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“How” to “Wow”

~ Deepa Soman

The Beginning:

We are at a client meeting in mid-June 2018 where she brings up an earlier conversation and says, “Guys, you understand technology. You mentor VR companies. Will you be able to make a VR film to showcase our research and development capabilities for internal stakeholders and regulators?

We say “yes” and “we have not made one yet and we are excited to make our first”

Examples of Successful VR Employee Training | DDINC - Lumière Solutions
Scope of VR
(Image Source : Designing Digitally)


The next step is to envision the “how” and detail out the scope of work.

There is a lot of tedious back and forth to create the value proposition and get sign-off from the commercial team. The product procurement science does not lend itself to appreciating and valuing intellectual capital in the services space. This led to angst and frustration every now and then. Milind Soman was the project mentor who brought his global project and program management expertise to the table. We were poised to move every mountain to see the project through closure to deliver the “wow”. Conceptualising a robust, multi-disciplinary team was the first step.

Building the Team:

Lumière Design Labs is set up. Rhea Soman’s background in industrial design, her interest in design strategy and film came to play. Rhea suggested we invite her college senior and friend, Rohan Sindgikar to the project. His film domain expertise and his experience working as assistant director in large projects was his differentiator. “He is a very thorough assistant director, very detail-oriented and excellent at editing. He writes well”. We invite Rohan to be the Project Manager. Simultaneously we evaluate and find a technology partner with scale, bandwidth and experience in VR film-making. We study their credentials. A few calls and a meeting later, we know we have alignment and a meeting of minds on values and customer ownership. A multi-location, multi-disciplinary team is forged.

The End Goal:

The end goal was a moving target. We had written a first proposal to make one VR film. This required multiple films, each for each of the 14 locations and sub-stories. The initial brief was to film one knowledge partner, two experts, one pilot plant, one manufacturing facility, and one store. As we discussed and kept building on the ask, this had gotten enriched manifold. We eventually were ready to deliver 14 Virtual Reality films and showcase one 17-minute master film on the 20th of November.

Here are a few highlights of last 4 days leading up the last ball of the match…

Sunday 18th November, 5 pm:

The project manager calls to say that the technology team has put up their hands. We are hours away from the Tuesday 20th deliverable. They are exhausted and cannot do anything more. Panic can kick in and tempers can rise. The project mentor asks the project manager to get the technology partner leadership team to get on a call. Getting the technology team’s Project Leader on the call is critical to motivate the team. “If we slip now, we would have lost all the good work we have done in the past five months”, says Milind. He is speaking calmly and respectfully even as he is showing the team what the face of failure could look like. No raised voices, no blame. All the hard work of the past five months will be lost if we could not deliver the “wow”. The team goes away invigorated and we keep the faith.

Monday 19th November, 9:30 pm:

The project manager sends a photo of the lab with stickered equipment arranged along with the VR image projected on the LED screen. We look like we are all set. The pilot run and the backup plan have been delivered successfully. Rhea and Disha, our design colleagues are at the printer getting the last minute changes in the brochures. They are ordering some fresh material to store the equipment.

Tuesday 20th November, 4:30 pm:

“Went well very. Client very happy”, says the WhatsApp message from Rohan, with a big smiley and thumbs up. We call him, and a flurry of congratulatory messages start flying in the larger team WhatsApp group.

Wednesday 21st November, 10 am:

The client sends an email to the entire team – “I am super super thankful to all of you from (the) bottom of my heart. I have no words to express my gratitude as you almost worked with us as if it is your own presentation …  ownership beyond imagination! Almost working every Saturday & Sunday. … such a large number of  shootings and then converting into a fantastic VR expression with new ideas that keep on pouring from your side and our side from time to time. You guys are just a great partner to work with for complex and demanding timeline projects…”. She goes on to apologise for anytime she or her team members were pushy and ends the mail with mentioning her supervisor with, “she trusted you guys and we experienced it and you lived up to it

Here’s a little summing up of the 8 elements on “How” to “Wow”

  1. Client trust – a sense of expectancy of successful project delivery. Relationship building with a focus on honest intention, quality and consistent deliverables.
  2. Project mentoring – ability to see the end state, confidently communicate the vision to the team, keep the team motivated through a long-drawn yet tight schedule in a firm, respectful, enabling manner.
  3. Project management – day to day tracking of project networks with an ability to keep the team spirits up, especially through difficult, high pressure days.
  4. Domain expertise – multi-disciplinary teams with the knowledge to ask the right questions, challenge assumptions and propose and co-create solutions.
  5. Creativity – openness to listen, build on client’s suggestions, offer new ideas, while continuously look at improving the end deliverable. Creatively solve for tight project networks by parallel processing while working in an agile, flexible manner.
  6. Stamina – a long-drawn project calls for an ability to stretch enormously over time. This is a marathon where energy, pace and stamina need to be continually managed.
  7. Team work – multi-locational teams work with a sense of “we” all through the way. Embracing conversation, discussion, debate, while steering away from any finger-pointing, blame games and personality clashes.
  8. Design Thinking – delivering the final customer experience by imagining, piloting and executing a finely orchestrated “show” at the final 1 hour of the presentation.

The journey from “How” to “Wow” reflects our passion and ownership to find solutions to our clients needs. “To bat on the same side as our clients” as one client said many moons ago.

“How” to “Wow”. Do It Now!

3rd December 2018

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