Naga Chokkanathan

Why Not? — Guerilla Warfare

Posted on: July 2, 2010

Traditionally, a war is a big, messy affair. Each side tries to gather a bigger crowd, better weapons and a tough strategy to beat its opponent. When we talk about Alexander or Napoleon or any other famous army leader / ruler, they had organized battalions, with clear roles and responsibilities planned for each soldier. Based on the leader’s strategy, different roles worked together to win the war. It was all very expensive, but the prizes after the war is won, made them worthwhile.

In addition to these ‘big budget’ wars, there were (are) Guerilla wars, They are highly unorganized attacks by small groups of people, using tactical ideas and minute-to-minute decisions, Compared to traditional wars, these are sort of low budget affairs, but very effective in terms of achieving the intended target.

During a Guerilla war, Team size is small, resources are very little, most of the times the opponent is more powerful and war conditions are difficult. But still Guerilla teams manage by sharing roles and responsibilities, saving money / time / resources in the march towards victory. This attitude is very important, otherwise they will be wiped out in no time.

Authors Anthony F. Smith & Keith Hollihan, in their book “ESPN: The company” use this Guerilla war analogy to explain how ESPN television (in its early days) managed to produce sports telecasts with relatively smaller teams / resources / budget. They call this “Guerilla TV”.

(Image Courtesy: http://www.espnthecompany.com/)

When ESPN entered the Cable Television market, It had very little money for producing sports related programs. They had to manage with whatever little they had and fill 24 hours of sports telecast, there was no other option.

Fortunately, ESPN’s team members were very committed to sports and wanted to serve a fellow sports fan very well. Hence they found innovative ways of running a “Guerilla TV”, while other (bigger) channels were running a traditional-war-styled television.

For example, If a golf tournament needs 4 cameras, 5 phones and 20 members to tape and telecast it, ESPN would send One camera, one phone and six people there. These team members will split the roles in such a way that they somehow manage a good quality production of that event. It was the passion they had for sports that did the trick.

Important point is, even with such shoe-string budgets, ESPN didn’t produce bad programs. In fact, they revolutionized the way sports telecasts were made by various unique, sports-fan-friendly features and innovations. Today, ESPN is THE standard for sports television, making it one of the biggest success stories in Media.

Guerilla TV is a wonderful lesson for any small team. Especially, you can compare it to a training program or an onsite software requirements gathering workshop, when making the whole team fly overseas is not practical. Hence, a small set of members travel, and they are expected to fill-in all the roles, responsibilities to produce a quality show in front of the customer. In such scenarios, Learning to fight Guerilla war, really helps!

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N. Chokkan …

02 07 2010

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2 Responses to "Why Not? — Guerilla Warfare"

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