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Instituting Editorial Workplace Changes

Posted on Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at 1:39 AM

A reader's question: How can I get staff to go along with the work-routine changes necessitated by the rapidly changing publishing field?

By William Dunkerley

Q. I run a medium-size magazine shop on the editorial side. We have three legacy print publications, online editions, and seven digital publications. My senior staff members are all holdovers from the glory days of print. Even many of the new staffers are most experienced in print and online replica editions. My publisher says print revenues are still substantial. But she feels increasing pressure to turn a buck with our growing digital offerings. One of my big problems is motivating my editorial staff to adopt new ways of thinking and accept new work routines. Some are flatly digital-phobic, while others lack any enthusiasm for improving and expanding our digital publishing. How can I get these people to be more compliant? We need to make a lot of changes. My people need to embrace working differently, but they don't see things that way.

A. Actually, the changes in editorial routines you're interested in making may be doomed to failure.

Staff resistance is a leading cause of failure when making any workplace changes, not just in editorial offices. People usually respond to imposed change with resistance.

People resist because they fear loss. Things like loss of job ... income ... status ... future opportunities ... perks ... reputation ... influence ... responsibility ... autonomy ... relationships ... familiar routines ... security.

In one sense, the changes you may want to institute have something in common with a good beer. They both require a process to make. For beer it is the brewing. For editorial workplace change it is the transition from the old to the new. If you don't take care to handle that process effectively, the result won't taste good.

Here Are a Few Recommendations

--Through leadership, create a shared vision of what needs to be changed. Make sure the problem is clear before you start advocating the solution.

--Empower your staff. Significant change cannot be accomplished single-handedly. Enlist the help of your people in rounding out your vision and planning the detailed path toward your goals.

--Create new organizational structures and procedures. Encourage teamwork. Give people the necessary authority and support. Reward contributions.

--Produce a strategic plan.

--Work out a detailed plan together. Identify everything that needs to be done to achieve your objectives. Establish milestones or checkpoints along the way for evaluating progress and taking corrective action when needed.

--One of the first steps toward a strategic plan is to do a no-nonsense analysis of your organization's strengths and weaknesses regarding the subject of your plan.

Use This Checklist:

1. Are current capacity and resources adequate, or can they be augmented?

2. Is there a satisfactory management or supervisory structure in place?

3. Is the strategy workable?

4. Are the objectives and strategies working in consonance, or are they at cross-purposes?

5. Is there sufficient expertise for carrying out the tactics?

6. Are the financial resources available to back up the plan?

7. Is the amount of risk acceptable?

8. Is the timing appropriate?

9. Does the plan anticipate future conditions?

In Summary:

--Expect resistance to change.

--Use effective leadership techniques.

--Seek broad-based decision-making.

--Plan strategically.

--Carefully monitor progress.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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