Sunday, April 12, 2015

Nautanki - Management Practicals

It's more than a year since our encounter with Ravan. The encounter left some of us shaken, some of us inspired but all of us had something to take away. All managers in the organization (without any exceptions) were nominated to a 2 day leadership training program. Most of us expected to listen to some gyan and maybe catch some shut-eye in the process! There was an expectation setting session with the faculty a few days before the event. There was no agenda. There was this suspense that only heightened each time we tried to probe the faculty for more information. Anu was a tough nut to crack. Make that impossible. Some people thought she was really nuts. She had .. ahem ... some unconventional methods. And 'unconventional' is putting it mildly. There were some folks whose sensitivities were hurt so badly that they even shot a few emails to the leadership team after what they thought was an insult! Being from a theater background of the Ranga Shankara fame, some of us expected some dramatics. And did she indulge us! Those who were not offended, well, let's just say - have a higher humor quotient ;)

A lesson in punctuality
On day one, Anu and most of us were on time. But she refused to start the program till everyone was accounted for. There was one person who was really late. She didn't start till he came in. We sat there for a good two hours, doing nothing. And you can imagine how embarrassed the latecomer was. It's unlikely that he will ever be late for another event in his life! A little extreme, but damn effective.

The Ice Breaker
We got around in a circle and were given some time to think of an adjective that we'd have to say along with our name while introducing ourselves. The adjective had to start with the same letter as our name and it had to be acted out. So when I said Naughty Nibu, I had to do so with a naughty expression. The next person had to remember and act out the previous person's name and adjective before introducing himself/herself. It was a challenge to remember all the adjectives and actions, leave alone the names, after a while. This was real fun. Especially since some people chose to introduce themselves with adjectives like 'adamant' and even fell to the ground kicking their hands and legs to act the word! Made life really difficult for those who had to do the introductions later.

The Plot
Once the team had assembled, she breaks the news. We were to be split into smaller teams. The teams were split based on the inputs we provided in the trailer session about our skills and interests. One team would be the actors, another would be the HR team, then a marketing and sales team, a script writing team, a stage management team, a finance team and a facilities team. The task was to come out with a skit and manage the whole event like professionals. Each team had to come up with its goals and road-map to achieve those goals. Work was clearly cut out for each team with little to no help from the faculty. We were given a budget to work with, had to actually sell tickets and also come up with a profit. Some of us were shocked! "Are you sure it is real money?" someone asked!
How could we? Most of us who had no experience whatsoever in this area, except for the drama during appraisals. We didn't even have experience as an audience! And they are expecting us to put on a performance worthy enough to sell tickets. But nevertheless, we decided to roll up our sleeves and take things one step at a time.

The Twist
We had a day and a half for the project. Almost half a day almost was spent waiting for the latecomer, remember? The script writers got down to writing the script. There were some strange ideas that were thrown across. It had to be mythology. And of course it had to have a twist. One of the twists was to have the Ram character run off with Ravan. But that was dumped since it would surely hurt sentiments. Besides, there was article 370 to worry about!
Finally, it was decided. Sita would run off with the tech support guy. Yeah there was one.

Full House and More
Imagine marketing and selling something you aren't confident about. You don't know what the end product will turn out to be! No one knows. But you still need to convince the customer (your colleagues who will see you again and again much after the show!) of what an awesome show it would be. We would than have to close our eyes, bow our heads, and pray! But this is probably one of the biggest lessons we learned. To simply do your part as best as you can. Assume everyone else is thinking along the same lines. If everyone ensures that it's nothing but the best, the overall effort would have to be great. The show was sold out in a short span of time. In fact, there was so much of interest that we had to create a new category of tickets for those willing to stand throughout the show. We sold those tickets till the last minute before the show. And as if this was not enough, we had to negotiate with the local politician (our real HR) who was insisting on free seats (planned earlier to check our negotiation skills)! Enough hype was created to get our colleagues curious about what their managers were up to. Pictures like this one worked!

All the rehearsals happened adjacent to the cafeteria. There was lots of music and noise and makeup. Posters were created. And teasers were sent out. Like this one about Good news and Bad news. 

We have some Good news and some Bad news.
The Good News: Since a picture speaks more than a thousand words, here’s a picture of what you could be part of :)

The Bad News: Rs 40 tickets and half of Rs 20 tickets are all sold out, even before we could get the poster ready! So hurry and grab the last few tickets!
We even went floor to floor to 'drum' up support. And yeah we really used a drum! 

A professional light crew was called in to set up the stage. We were working on a budget. Costumes were hired and everyone worked like there was no tomorrow. In fact there wasn't a tomorrow! Anyone who saw the first rehearsal would have probably asked for their money back! But after each rehearsal, it started to fall in place. The actors also started to improvise on the script. Amir Khan would have been proud of the final show. The final show was a roaring success.

Complete with the right numbers belted out, dances, even things that were not meant to be funny, tickled the crowd! The whistles might have made a few people deaf. And it did end with shouts of "Once more!", "Once more"!

And of course we made a profit. Not just in monetary terms, but also in practical knowledge that some people call wisdom.

Such an event is highly recommended for any organization that is trying to get it's managers to work together. That's probably all organizations, huh? The biggest challenge would probably be in freeing them all up at the same time. But you won't get a better opportunity to see how well your wing men (and women) can manage the show in their  absence. Though we are a relatively small company, not everyone knew each other well. This was a great opportunity to get to back-slapping terms. The whole thing was like being shoved into a pool to learn how to swim. Anyone who didn't know how to swim would not only learn to swim, but also learn how to search and rescue!

1 comment:

  1. Anu's latest project is with kids in Arunachal Pradesh. See for more. Consider a small contribution. If you can't, please do share. It costs nothing to share.