Knowledge Bridge

Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

New Year’s Resolution: Rethink how you work together

It’s a new year, and it’s the time of year when many people make resolutions. Many people pledge to lose weight, get out of debt or spend more time with their families. For media leaders, I’d suggest now is a good time to rethink how journalism works. I’m not suggesting a philosophical exercise in which you re-commit yourself to the ideals of independent journalism. Instead, I’m suggesting that you pause, look at how your commercial and editorial teams work together (or don’t work together as the case may be) and consider how, if you could start from scratch, things might be different, more efficient and better.

For print as well as broadcast media, changing how you work when you add digital to the mix is a huge challenge, often more than you initially think. Your existing workflow was created for your existing deadlines, and for publishers it was driven by industrial process of printing.

When digital is added to the mix, the first impulse is simply to re-purpose content from print or broadcast for the digital platforms. For print, this often initially involves a basic web producer who does little more than cut-and-paste copy from the newspaper to be uploaded to the web content-management system. However, rarely does anyone think about how digital changes the print workflow or how the digital workflow can be made more efficient – nor how to factor in web-only features including greater use of images or multimedia. For broadcast, the situation can be even more difficult because television scripts are not easily adapted for text stories on the web. A web producer may take as much time if not more re-purposing the story as it took to write the original script.

Sadly, these inefficiencies build up over time. Individually they might be easy to ignore, but they will likely add up to meaningful delays and costs, adding to overheads and spreading your staff thinly. Stressed staff and wasted time, energy and money is hardly a recipe for success.

An article in The Atlantic magazine looking at how General Electric is bringing appliance manufacturing back from China to the US prompted me to think about workflow. It’s a fascinating read, and I urge you to read the entire piece for insights in how you might benefit from bringing together your entire editorial team including journalists, copy editors and digital staff to rethink how you work together in a multi-platform world. Making a water heater might be the same as producing a daily newspaper, but there is a lot of industrial thinking that goes into both.

When GE decided to shift production from China back to a factory in the US, they started with a water heater, the GeoSpring. They initially were going to simply make the same product, but after decades of outsourcing the production to China, the company found “it had lost track to actually make them,” The Atlantic’s Charles Fishman wrote.

This provided them with an opportunity to rethink the product and rethink the process by which it was made. They started with a manufacturing process pioneered by Toyota, the Shingijutsu philosophy or lean production system. The system brought together design and manufacturing engineers, line workers and even marketing and sales staff to figure out how to make the product better and more efficiently.

they redesigned it. The team eliminated 1 out of every 5 parts. It cut the cost of the materials by 25 percent. It eliminated the tangle of tubing that couldn’t be easily welded. By considering the workers who would have to put the water heater together—in fact, by having those workers right at the table, looking at the design as it was drawn—the team cut the work hours necessary to assemble the water heater from 10 hours in China to two hours in Louisville.

The team was able to cut the labour costs and the material costs. Not only that, but by simplifying the manufacturing process, they made a simpler, more reliable water heater. The water heater was marketed as being energy efficient and environmentally friendly, but they were even able to increase the efficiency.

Now, apply this thinking to your current workflow and even an integrated print-digital or broadcast-digital workflow. How could you make what you do more efficient? Is there a repetitive task that your staff does that might be made more efficient, even by a few minutes each time? That may not seem like much, but for repetitive tasks, saving minutes each time quickly adds up to hours and days of saved effort. For some repetitive tasks, could they be automated and free up your staff to do more reporting and original journalism? Bringing together your entire team might allow you to identify clunky parts of your existing flow that might be wasting time and frustrating your staff.

We’ll be talking a lot more about these workflow issues this year here at the Knowledge Bridge. How have you tackled workflow issues as you’ve added digital to the mix? What lessons did you learn along the way? Let us know in the comments, and here’s to a new year filled with success!

Article by Kevin Anderson

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