Thriving on change

“The age of automatic deference in the workplace is over. Are individuals able to speak up and be heard? Do managers and colleagues alike reach deep into teams to collect ideas and exploit expertise? Has a culture of experimentation permeated everywhere?”

Everyone in the news business has firsthand experience of how commercial pressures have forced change. Yet few organizations have developed the capacity to constantly learn, adapt, and thrive on it.

2018 will be the year when the smartest digital publishers will reorient themselves for volatility. How adaptive is your organization?

Tactics come and go, but leadership must set an unequivocal mission that inspires, addresses everyone, and remains constant. Is it clear who and what your organization stands for? Are activities between teams connected and pointed in the same direction?

In the search for answers, there’s a tendency to look up to management, or even outside. But great insights are often just across the room. The age of automatic deference in the workplace is over. Are individuals able to speak up and be heard? Do managers and colleagues alike reach deep into teams to collect ideas and exploit expertise? Has a culture of experimentation permeated everywhere?

To address an opportunity or issue, you first have to see it. This requires making sure information gets in front of people who can act upon it. Analytics and audience data are now commonplace but can give the false impression of paying attention. What are you doing to truly learn about readers? Are you asking questions to serve them or sell them?

Deliberate differentiation means having the stomach to stand apart and resist dogma. Today’s best practice may turn out to be bad practice or irrelevant to your strategy. When you gravitate towards opportunities, do you stay grounded in your mission? To what extent is your success dependent on someone else?

Required skills and knowledge are changing faster than job descriptions. How fast are you adapting roles and providing the necessary development opportunities to keep staff up to speed? Does every discipline have a path for career progression and possibility of lateral moves?

Everyone wishes for resources they do not have, but strong organizations know how to make difficult decisions. How good are you at establishing priorities and avoiding distractions? Are decisions made quickly and decisively?

Changing course is painful because it brings loss and disorientation. Yet giving something up also means freeing resources to try something else in service of the same mission. Indeed, if you push through difficult change, your reward is a competitive differentiator. How long do you hold on to something that is not working? When changing course, is the rationale clear?

Turbulence is here to stay. The difference between those that ready for change and those that suffer it will be decisive in 2018.

Jassim Ahmad is global head of multimedia innovation for Reuters.

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