Knowledge Bridge

Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

Sustainable change starts at the top

Before media companies can shift their business strategies toward digital, they must first change the structure and culture underpinning their organisations, writes Dr Tilmann Knoll, head of management development at Germany’s Axel Springer, on the INMA website.

Strategy, structure and culture form an interdependent triangle for change. “Any attempt to change culture without developing a strategy and structure is doomed to failure. And any attempt to implement a new strategy without working on structure and culture is also unlikely to succeed.”

Strategic change drivers: Faced with disruptive competitors such as search engines and social media, print businesses have to develop new strategies and products. Websites, mobile sites, apps, social media channels – the pace of product changes and modifications has increased tremendously. Publishers are in danger of being left behind.

Structural change drivers: Breaking the focus on daily deadlines for the printed paper is important in supporting the strategic shift to digital. So are agile product development and an adoption of improvements in technology, platforms and collaboration.

Cultural change drivers: Sometimes cultural changes demand structural change and even strategic change. For example, news types of employees: “young graduates (Generation Y or Millennials) are bringing different value sets and expectations to the workplace… And organisations must adapt to this trend.”

Dr Knoll says you should always “sweep a staircase from the top”. Trying to change culture from the bottom up will not work. “The simple fact is if managers — whether they’re in editorial or commercial areas — do not believe in a common change in vision and goal, it will not work.”

In times such as these, “transformational leaders are needed to share an engaging vision and navigate people through unsteady waters. But, first, we need managers who really understand the changes taking place.”


Read more: Sustainable culture change for media companies must start at the top

Article by Peter Whitehead

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