Wednesday, December 02, 2015

What Star Wars Can Teach You About Focusing On The Customer First

To fully prepare for later this month, Jessi and I are watching all 6 of the Star Wars films in their optimal order (4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6 - We like #1, so it stays in the line-up). We're also watching most of the special content that goes with them.

One of the extra videos really struck a cord with me. It was a 26 minute video that described the immense steps LucasFilms took to add a couple Dewbacks to the scene in "A New Hope" where the Storm Troopers discover that the escape pod carried droids in it. The picture is above and here's the video clip of the scene (the link opens in a new tab).

When first released, the Dewback in the background didn't move. The scene was also much shorter. In the video, they explained why they made the changes:
  1. Lucas didn't like that the Dewbacks didn't move because they didn't look real.
  2. It shows more Storm Troopers which heightens the sense of danger for Luke and Obi Wan.

To make the changes created a TON of work. They had to find the original film (which wasn't easy). Then clean it. Then model out EXACTLY how the new scene would be shot so it matched the old scene perfectly. They added different filters to the new film to match the look of the old film. They also studied all the notes from the shot to make sure they got the lighting exactly the same. There were multiple story board and conference calls. They eventually sent a team out to do the shoot over two days. Then they edited, and edited. Oh yeah, don't forget about the artist who came up with the initial drawings of the Dewback, and the CGI specialist who brought it to life, and the multiple reviews that happened before getting signed off.

Are you getting a sense of the time and effort spent on such a small scene?

Here's the deal: The entire time, everyone is talking about why they're taking so much care to get it right. It's not about preserving the film's rich history. It's not about filling up time. It's not even about fulfilling a 20 year dream.

Their sole motivation for caring about every single little detail is you and I. They want you and I to watch the film and believe it was part of the original; that it fits perfectly.

It's a fanatical focus on the customer that all companies should strive for.

There's an interesting wrinkle though: it's not about actually creating whole scenes/props and filming it. Instead, their goal is to do just enough to make us believe what we saw actually exists. For example, they only physically made half of the Millennium Falcon. That's all that was needed to convince us it was real. So they stopped. Again, it's not about making the Millennium Falcon. It's about us, the viewers, the customers.

Often times companies lose sight of this. They might make something cool, but it's done for themselves (and taken too far), or done in a way that customers can't appreciate.

This is a reminder I need. I sometimes get caught making amazing spreadsheets... for myself... and lose sight of the purpose, which is to answer a question. As a result I spend too much time on one activity instead of refocusing on my customer (which for me, also happens to be my manager).

If you have a chance, I recommend watching the special features for Star Wars: A New Hope. You'll get a perfect example of what it looks like to fanatically focus on the customer.