue on each post, meaning readers engage with other readers and the author using the website’s comments section as the platform.
  5. Major tracking and analytics.

Was the proposed change accepted? No.

For the simple reason that it would not remain a “magazine”. And that was the overriding thought process that powered the team: they were the Editorial Board of a Magazine and not an online blog. They wanted to see a magazine being printed, they wanted the “Editor’s Note” in every issue, they wanted their little blurbs on the inside-of-cover page and they wanted the 3 column layout on real paper.

What I learnt and how would I handle the situation now?

In this case, I’ll try and avoid conflict. Instead of fighting and forcing stuff down people’s throats, I’d rather create a new, two-person team that takes the edited article and simple puts it online on the website. This team also does as much of social media marketing as possible.

Vice Presidential Experiences

Thanks to classmates who voted for me in the IMF (Student Body of IIFT) Elections, I’ve had the excellent opportunity of having been the Vice President for the year 2011-12. After my two startups, this counts as my most valuable learning experience so far. A few of them are

  1. Leave the ego at the door – Air in your head is the surest way of losing any respect your colleagues had for you.
  2. Peer Management – All the work I did was in peer teams; with the IMF, the club coordinators and other classmates. As such, I might have had the authority to order people around, but not the right. The best way to get work done was to help kickstart the task and then leave it on the concerned person, while being a worker yourself. This brings me to the next point,
  3. Leaders versus Followers – I equate followers to workers. All B-school promotional material (and even soft skills workshops, self help books, etc) talk about making a leader out of you. I say, become a good worker first, then think of becoming a leader. The reason is simple, the best workers get the best leadership opportunities. This is because leaders are supposed to “get stuff done” and those who get stuff done when not in leadership positions are automatically ahead of the pack when the time to choose comes.
  4. Interpersonal Relationships & Emotional Intelligence – The Indian MBA education system is basically Entrance Exam -> Group Discussion -> Personal Interview -> Selection -> Summer Internship -> Final Placement. IQ gets one through the Entrance Exam and then kind of stops there. After that, it’s all about hardwork and great EI. EI is also massively important for a VP, because in my experience, 75% of the VP job is getting together people of different interests and motivations and making sure they work well together.

    Screwed up EI has its own consequences. As an example, I’ll tell you about a person we refer to as “Obama” (nothing to do with the real Barack Obama, mind you). Obama loved taking the Personality Development Sessions (PDPs; initial 3 weeks of sessions taken by seniors for the newly joined junior batch). Obama usually came up in front of the 2011-13 batch to dole out advice & reprimand anyone/everyone. Although a lot of what Obama said was probably true, he was unfortunately, quite abrasive. I remember the first session he took; pointing out a mistake, any mistake, in every junior batch member who came up in front to introduce himself to the class. This superior-to-thou attitude plus fuckall behaviour went on for so long, the junior batch specifically requested the IMF to remove Obama from all proceedings in the second week, or else they’d boycott the PDPs.

  5. Team Meetings & Reviews – Many of my classmates have more than 2 years of work experience and a quick dipstick poll had them had them say this about Reviews: useless if not short and sweet. As the VP, I feel this was one of my shortcomings. I didn’t hold Review Meetings frequently enough. Though it isn’t an excuse, but Student Body work isn’t always quantifiable. In fact, it most usually consists of following up with people, taking care of paperwork and running around after admin, profs or even students. That makes Review Meetings fairly difficult, as the slackers simply get by on “Ya dude, I’m following up with her but she’s out of town until Monday.” NB – The internet has a lot of interesting stuff on Meetings; see link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4 and link 5.
  6. Loads and loads more, but I want to keep that for another post. Also a ploy to hopefully keep you hooked. 

The Best of MBA Gyaan (Part 1)

MBA Gyaan

  1. The best learning happens when people smarter & better informed than yourself challenge and rip apart your presentations. The downside to this; even the idiots think they should chip in with their DCP-esque questions, leaving you mindfucked for the rest of the day. At least in marketing, most of your peers don’t have the intellectual capacity or understanding to challenge much of what you say. [Example: in an Advertising and Promotion Management (APM) class exercise, one bunch of idiots came up and loudly proclaimed that a Talwalker like gym opened in a posh area faces its primary competition from local Rs. 300-a-month gyms. After being shredded to pieces by all and sundry, they go on to question each and every other group’s ppt, asking all their questions on basic STP assumptions.]
  2. Then comes case-study competitions floated by different companies/colleges. Fruitful ones to go to are those which have good judges (the best are from the big brands or the consulting firms). Usually the case studies are problems currently being faced by a business unit of the company. The judges expect a solid, coherent & logical story that goes about answering the questions.
  3. Last comes classes. Most are stuff you could do in two days with the right powerpoint presentations, but once in a while you come across a professor who actually challenges you and forces you to think. Never miss this person’s class.

Why I don’t pay attention in Economics class

(If you’ve already read this, see “Part 2: How I answer my Economics paper”)

Here at IIFT, “Economics” appears in every trimester (in some form or the other), as part of our core course and I’m given to understand a similar situation exists in almost every B-school in India. Obviously, it is a very important subject, something that needs to be well understood by a candidate aspiring to become a Master of Business Administration.

Fair enough. I sat ramrod straight in the first few classes and burdened the professor with the full weight of my unwavering attention. When the assumptions were laid out, I started thinking: “OK, so how often do all those assumptions ever hold true, together at the same place at the same time?”

Then came the beautifully constructed mathematical derivations, followed by the graphs and their constituent lines and curves. Still, the question remained: “Fine, but when is this actually going to be useful in the real world?”

The classes went on, but somehow I never really understood how managers used more than the basics of economics to take decisions in their organisations. Most of the basics seem like simple horse sense to me anyway. So I did some research on the Internet and found out about the part that was simply never mentioned in class; most of the theories being taught had a large group of researchers/academicians/economists who supported it, and another group that looked at it in a completely different way. Soon enough, the only question left was “Why am I being taught this subject?”

That question has not gone till today. Unfortunately, I still see all our Economics classes as an absolute waste of time; time that could be spent doing something more useful. After the first trimester, I developed my own formula for the eco subjects, and I trot it out quite proudly here:

The interesting thing is, a few of my classmates quite vehemently defend economics and its place in our course curriculum. They argue that eco is the underlying basis for all business transactions and therefore quite rightly the king of all post-graduate business studies. I obviously don’t agree. In fact, I vehemently disagree.

I think consumer behaviour should be the king of post-graduate business studies. Understanding consumer behaviour to me is the ability to understand what the person in front wants. That’s it. I’m almost certain that this would apply in all kinds of industries, segments, markets, businesses, whatever.

Now, dear reader, kindly move on to the second post in this series: “Part 2: How I answer my Economics paper”. I promise it’ll be worth a few chuckles.

How I answer my Economics paper

If you haven’t read “Part 1: Why I don’t pay attention in Economics class” please do so. This post makes more sense after going through Part 1.

This is a question I got for a recent end-trimester Economics paper:

The expected answer to 2(a) should have contained some of the following:

Solow Growth Model

Solow Growth model

Solow Growth Model

and this

My answer to 2(a):

“Since the Solow Growth Model came about as a post hoc analysis of a developed country’s economy and history, it quite obviously pertains to the reality in developed countries, more specifically, the USA.”

Answer 2(b) was also expected to be filled with mathematical derivations and graphs. Me? Nopes, I just don’t roll that way. I write out a basic two sentence summation and the assumptions of the Harris Todaro Model and then add the following line:

“How often do the underlying assumptions of this model hold true at the same place at the same time is, well, an interesting question to be asked.”

Edit: Just couldn’t help but put in the following. Taken from http://www.nd.edu/~jstiver/jokes.htm

  • A physicist, a chemist and an economist are stranded on an island, with nothing to eat. A can of soup washes ashore. The physicist says, “Lets smash the can open with a rock.” The chemist says, “Let’s build a fire and heat the can first.” The economist says, “Lets assume that we have a can-opener…”
  • One night a policeman saw a macroeconomist looking for something buy a light pole. He asked him if had lost something there. The economist said, “I lost my keys over in the alley.” The policeman asked him why he was looking by the light pole. The economist responded, “it’s a lot easier to look over here.”
  • An economist is someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about – but makes you feel it’s your fault.

Sherwood, on the Night of India’s Independence

Sherwood College, Nainital

    Sherwood, On the night of India’s Independence in 1947 !
     
     
    I was in Sherwood (RH) from 1941 to 1947 . In those days we used
    to sit the Cambridge exams and I did my SC in 1946, and followed
    up with Inter Science in 1947.
     
    Prior to being in Sherwood, I was in Philander Smith College on
    Sherkadanda Hill , from 1939 to 1940 , when it closed down . I
    believe the buildings are now occupied by Birla School.
     
    You ask what we got up to …..Well , with Independence Day
    approaching, this brief escapade might be of interest.
     
    On the night of Independence in 1947 about 8 or 10 us sneaked
    out to town after lights out . We went down to Malli Tal and on
    our way acquired a very nice Tricolour . We then proceeded to
    Talli Tal and greeted any folk we met with a robust ‘Jai Hind’.
    I believe that the people were pleasantly surprised and pleased
    by our joining in on this very auspicious occasion.
     
    In Talli Tal we went to one of our favourite Indian Sweet shops
    and persuaded the owner to open up and serve us. The time was
    about 2 to 3 a.m. ! I don’t think we were charged very much for
    the sweets we consumed.
     
    We then headed up to Ramnee Convent and planted the Flag in
    their playing field . We had to make a hasty exit because we
    hadn’t been too quiet in this operation and people were
    beginning to stir.
     
    From there we went to the Teacher Training Block at All Saints.
    Some of us had girl friends in the TC block, so we threw gravel
    up at the windows of these particular girls. However, we awoke
    more than the ones we had intended, and again we had to vanish
    as fast as we could.
     
    We got back to the dorms undetected , for a brief sleep!
     
    I look back on this event and consider that we were very
    fortunate to have had the opportunity to celebrated India’s
    first day, hours, of Independence.
    – Paul Dickson (Sherwood College, Nainital, 1941 to 47)

I enjoy negotiations!

Negotiations!!!

Taken from http://williamjcole.com/2011/03/negotiating-part-2/

We’ve had some really interesting negotiation exercises in class lately and I really enjoy these sessions. Here’s a bit of what I learnt.

  1. Make the other party talk – This seems to be the golden rule to getting oneself a fair deal in a negotiation. Make the other party talk as much as they can. Specially if they are a group. Very rarely do groups agree completely or have the same viewpoint or even have decided as to who the mouthpiece is going to be. Such situations are ripe for the harvesting of fissures and weaknesses. This automatically means a lot of open ended questions and consequent listening.
  2. Don’t ever give something away for free – If you’re conceding, ensure that you receive a commensurate deal in return. If that deal is diluted, block it immediately.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously – As that means you’re ready to walk away from the table with only a deadlock. If the other party knows that you’re ready to get up and simply leave without any sort of agreement, your bargaining power has gone up substantially.
  4. Never want anything too bad – Again to do with bargaining power. If you want something desperately, don’t let it show.
  5. Just around the corner – Go with the mindset of Dr. Jekyll, but ensure Mr. Hyde is just around the corner.
  6. Forget defense – The best defense is attack. If attacked, forget all about the cute defensive maneuvers. Go for the jugular. If you miss, quickly set about finding another one.
  7. Be ready to give – The best negotiations are where both parties feel they’ve got enough, though not all. If faced with someone actually cooperative and thinking for the greater good, give them support.
  8. Have a Stop-Loss slightly above your position – This ensures that the least you’ll get to is still profit.

Please feel free to agree or disagree as vehemently as you like in the comments below. I understand I’m too gung-ho about the entire aggression thing, but I feel it works.

What gets me angry.

Angry Man

We had a class yesterday. This course is taken by a guest faculty. He has years and years of experience. He’s boring and feels quite redundant because most of what he says is just a verbal representation of his powerpoint and notes.

Yesterday, he got the dirty vibe form our class and asked “Why are you here?”

About 4 or 5 replied in unision “ATTENDANCE”. Yup, we have compulsory attendance rules.

That really ticked him off and he spent the next 30 minutes asking whoever said it to stand up. No one did. Not one fucking asshole did.

Then he promised no negative repercussions. Again, none of them got up.

He raved and he ranted, but then promised extra marks in internal evaluation. Again, none of them got up.

And that gets me mad. A bunch of spineless guys who will easily shoot their mouths off when protected by the anonymity of a crowd. As soon as they’re asked to stand up, take responsibility for their words and make some fucking meaningful contribution, their tails go between their legs and make for a sight a shite lot worse than cowardly dogs.

Unfortunately, I’ve come across people like this all my life, knowing that there are yet more to come. No balls, cynical, unwilling to do stand up and be counted but the first to talk shit.

My only hope is, when vested with the responsibility to do so, I am capable enough of recognizing and weeding them out.

What I learnt from my breakup

breakup

Once upon a time , I used to be in a relationship with this girl who lived close to my home in Jaipur. We’d met through a mutual friend and the initial sparks soon grew to a roaring fire. For the purposes of this post, let’s call her Hiromi, and only because it’s a cool Japanese name for girls.

First Love from pincel3d.deviantart.com

I was with Hiromi for about 3.5 years, from the ages of 19 to 22. She was my first love and we truly believed that we’d eventually get married and end up having an awesome “happily-ever-after”. The time we spent together was amazing, and the feeling I got when she would look up at me with complete & absolute adoration in her eyes is something that I cherish to this day [aside: we’ll talk about the “hell-hath-no-fury-like-a-woman-scorned” look in some other post :-) ].

Oh by the way, here’s a photo of the ex-girlfriend.

One day, somehow, I was given to understand that Hiromi’s mother had suddenly started feverishly believing in Hindu astrology. Like all astrology, that’s a load of shit. Yours truly was  summoned and all relevant details (date of birth, place of birth, exact time of birth) recorded. Then, some pandit who called himself a Doctor drew up a kundli (or a birth-chart) and did some sort of analysis. She didn’t actually need a pandit to do that because kundli generating webpages/software are easily available but whatever, I guess even simple lines of code seem more believable when slowly done by a pseudoscientist.

Our two kundlis didn’t match. In fact, they loudly declared that if Hiromi and I  cohabited together, her much stronger (and apparently more aggressive) planets would overshadow mine, resulting in long drawn illness or even my death.

When this little piece of analytical deduction reached Hiromi’s mother, she also loudly declared that the two of us could get married only over her dead body. After a lot of discussion, we decided that over her dead body wasn’t as viable an option as I construed it to be.

Now I come to the most important part of this post. What did I learn? Well, dear reader, if you’re looking for a sappy tear-inducing writeup on puppy love, relationships, tragedy, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel, etc etc etc, kindly redirect yourself to here or here or here.

My journey was different. It was as follows:

1) I started by reading up like mad on kundlis. I simply had to know as much as possible about these little geometrical shapes that could predict whether me and another person were capable of living together in peace and harmony without any bodily harm, or otherwise.

2) From kundlis I reverse-drilled up to astrology [aside: would “reverse-drilled-up” be the correct opposite to “drilled-down”?]. The more I learnt about astrology, the more I became convinced that it was just a slightly advanced version of hundreds of simple javascript games found on the net: Past Life, Love Compatibility Test, Death Calculator.

3) Astrology led me to the brilliant use of what we now know as the Forer Effect (also called Barnum Effect) and psychologist Bertram R. Forer’s work into the fallacies of personal validation.

4) Further study led me on to cognitive biases (see: list of cognitive biases, though am not sure if this list is exhaustive) and this was exceedingly useful stuff. It was empowering to know that the confidence I felt about completing a certain task was false (a cocktail case of optimism bias, overconfidence bias and positive outcome bias) and that I need to practice or study something to a much greater extent than I was currently doing. This helped bigtime for CAT and other similar MBA entrance tests.

5) These further led me on to logic and logical fallacies. Here’s a list of the most commonly used logical fallacies: one, two.

Combining the studies of logic with my short but mighty useful experience in two startups and very recently, an internship in SABMiller, I understand that logic should not be used to win an argument or to prove a point. It is most effective when used to correct the direction taken by a group working together and to drive it forward with greater clarity and understanding.

If that was the outcome of a breakup, I feel it just might be worth it.

Abbe chamar hai kya?

I’ve recently gotten into this nasty habit of using the word “chamar” as a derogatory term for anyone who I consider uncouth or lacking in basic manners. As I am currently at home recovering from an eye surgery,  one of the familial types overheard me call my younger brother Joji the same and I was promptly told to stfu.

Now you must understand where I’m coming from. I’m a pukka Jat from the bastion of us Jats, Haryana.

That’s us.


Jats protesting water cutUs again.


Umm, yeah okay, that’s us too!

Somewhere, I must have heard someone say that and it stuck. Jats use chamar as a cuss word all the time. In fact, Jat forums have bloody threads dedicated to chamar jokes (see this, and this, and this) and anecdotes.

Anyway, coming to the point of this little post. I accept that I was wrong in using the name of a caste as a swear word and I have stopped doing so.

PS: Here’s the fun part. Jat jokes abound all over the net. We’re known as simple minded yokels who are quick to take offense where none was meant :-) We on the other hand think we’re one of the smartest races on Earth and jokes made by us usually talk of outwitting the village baniya or a slick city dweller.