As publishers continue to adapt their content delivery, platforms, and editorial approaches to target new revenue streams—and the pace and reach of industry innovation increases—new methods of collaboration are key to success. But not paying attention to cultural resistance to these changes can compromise even the most solid content and business strategies.

When organizations ignore entrenched culture, they often find they are unable to build teams that can exist and work together in equally innovative ways.

As a Harvard Business Review article notes, even the best laid plans for transformation can fail to deliver when the focus is on “structural elements” like new technology and processes instead of the “internal shift” required—in other words, the way people think and feel about change.

A Reuters Institute report bears that out: 36% of media execs surveyed say resistance to change and other cultural factors are impeding their ability to innovate more than the need to adapt to evolving tech platforms and the like.

“Transforming a business also depends on transforming individuals, beginning with the most senior leaders and influencers,” the HBR article says. That means leaders must challenge ingrained assumptions, mindsets, and comfort zones—not just those held by the organization but their own. When leaders “change the way they think and feel,” it continues, “they’re more able to model new behaviors and communicate to others more authentically and persuasively.”

One study of newsroom trends, however, indicates leaders may be struggling to do that. It found that while editorial teams for the most part react favorably to technology innovations, they don’t do so well with “relational” changes such as increased collaboration across communities and teams and cultural shifts that challenge what their job is and how it should be done.

A co-author of the study says the research shows it’s critical for team leaders to “communicate clear expectations” and “create an environment where experimentation and risk-taking are encouraged.”

Without question, effective collaboration is a must in today’s environment—while maintaining long-held turfs and information silos is a surefire way to get left behind. In our experience helping publishing and media organizations implement change, these are some of the approaches that bring success:

  • Senior leaders need to sit at the table and roll up their sleeves along with their teams to dig into challenges and help develop solutions. Issuing expectations and directives without investing the time to understand the challenges and listen to proposed solutions doesn’t work. Showing up at the table motivates teams to step up.
  • Groups that need to collaborate differently need their physical work environments to change as well. When teams don’t work together in the same space, it’s too easy for them to retreat to comfort zones and the status quo. We’ve seen the greatest successes when teams are resituated to sit and work together, in a more open workspace atmosphere. This helps to break down barriers and encourage teamwork when implementing changes. For one client, this meant building out a whole new office space so that all content teams could sit and work together.
  • Early on in a change process, daily “stand-up” meetings—meaning short and to the point—help the team deal with questions and issues as they arise, rather than allowing things to fester and snowball. It provides a means for early and constant course correction to hold everyone accountable and institute immediate changes as needed to keep things moving forward.

In our experience, 95% of the time, change management and communication fall to the bottom of the list in project implementation efforts. Taking the time to clearly document and identify the entrenched culture is all too often brushed aside as unnecessary or not worth the expenditure in time or effort. In hindsight, many organizations recognize the time spent would have been far less costly than the failed implementation and flawed technology investments.

Putting change management and attention to culture at the top of the list—and at the start of project implementations—has continually proved to bring greater success. Consider TFP’s Workflow Intervention or Refresh Workshops to help address cultural barriers you may be challenged with in your processes.

Related reading: Make sure to check out TFP’s latest Book Picks, focused on how to successfully develop and manage virtual teams.

CEO Margot Knorr Mancini’s blog on content strategy shares valuable insights and observations from her experiences working with a broad range of clients in the publishing industry. Check out her other articles in our Content Strategy section. Have a suggestion for a topic you’d like to know more about? Drop us a note!



Posted by: Margot Knorr Mancini

A thought leader in the publishing industry, Margot Knorr Mancini has helped numerous publishers redefine their missions to become nimble content generators with the ability to repurpose content easily and efficiently. As Founder & CEO of Technology for Publishing, her analytical mind allows her to remain a step ahead of the industry, recognizing early trends and developing pivotal best practices.