In week’s episode of In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris talk shop on change management. Why is it so hard to create lasting change in an organization? From fad diets to the 7 deadly sins, we cover a ton of ground on motivating people to make changes for the better. Tune in!
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What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.
Christopher Penn 0:02
This is In-Ear Insights, the Trust Insights podcast.
In this week’s In-Ear Insights, the old joke goes, Hey, do you want to change and the Buddhist monk says, No change has come from within change management is one of those things that one of those things that is perpetually on the docket for management consulting firms, as a part of their meme, it’s trying to help organizations do things differently, and hopefully better.
So Katie, you’ve got some workshops, coming up on change management and have had, you know, decades of experience trying to get the most intractable people high.
Christopher Penn 0:48
When it comes to how do you how do you get people to change in ways that stick
Katie Robbert 0:55
in ways that stick see that therein lies the key.
So one of the places where change management goes wrong is a lack of outcomes and a lack of reinforcement? And so, change management is like anything else in the human experience? If you try it once? You know, okay, cool, you can check off the list, but is it a habit that you have formed at that can stick with and so I think one of the things they say about, like fitness, for example is that, you know, it takes four weeks, you know, depending on what you read four weeks, three weeks, six weeks, whatever.
The point is, is that consistency and that repetitiveness of doing the thing that makes it a habit and makes it part of your daily routine, and part of your lifestyle versus, you know, a fad diet.
So change management, I sort of put into those two buckets.
So you have the fad diet, change management, and then you have the lifestyle changes of change management.
And so when we’re talking about it in the context of business, you know, where I often see teams try and fail is they try to do this bad diet version, where it’s like, okay, we’re going to get those instant results, and we’re going to lose 20 pounds overnight, and then we’re going to assume that our lives are so much better.
And then two weeks later, you’ve gained all of the weight back, and then some and you’re more miserable than you were before you even started.
Where as the version that people don’t pick is the version that is small, incremental change, and takes a lot of time to see any of those results.
And so again, sort of the example of working out, you know, it takes what, like eight weeks for you to see results, and then 12 weeks for other people to see results with you.
And so, those feel like really long timelines, you’re like, I don’t have that kind of time.
I need people to start doing something differently yesterday, well, that’s not going to happen.
Because as humans, we are stubborn, we are insecure, and we don’t want to be told what to do.
And so that is the crux of change management is trying to overcome a lot of those human emotions.
You know, change management also, you know, affects process and software platforms.
But really, it starts with the people.
Christopher Penn 3:19
How do you counteract though the fact that I’m thinking to some of the clients we’ve worked with present past and things where, because they are like Tarzan swinging from crisis to crisis, right? It’s like, it’s a terrible Tarzan.
Unknown Speaker 3:32
Christopher Penn 3:36
don’t have they don’t have the mental bandwidth even to, to say, like, yeah, I’ve got, you know, it’s like, if you like the analogy of person going from medical crisis to medical crisis, they’re back in the hospital, they’re back in the hospital? How do they start working out when you know, life is a series of dumpster fires?
Katie Robbert 3:55
It’s one of the reasons why rolls for people like me exist, you know, and so you need that change agent, that person who can sort of see things a little bit more objectively, who isn’t in the weeds with all of the things to see where there is opportunity for change? And, you know, so part of it, is that the way that you approach it.
And so if you go into a conversation, saying, these are all the things that are wrong, these are all the things that are broken, then the people that you’re trying to work with are already on the defensive.
So they’re already like, well, everything’s broken, so why bother? Because it’s never going to get better.
When you really have to approach it from a more positive standpoint of these are the opportunities for you to be set up for success.
And it’s, you know, it’s just the changing of the way that you’re phrasing it, but it really helps.
Because one of the reasons why change is so hard is because there’s a level of insecurity, so people don’t like to fail.
People don’t like to feel like they are becoming irrelevant or redundant.
And so change management is a big part of process.
Improve In organizational behavior, improvement, and that sometimes leads to people no longer doing certain jobs or, you know, people feeling like they’re being called out on things that they’ve been doing forever, that are no longer needed.
And so that sort of that breeds that fear.
And so if you’re an organization, and you’re, you feel like you’re just trudging through every single day, barely getting ahead, you know, putting up fire after Fire, fire, there’s probably a lot of change management that needs to happen.
But it’s the hardest thing to do.
Because it’s a culture shift, it’s a shift with the people themselves.
And so and the more people you have on the team, the more difficult it tends to be just because you’re trying to get everybody moving in the same direction, which is not an easy thing to do.
When I worked in a couple of jobs ago, I used to manage a steering committees, and I think I’ve talked about these before.
And so it was basically all of the stakeholders from all of the different departments.
So my steering committee, I think, was comprised of about 10 people, plus myself running the committee, my job was to get them all moving in the same direction and making decisions that benefited the product.
And there was it took, gosh, maybe four or five years of consistently having those meetings, having those conversations, you know, trying to get them to make a decision.
And until it sort of became a little bit more natural before it became like, Okay, are we having a steering committee this week? Because I wouldn’t really want to talk about this thing.
There was a lot of resistance upfront.
I feel like I’ve been rambling on but there’s, you know, it’s it’s not a small ask even a small company.
Christopher Penn 6:44
Yeah, but how do you how do you get a stakeholder to sign off on something and saying, Yeah, you’re gonna see results in two to five years.
And they’re like, I got to make my numbers for wall street this quarter.
Katie Robbert 6:56
Well, it’s like anything else.
So if you think about the software development lifecycle, you know, you can have a development project that might take six months.
But the way in which you see results quicker is by using more agile methodology where you have those two week sprints, you have those milestones.
And so every goal, you should be able to break down into those smaller increments of milestones where you’re seeing little bits of progress.
And so your job as the person who’s trying to facilitate the change, is to make sure that you are keeping track of those small wins, basically, so that you can put them in front of your stakeholder and say, This is what you get in two weeks, this is what you get in four weeks, this is what you get in six weeks.
This is what you get cumulatively overall.
But we have to break it down into these smaller things, because too much change at once is, it’s too disruptive to people, they won’t do it.
And then you can’t really measure what was effective.
And breaking it down into those smaller increments and milestones, helps you adjust along the way.
Because you can lay out this pristine, you know, beautiful plan of how you want the change to go.
It’s never going to go that way.
You have to be able to adapt and adjust as you learn new things about people or the way in which people react is different from what you thought it would be.
Christopher Penn 8:16
If we think of change as something that’s emotion based because it it kind of is how do you navigate the the faulty software that’s in all of our heads that to get people to change if you think it will get a little bit religious here in some religions is this concept like the seven Cardinal sins, right? pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth are these seven negative attributes that are all part of us, but they’re also part of what makes us difficult to change.
Like, you know, we talked about, for example, pride and someone’s ego getting in the way of them being willing to make a change, how do you navigate each of these failings, but I guess, more stubborn aspects of our personalities so that we can say like, yeah, this person’s this person’s motivation is maybe his greed, right? This person’s motivations, maybe is his slot, they just don’t want they don’t like change with it.
Because this don’t like change.
How do you how do you rewire people in a way so that the change sticks? From an emotional perspective?
Katie Robbert 9:24
Yeah, no, it’s interesting.
It’s an interesting question.
And I’m struggling with the answer that I know I’m going to give but the answer is, being an agent of change is not for everybody.
It’s a it’s something that you have to have a certain type of attitude and a certain type of aptitude and a certain type of personality.
And it requires, you know, a shit ton of patience.
Which is really the bottom line.
It requires a lot of patience.
Because you are it’s honestly A lot like being a therapist in some way.
So if you’ve ever been in therapy, and I was in therapy, you know, you know, for a long time many years ago, but basically, you know, I remember being the patient and being really frustrated, because I felt like we kept revisiting the same conversations over and over and over again, and I would get impatient.
I’m like, we already talked about this.
And the therapist would be like, well, let’s look at it from a different perspective looks like that from a different angle.
And, you know, looking back on that experience, I realized how much patience this person had to have with me in order to get me to the conclusions over six months, that took them about five minutes to understand.
And so they already knew where they wanted the car to go, they were putting me in the driver’s seat, giving me all the tools I needed to get to where they had been for six months.
And so that’s really, part of the challenge is, the person who is facilitating the change really has to have that patience and focus, to say, I know where we need to go, my job is to now get you there.
And so if you’re dealing with that stubbornness of you know, greed, or fear or envy or whatever the personality trait is, you need to have that patience to really try to understand where that emotion is coming from.
So there is quite a bit of psychology that goes into it, and not in a manipulative sense of, Okay, I know this person is afraid of this.
So let me twist it in such a way to I can get them to do the thing I want.
It’s more of that empathy of let me understand why they are so afraid of this change.
Or let me understand why they are so just ambivalent about this change so that I can then help them see if they make this change.
This is how things will improve for the better this is how it directly affects that one person.
And so that’s also part of the change management process as well is change management as a whole for the team or the company, but then focusing on the individuals so that they can see themselves in the change and how it directly affects them.
Christopher Penn 12:13
So change management is effectively organizational therapy.
Katie Robbert 12:18
In some ways it can be Yeah, it depends on how it depends on how resistant people are to change.
But yes, there is quite a bit of that, you know, put in like quotes, because I’m not a therapist, so I don’t want to pretend that I am.
But yeah, that organizational therapy is definitely there.
Because people need to feel like they are being heard, they actually need to be heard.
And so understanding why they haven’t changed is a big part of it as well.
They might feel like they can’t they’re it’s too late, or they’ve been doing the same thing for too long that why bother at this point.
Christopher Penn 12:56
So technology is pretty easy to rewire, you know, get a new vendor, whatever process is relatively straightforward to implement, you know, this is the way you’re going to do new things.
How do you deal with people where their say their emotional investment in something is a relatively unchangeable roadblock? Let’s go with let’s let’s go with envy as as one of those negative traits, like this person just wants the CEOs job or whatever.
And they’re going to do everything they can possibly to sabotage that person.
So that they get themselves you’ll live, it’s kind of like, you know, being second officer on a Klingon warship, eventually, you know, you just gonna assassinate the captain.
So you can take over not as life or death.
But there are definitely cases in organizations where there are people who are working for their own success and not for the organization success.
And they will do things that are counterproductive to the organization, but boost their own career.
When you’re doing change management, is it possible to change those people? Or are their motivations so out of alignment, that you have to figure out a way to get them out the door?
Katie Robbert 14:05
Well, I mean, I think you bring up a really good point, you can’t get to everybody, you can’t change everybody.
And you are going to have people where it’s not the right fit for that culture, who are going to be counterproductive and distracting to the change that you’re trying to enforce.
So whether you’re in consultant being brought in, or you’re the you’re, you know, the team lead, you need to be aware of the chemistry of all of the people together the whole team, as you know, as one single unit, and what that looks like.
And so, you know, if you break it down in terms of like, so let’s say I’m thinking about it the way that you might think about it, Chris, let’s say you’ve written a bunch of code, and then there’s this one line that keeps causing an error.
So what do you do you remove that one line of code, so that the rest of the code works harmoniously together to get you to the outcome that you want.
While it sounds Harsh, it is sort of the same process of as you’re going through this organizational therapy, as you call it, you need to figure out, you know, what are what are the values of our team, and who upholds those and who doesn’t.
And who is in it for the right reasons and who is in it for personal gain.
Now, figuring that out is not an easy thing, like on paper, it sounds easy, but you might not get all of the information up front, people might not be honest with you upfront.
And that’s a big part of the challenge is trying to understand those motivations as to why people don’t want to change.
So a really great example of this, Chris, that you’re familiar with, as well is, you know, different Web Analytics tracking systems.
So there’s a couple of big players, you know, out there on the market, you know, you have Adobe, you have Google Analytics, you have a Moto, which I think is the free open source version.
And so we’ve run into folks who are just completely loyal and have blinders on to one system or the other.
And when making a suggestion, maybe you should consider this other system as well, you know, they immediately No, I don’t want to do this, it’s not going to happen.
I only want to use this one tracking system, because it’s what I know is the source of truth.
And I think we had a breakthrough with that conversation a few months ago, when we were really able to have patience and dig in and find out where that stubbornness was coming from.
But that took, what, maybe 18 months to get there.
But it was that consistent.
Okay, let’s understand, let’s not put people on the defensive, it took a long time to get there.
And once we got there, now we’re starting to see that change happen.
And it just it took that time, we had to have that patience.
And that focus of we know where we want this car to go.
We just need other people to get in the car and get on that journey as well and feel like they have control over the situation.
And so there was there were points in time where we weren’t sure if we had the right people going on this journey with us.
But we had to have patience and see how it was shakeout.
So you can’t get to everybody.
It’s not easy.
But I would say making those snap judgments is probably not the best way to go.
Christopher Penn 17:29
How do we how do you know when you’re you’re pushing the boulder uphill and and the change is probably not going to stick? I’ll give you a different example.
Let’s say an organization says they are committed to diversity and inclusion.
But seven of the top 10 executives are racists.
Katie Robbert 17:50
I’m laughing but I’m also like, Oh, yeah, okay.
Christopher Penn 17:53
Or, you know, do take take any group, you know, they were committed to diversity inclusion, the entire board of directors in the entire executive suite is all male, like, Huh, are you committed? How do you know when change is possible? And probable, and you can make good headway, you know, in roads, when when you know, yeah, this is, this is gonna be like trying to climb up a greased flagpole.
Katie Robbert 18:17
Um, I mean, again, it comes down to those small incremental changes.
And so the ability to demonstrate small change eventually leads to big change.
And so if you’re working with, you know, in that snare, if you’re working with an executive team, who says they’re committed to, you know, diversity and inclusion, then you need to start small, because that’s a big change, because that is literally unseating certain people, to slot other people.
And so it may result in job loss or Job Change.
That’s not a small issue to tackle.
But it is something you can, you know, affect change with.
So it’s starting small and incremental.
How are you committed to changing your hiring processes? How are you committed to, you know, the types of events that you participate in? How are you committed to, you know, the types of other businesses that you might align yourself with or that you might promote or partner with? And so starting with things that feel a little more comfortable before you get straight into the uncomfortable because I think that you can’t just say, Okay, great.
So there’s seven of you, you’re all white, four of you have to go.
That’s a non starter right there.
That might be the end result that you’re hoping for, but you can’t start there.
Because that’s just not going to go anywhere.
People like, No, I’m not just going to leave the job that I’ve been in for 20 years, and I’m getting a six figure salary, get out of here.
You have to work your way up to those kinds of results, and maybe the decision would be okay, we’re going to add four more seats to the executive board.
We’re going to create new jobs or we’re going to change responsibilities.
To make room for these other things, but you have to work your way to that you can’t just start there, because that’s going to be a recipe for disaster.
Because that’s too much change at once.
I mean, so Chris, if I said to you, okay, I know that you have been living in the same town for, you know, 15 some odd years, you have the same routine, you know, I, here’s what I’m going to do.
I’m going to take your children out of your house and give you five new kids, I’m going to move you to a different city, and I’m going to change your job.
I’m gonna do that all overnight? What’s in it for me? Well, and you know, that actually is a really great question.
Because that’s a lot of you know, when we’re sort of talking about people need to see themselves those individuals, they want to know what’s in it for them? Like, are they still just another cog in the wheel helping move the company forward? Or is there a personal benefit to them, participating in this change, and getting on board and advocating for this change?
Christopher Penn 21:04
When it comes to change management, I’ve heard different perspectives like Jonah Berger famously talks about reducing the pain of change, whereas other folks talk about, you’re increasing the pleasure of change.
And we you know, as you know, sort of Tony Robbins stick.
And so you have this basic duality of either the pain of change has to be less than the pain of staying the same, which is sort of you know, that one perspective, or how do you reduce the burden of change so that, it again becomes a case where the pain of changes is less than the pain of staying the same? In your experience? In May I, I’m guessing it’s probably situation by situation.
But in general, which is easier for people to be able to do it to understand the change is going to hurt less, or to present them with such benefits to like, I’ve got to do this deal that it hurts too much to not want an extra zero on my salary.
Katie Robbert 22:00
It’s interesting, because you’re describing them, and I’m like, it’s the same thing.
It’s the exact same thing.
But it is that matter of how you’re positioning it to someone, is it a negative or is a positive.
And so it really is case by case dependent on what motivates that particular person.
And so that’s where a lot of the time and energy goes, is to understand those individuals who comprise the larger team so that you can say, okay, for you, you need that positive reinforcement for you, you need to see how painful This is going to be.
It’s one of the reasons, Chris, why I really want us when we sort of build out requirements, gathering those kinds of things, to run through those scenarios of, if you change this, this is the outcome, if you change this, this is the outcome.
And here’s what happens if you change nothing.
And quite often that if you change nothing, that tends to be the most powerful part of the conversation, because now they’ve seen all these other things like yeah, this path is kind of really hard.
This path is hard, but not as difficult.
But the path of staying exactly the same, that is usually the most painful, because here’s what’s going to happen when you don’t do the thing.
Christopher Penn 23:09
So from a sales position, perspective, then if you’re losing most your deals to notice ation is that because you have not outlined the pain of saying the same.
Katie Robbert 23:19
I think that’s usually a really good place to start with what’s going on.
And so, you know, in that particular instance, okay, the no decision does that.
Does that mean that people they don’t have the budget, and they’re afraid to tell you Okay, so how can you change that? Do you have that budget decision upfront, and really get that commitment before you even go down the road? You know, is it because that company has really high turnover, and they’ve ghosted you.
So there’s a lot of different ways to examine it.
But yeah, the, if you keep losing to no decision, that the pain of staying the same means you’re going to continue to do that, and never know what happened.
And that as a business is problematic.
You need to know what happened, so that you can fix the problem.
Christopher Penn 24:03
So how do you, I guess your go the negative? How do you amplify the pain of staying where you are until the until it becomes obvious? Okay, we’ve got to change because, you know, one thing that, you know, for example, our friends, like Mitchell will say is like, if a company is in enough pain, they will find the budget budget is not an actual obstacle, it just means that you have not identified a reason for them to change.
So how do you dig into that to pull out say, Okay, yeah, this, this part here that you’re refusing to change is actually going to hurt a hell of a lot more.
It’s kind of like, in medicine, if if a doctor says yeah, you should probably get that taken care of, because in 10 years, if you don’t use this will kill you.
And you’re like, Alright, I know.
It’ll be excruciating death along the way.
Right? How do you do that in something in the context like sales and marketing where you can say to somebody, yeah, this is this, you know, this is going to be something that’s going to cause you a lot more pain.
Katie Robbert 24:56
If you can put the values together.
Money Talks, putting the financials behind, it actually goes a long way for people to see.
So if you can get a handle on the financial impact of not changing, that usually helps the conversation move pretty quickly.
So in the example of, you know, you’re losing a lot of business to no decision.
Okay, let’s talk about what how much money that business represents, what would have happened if you’d won that business, and what happens if you continue to lose all of the business that you have in your pipeline to, to, you know, no decision.
And so that might mean, you know, loss of jobs, loss of healthcare, loss of the business itself.
And so really breaking it down into those very tangible things.
So people like, oh, when you say, I might lose my job, I understand what that means.
Versus, you know, if you focus on it from like, a process standpoint, like you have to ask them the question, they’re like, Yeah, whatever.
But if you make it really concrete, then people can start to wrap their heads around.
This is why the change is necessary.
Christopher Penn 26:06
How much do you align that with those seven Cardinal sins, like if somebody if you know, somebody, this person is a pride person is all about them and their ego, they want to look great on stage? Do you align your what you’re doing in your in your selling, because selling is change management, you’re trying to make a change in a company to change with that, and you’ll say, here’s how this is going to make you look better, or someone who’s, you know, thing is sloths, you know, like, hey, this change will let you work even less.
How much of that goes into change management? You know, from the perspective of sales to get somebody to go? Ah, yeah, you know, that sounds pretty good.
You know, that’s, that’s who I am, for good or ill.
And I want to be more like that.
Katie Robbert 26:51
You know, I personally have never thought about it from that perspective, in terms of aligning it with the seven sins.
But when you say it that way, I realized that that is how I approach a lot of conversations is the first thing I do is sit back and listen and try to understand who I’m talking to how they’re approaching it? Are they aggressive? Are they insecure? Are they stubborn? Are they a people pleaser? And then work with that, to have a conversation that they can hear? That’s the biggest part of it is understanding the type of person that you’re talking to.
So that when you are conversing with them, they’re hearing what you’re saying.
And it’s not just noise.
So, you know, that is, that is the approach is okay, if someone you know, just wants to look great, okay, what can you do to support that and to look better? If someone is overworked? What can you do to lessen their burden, even if at the end of the day, you’re selling the exact same service to different to different people, the way that they need to feel about the thing is going to be different.
And so you have to approach it differently, even though it’s the exact same thing on paper.
Christopher Penn 28:02
So it sounds like change management, even though it it at first blush sounds like your average consulting firms, expensive bs actually permeates pretty much everything we do.
So if folks want to get started, in terms of understanding it better, where do they start? where’s where’s, where’s the first place? You say, yeah, if you want to learn a bit more about this go here.
Katie Robbert 28:29
Honestly, it might be organizational behavior, you know, articles, textbooks, those kinds of things, just to understand, first of all, the different kinds of organizational structures like matrix or you know, silos, whatever that looks like.
But then also starting to dig into, you know, some of the psychology behind it, because those structures didn’t just randomly come about those structures were put in place for specific reasons, you know, so I would say, I would start there personally, um, you know, I’m not going to say you need to go out and get a psychology degree.
But maybe you should do less talking and more listening.
And so sit down with your team, you know, if you’re the manager of the team, and let them talk, just have them just interact with each other and sort of start taking those mental notes of who does the most talking, who does the least talking, you know, what is their body language? What is their tone, you know, really just understanding the different complex personalities that comprise your team.
And there’s no good or bad.
It’s just everybody’s different.
And everybody has very different backgrounds that make them who they are, so that they approach things very differently.
And so, Chris, you and I are very different.
We approach things very differently, which is not a bad thing.
It’s actually one of the reasons why Trust Insights works so well, because we approach it so differently.
It’s a balance.
But I would go out on a limb and say you’re probably not the right person.
To be a change agent, whereas I am the right person to be a change agent.
Because of those differences that we have.
Christopher Penn 30:08
Unless a change involves replacing people with machines, you are absolutely correct.
Katie Robbert 30:13
Well, and to that point, you know, I do rely on you to have more of that information about the technical change of things.
And so you understanding the software and technology and the data helps me understand the people in the process.
Christopher Penn 30:30
If you got questions about change management, and you want to talk to folks who actually know what they’re doing, like Katie, join our free slack group Trust insights.ai slash analytics for markers over 1700 marketers, and folks, all looking to make changes for the better and wherever it is that you are watching.
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