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?
- They’re supposed to show the students’ expertise in a particular domain.
- Being an indicator of the quality of students, they’re supposed to help in building the brand of the institution.
- 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.com, http://www.smashingmagazine.com/, http://www.businessinsider.com/, etc.
The reasons were various
- 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.
- 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.
- All references are linked in, meaning readers can go off exploring related tangents.
- 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.
- 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.