“Change is your friend, disguised as your enemy”, someone smart once said to me and it really resonated.
Working as an independent digital consultant, and before in leadership roles at the BBC and Culture Trip, I am used to dealing with change in media on a daily basis. Regardless of circumstances and irrespective of whether you drive change or are on the receiving end of it, above all, we do learn to deal with resistance, uncertainty and anxiety. As humans, we are fantastic at both adapting to change and collaborating with others while doing it – the two key ingredients for future successes and optimism. We all just need a bit of help and support.
“Organization is like the human body. It needs viruses, so the body can learn how to survive and remain strong” – this unattributed Japanese quote describes the main component of culture change perfectly – we know of many real-life examples when companies failed to adapt because they were structurally unable to accept and incorporate visible changes around them. Disrupt yourself, they say.
“I’d rather be green and growing instead of ripe, ready to rot”, John Maeda, a distinguished US designer, technologist and teacher, wrote famously in his seminal “Redesigning Leadership” book, arguably one of the best works on the subject ever created. It sends a message to leaders of the day, that they should really know their ‘under the hood’ stuff, more so now than, perhaps, ever before. Change starts with you.
Culture change means different things to different people, though.
It’s about people: achieving internal staff buy-in, empowering changemakers, saying no with empathy.
It’s also about processes: being audience-centric, failing quickly and learning from it, applying user needs to everything you do, aligning content and product disciplines, agreeing on your North Star, letting others get you there (“Future leaders must be stubborn on vision but flexible on details” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder) through joint OKRs.
It’s about organisational self-improvement: bridge roles, that we grew to love and rely on so much, making themselves redundant in the process, while C-suite gets reverse-mentored by junior team members.
It’s about overcommunication: only when you are tired from your own voice repeating the same thing over and over, chances are that your message is starting to land.
Digital transformation has no end, and everyone must play their role in it, firstly by changing their own mindset, and then by changing others. “Complete digital transformation is neither possible nor, even, desirable. Everyone wanting to lead must share the role of CMO – Chief Mindset Officer” (Minter Dial, Caleb Storkey, Futureproof ).
Let’s all add that great title to our CVs, friends! Happy reading of this new report on igniting change!
This contribution was written by Dmitry Shishkin, an independent digital consultant and World Editors Forum board member. He is a Leader in Residence at UCLAN.
It was published as the preface of the report “Burn the ships: a Guide to Igniting Cultural Change in News Media Companies”, which is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese. It summarizes the key lessons of the Cultural Change Ignition Program for Latin American News Publishers organized by WAN-IFRA and The Facebook Journalism Project.