I expanded on our RAM initiative, or Resource Allocation Management, in a previous article. I am updating and posting here as a stand-alone piece before Part 2
In 2020, during a pandemic no less, we unveiled RAM within The Academy, our equivalent of GE’s vaunted Crotonville training program.
- For starters, The Academy refers to the fact that we’ll i) look at case studies to determine the best course of action, ii) encourage analysis, iii) rely a bit on data before making decisions. It also connotes bringing in outside experts and speakers so there are more voices educating and training the team. To understand less obvious reasons why, you can watch the Myth of the Entrepreneur.
- RAM stands for Resource Allocation Management and aims to better prioritize and invest in the PROJECTS we want to undertake at any given point of TIME. Timing is a major consideration of this effort and initiative. Some ideas may not make sense at one point but may make a ton of sense down the road; MsMojo was one such example.
- The idea is to FOCUS on less projects and work with a handful of employees at any given moment in time.
Coming up with ideas and initiatives to avoid stagnation and death is wonderful, but success requires a lot more follow-through, sustained effort and resources. Given the nature of our business, is I want to empower (and ultimately reward) the creatives who truly drive the business, instead of parachuting experienced business managers on top of them. But to achieve that, something’s gotta give, and that means the creatives need to take the time to learn about business; otherwise, they stagnate.
A bit like WM2020, RAM is a state of mind and philosophy, but it signalled a new management style and era. For the first cohort, I acknowledged that some projects were more developed than others but that didn’t change the need for such an approach. An analogy would be a student who may have already taken a prerequisite class, and not needing to do everything that a more embryonic project would entail. But the point was: if you want the spoils, you need to understand what’s beneath the hood. Millennials get a bad rep, but the small percentage who are privileged and don’t realize it yet who have a sense of entitlement are not productive and adversely affect the majority who work hard and deserve the promotions and raises they get. If you want more of the latter than the former in your org, an initiative like RAM can prove to separate the wheat from the chaff.
In my youth, I worked as a busboy, a waiter, a cook, a customer service rep – all jobs I enjoyed, but ultimately what society looks down as “entry level” or “front line” work. To me, those are the critical “faces” of a business. But if someone is content to remain in that position 3 or 5 years later and feels entitled without putting in the work and effort to pursue growth opportunities, then it’s hard for them to be compensated as a manager would.
RAM was my attempt at formulating how I viewed these initiatives but assigning the full ownership to employees – regardless of rank – to position them for success. It was also, for me, a way to pull in BIPOC, women, and other overlooked employees and entice them to embrace business management so that they could emerge as leaders. In the first cohort in Fall 2020, I was a bit disappointed when early on, some of the young female team members didn’t really buy into it. I felt like hiring women was only part of the equation, you had to set them up to succeed – and that invariably meant training and support. But, I was ecstatic when all of the female participants then embraced the initiative and found value by the end of it. That was the point: to embrace fear, to overcome that inner-voice that doubts your capability.
I realized that as much as I wanted to showcase our talent at future conferences and business events, I could not feed them – unprepared and ill-equipped – to the lions. The onus was on me/us to better train them. Sure, we hired “gamers and fans of movies/TV shows” to create shoulder programming covering the franchises and people fans are into, but why stop and take those who are interested in bigger challenges and pave the way for them to become better rounded leaders? Why couldn’t the next CEO of WatchMojo be a woman? It’s easy to say “anyone” can be “anything,” but what are you as the leader of the organization doing to make that possible? It boils down to education and experiences.
The initiative wasn’t perfect at the onset, but nothing is. The first cohort included reflected that since,
- certain projects will take precedence over others;
- defining success is relative, fluid and subjective;
- some initiatives are more mature than others and having an embryonic concept in the program alongside a fleshed out initiative that needs fine-tuning makes little sense.
I was also somewhat happy to hear some teammates voice their unhappiness when they weren’t included in the first cohort, reminding me, again, that how and when you communicate things is as important as what you communicate!
But those were all details and growing pains. The “big idea” was recognizing that
1) A given project may be embryonic in nature but has tremendous upside. The idea is to find the right fit between staff and project to allow both the project and the individual to flourish.
2) Given the cluttered digital media landscape, we need to innovate rather than imitate. Challenging ourselves, being comfortable with the uncomfortable is key to succeed.
3) Some projects may indeed be mature enough to not require an injection of resources, but there are some that can benefit from additional resources to accelerate growth. We need to understand what is needed to take that mature initiative to the next level. In essence, I wanted to give people the tools required to succeed.
4) Moreover, we want to create clearer career paths for those who show initiative.
Balance, part 2
Ultimately, like everything else, it boils down to balance. I don’t ever want to change and tell people “hey if this isn’t profitable by month 6, we will have to let you go.” Screw that. That’s like telling your soldiers that some of them won’t come back from war. But, that doesn’t mean that I need to live in the other extreme and pretend a P&L doesn’t matter.
The “bottom line” is people are paramount. Your people have feelings and emotions and if I’ve experienced any degree of success, it’s because empathy is a hell of an aphrodisiac. I’ll always find a new role for someone if a Project doesn’t pan out – but, eventually, if a soldier doesn’t want to fight, they are not going to be part of my army.
The Big Picture
If I had to draw up how RAM and The Academy fit in our reality, this diagram explains how it all comes together:
1. At our core, we have an army of creators who serve audiences with information and entertainment programming on fandom.
A. We match our priorities to focus on projects based on internal objectives & strengths, inbound and outbound business & corporate development efforts.
2. We evaluate opportunities to determine if alongside or instead of a commercial agreement alone, there’s a thesis to invest (Mojo or Granicus)
B. We have created many jobs in the local economy and media industry, and A + 2 allow us to invest to create more jobs.
3. We work with academic organizations to recruit and develop training programs for our employees to better capitalize on A and execute on 1.
C. Throughout these efforts, we also advise & consult others (be it startups or established companies)
4. We capture some of the content (reports, studies, analysis) and publish across our brands.
D. We give back via the WatchMojo Foundation.
In a future article, I’ll discuss how the Winter cohort fits in the plan.