Tuesday 25 November 2014

Are Your Thoughts Out For A Stroll Again?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

‘Show me your friends and I will tell you what you are’ – There is still a whole amount of truth in that line. Just that we dwell in the digital era, where galaxies of information are transmitted in a matter of seconds. Who do you think has the patience to check your friends - their class and contacts, sense and standards, manners and motives to get an idea about you? Is that not being judgmental, about you and your friends? I can see you nodding.

So here is the new version – ‘Show me your room and I will tell you how your mind works’. Just observe people who really do not know how to handle and take care of things properly - they are most often the ones with a lost look. They probably either do not deserve the material things or they have no value for those - the existence of those things in their life is a definite waste of precious resource. I can’t see you nodding anymore. Fair enough I will stop being philosophical here. Let us give this whole thing a more logical explanation.

Your room may look neat and tidy. That is you, trying to impress the world - Your cupboard and your chest of drawers is a different scene altogether. Nothing is arranged, everything is in a total mess – How do you think your mind works then, with your little ideas? Your thoughts and ideas will obviously lie in the same state just like your things as you are habitually not trained to have things in order – inside (Mind) or outside (Material) and both get tossed around without care, without focus.

The room only hints at your superficial need to look proper on the outside and the more chaos in those drawers, the worse is your mental or cerebral confusion. Do not try to test this. There is really no exception. Two contradictory thoughts, or impossible sequence of ideas play in your mind, as do your things here and there in your room.

Your sense of order need not necessarily match those of others. What seems like chaos to me might make perfect sense for you as you have organized things and thoughts that way. I might try to look for a Linda Goodman’s book in your library against the alphabet “L” and think you are disorganized however you have listed it under “A” for Astrology.

The point is not that just an untidy room hints at a disorganized mind - Let me make it even easy for you – Show me your writing table, show me your rough pad, show me your desk, show me your workstation – I will tell you how your mind works. Now imagine an organization with leaders, middle managers, 50% resources who fail to keep things and thoughts in order everyday – where will this lead to? It is any day easier to keep in order when things are few, ideas are few to ensure effective action, implementation and results.

Friday 21 November 2014

Part 3: The Whole Nine Yards Of Authoring A Book

Pre Launch Reviews: You want your book to be read by all, not just professional editors and reviewers. So while you adhere to the standards of grammar nazis and literary pundits, also get ordinary readers to share perspectives. I shared the synopsis of a novel I just concluded with a friend of mine for her feedback. She hardly reads books and yet pointed out a flaw that made me re draft the synopsis. There were many names in the synopsis and she asked me to retain only the key names – that was not a reader’s advise, an analytical mind’s perspective. So get as many pre launch reviews you can.

Readiness: Your book is ready content wise duly edited by a professional. You are done with ISBN – now rewind your life and remember all those who assisted you in this journey. Do they deserve mention in your acknowledgements section? Who do you want to dedicate the book to? Do you want to include an inspirational quote that kept you going? Do you know someone of repute who genuinely liked your book and is willing to write a foreword? Depending upon the kind of book you wrote, do you need to insert references and bibliography, for further reading and to allow readers deep dive into your source points? Take those vital calls

Book Promotion:Now that you are clear why you want to write and why you are keen to publish a book, which audience you want to cater to, you really have to work out a strategy to promote your book. You want to rely more on social media, create pages for awareness, give free books, establish readership base through your blogs, plan a book launch, be member of online portals– regardless of what strategy you adopt, be prepared for both appreciation and criticism – simply put bouquet and bricks. If you want to build your credibility as an author – consider these different stages as milestones and don’t get stuck by any of them. If you are not a best seller due to poor marketing strategy or quality of book, that still does not rob you of your identity as an author.

Remember why you wanted to write in the first place – use this learning experience as a catalyst to refine your writing and strengthen your motivation. The process will be much simpler and easier now and going forward.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Part 2: The Whole Nine Yards Of Authoring A Book

Voice: If you ape the trend, it is really not your voice. If the world of writing is now dominated by trilogies that does not mean that is the only success format. The more you work on your voice the better you will be heard. It is more risky to believe a pattern that has worked before will also pay off for you. Work really hard in making your voice as different as possible, fresh and unheard – the chances of being read is much higher. You really do not want to be a non-reader’s delight, do you?

Discipline: It can take anywhere between three to six months to create a book from writing, developing a concept or story board, editing, a few rounds of reviews for perspectives, formatting and publishing. Write, read and learn every day – Get that into your system. Depending upon how you manage time, you have to set your priorities right. For first timers, you really have to make writing, mentally dwelling on content, characters, creative ideas one of our top priorities if that time frame has to be maintained. You may write an article, blog, book review, however that is part of your writing agenda and cannot be considered as any progress on the book – So work on the chapters, the title, illustrations, sequencing, the synopsis, the sections you want to share as excerpts, the plot, the characters etc.

Self-Publishing or Traditional: That is another question most first time authors have – Is it better to self publish or share manuscripts with traditional publishers. Well, go traditional if you have the patience to be rejected after a six months long wait. It has nothing to do with the quality of writing, at times – It is the bias and prejudices regarding what would or would not run in the market – habitual thinking about viable commercial commodity! When you know authors like James Joyce, J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter fame) etc initially faced manuscript returns; I leave it up to you to decide. I personally love the flexibility and speed of self-publishing, gives you complete control as an author, to set release dates, price and promotions.

Part 3: The Whole Nine Yards Of Authoring A Book
Pre Launch Reviews, Readiness, Book Promotions

Part 1: The Whole Nine Yards Of Authoring A Book

When I published my first book three years back – a collection of short stories, it took many of my friends and colleagues by surprise. They knew I write and had a few articles and stories published in Atlanta, Kolkata and online portals. I used to mail them the initial drafts for feedback. I still do.

“Tell me everything, the entire nine yards of how you did this – Let me know all about how you published this book and when can we access an e-book”, a contact in US mailed me. Since then many of my friends and their contacts (spouses, bosses etc) had different questions for me on writing, authoring and publishing a book. Regardless of how a book fares in the market – this cycle is inevitable and the experience is worth sharing.

Honestly the more I read different authors, the more I realize how average I am, as a writer and how much there is still to learn. That does not disqualify me to share my learning process. Does it?

Reason to Write: If you do not have a strong enough reason to write, you probably will not have the tenacity to go through the entire cycle. The creative process is different for each one of us – a workshop on writing cannot make your creative overnight. It is how you think, what you think, how much you think that strengthens your reason and motivation to write, almost compels you to research, learn, unlearn, write, rewrite, edit, work on multiple drafts, and go through the grind. And how you think is conditioned by your experiences, what you read, what you need, what you learn and what you want to earn.

Reason to Publish: I have known people who want to write book without reading enough, who bother about being published before they have an outline ready, who plan book launch and marketing strategy even before they are sure about when they will complete their write. Ask yourself why do you want to publish a book? With multiple forums available for writing that provide ample opportunity to be read across geography, the question will assist you in deciding genre and target audience. Is it brand building, a foothold in media, an award, a legacy, impact others lives, thrill to see your name in print or book in stores?

Genre: Some find authoring children's books easy and gratifying while others find it a huge waste of time. Writing a self-help book can be a rewarding experience if you strongly believe that it will make a difference in people’s lives. A novel could take you years and you can opt for short stories due to time constraints. In a vegetable market, you do not choose subject to what is available, but based on what you want to eat. Get the hint. It is your reasons to write and publish that very strongly govern the genre part.

Part 2: The Whole Nine Yards Of Authoring A Book
Voice, Discipline, Self-Publishing or Traditional

Monday 17 November 2014

New Hire Training: Four Months of Revenue Loss

Four is just a number – it could be three or six. It is not the duration allocated for Training alone that determines cost – it is also the number of months required to learn and deliver that contributes to cost and impacts revenue. Training a new employee is one the biggest costs of doing business.

So ideally it is a combination of the number of months a new resource is in Training and the number of months they require to come up to speed that sums up to total training cost. Though, other associated costs like logistics, trainer’s and trainee’s salary, instructional designing charges, infrastructure etc is considered during pricing, the loss due to zero productivity of new hires is not really accounted anywhere. This delay in revenue recognition due to different learning curve does not reflect on your profit and loss statement.

In a new project, while billing clients for new hire training based on number of hours is a convenient option, another effective way to control this cost and make it lucrative for your client during bidding is not to own the training piece and completely outsource it.

Signoff Outcomes with Training Vendor: It is not scores or certification that matters, only outcomes. The idea is to have ready workforce from training vendor, with 100 percent productivity from day one and agree on outcome-based fee.

Set Expectations with New Hires: During induction and on-boarding session a new hire has to be made aware that successful completion of training hours is not the end all goal - It is 100% productivity. To be able to achieve that, you can list all tasks and activities a new hire must be able to perform post training. Explain measurement criteria and begin the count down.

Document Standard Operating Procedures: A flowchart that captures different steps that occur following a decision or handoff can be a great aid for new hires. This will assist in adherence to quality guidelines to avoid on the job training errors that can cost the project huge money, drastically reducing the profit margin.

Knowledge Repository: Build a repository to provide a platform and access to all task related information a new hire will need. Such a permanent reference is beneficial not just for new hires but also for cross training other employees to deliver the task or replace the new hire in case of attrition.

Knowledge Transfer and Testing: Self-Learning at a new hire’s own pace can be a feasible alternative, provided resources are not on company’s payrolls. The surest way to test how well they have learnt is let them deliver in a training environment before inducting them in operation or production.

According to industry experts the cost of lost productivity is huge – a considerable portion of their annual salary. So re-do that pricing to maintain margins. By adopting these simple measure companies can reduce the time it takes to have a new employee up and begin generating revenue.