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How to Deal with Change Management in Publishing

By Dave Bibby,
Strategic Business Director

Changing business models along with ongoing magazine closures, launches and M&A activity have caused a seismic shift in the way that publishing houses operate. As a result cultures have also changed. Or have they?

I was asked by the PPA to host an interactive roundtable on the topic of Organisational Culture at the recent IPN conference, yet what cropped up right away was the need to talk about change. The overwhelming view from the attendees was that whilst today’s publishing environment is evolving at an incredibly fast pace, the fact is that most people just don’t like change. And this is causing headaches for publishers and CEOs.  

In my previous roles I have helped many people go through the changes made either to their working processes or from building new teams. During the roundtable we heard about publishers who have acquired new titles and are maintaining multiple offices, yet staff don’t talk to each other when they are sitting in the same room. The change from a print to a digital culture has also been known to cause issues.

It is therefore really important to have a clear goal and objectives when dealing with change management. Keeping employees focused and motivated when a sale or closure is on the horizon is challenging, as emotive issues come into play due to the obvious sense of insecurity that this can bring. Being able to paint a picture of what the future state will be gives everyone involved the motivation they need to make a successful transition.

Clarifying the goals and project scope should be your first task when undertaking any change. It is also important to empower the team going through the change. In the past I have found that by giving teams roles and ownership of the plans it can really help with motivation. Our roundtable group also recommended introducing cross-pollination teams, buddying and mentoring, and a mix of formal and informal training, to help improve empathy towards other job roles.

All agreed it was important to communicate the umbrella culture of the company. A Mission, Vision and Values are not just a set of words but foster a sense of belonging that employees can be a part of.  

When integrating new staff or office locations, ensure you create and follow an integration program so that project owners can deliver upon the objectives and tasks for the various stakeholders. It’s always best to break this down into small steps and work from the ground up. It sounds obvious but getting the facilities management and IT infrastructure up and running is obviously necessary before an internal communications programme such as sending “all staff” emails or internal newsletters and surveys and can be properly implemented. Online communication tools such as Slack can also help with internal collaboration, and we have seen this become an effective forum at Rhapsody for our staff to post fun content and office news. A sense of humour in office communications can go a long way.

Staff motivation is another big topic with all the attendees agreeing the need to consider each person individually. Reward structures such as time off, flexi-time or money might be ranked differently depending upon what motivates that particular individual. It is also true that not everyone fears change. In the right context people embrace it. Take for example starting a new job. We all begin with some trepidation and fear, as this is only natural. But once you are over that initial hurdle you start to feel euphoria. Once the vision starts to become a reality, change management becomes much easier.

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Dave Bibby