Monday, April 27, 2015

World newsmedia innovation study shows CEOs have work to do to gain the confidence of their staff - including their executive teams

As we get set to collect data for the sixth edition of the annual World Newsmedia Innovation Study, it seems prudent to reflect again on last year’s findings which showed that change is on the agenda for the vast majority of organisations (82.4 percent) - but that the fire is not burning as hot as it might.

WNIS Study participants receive the full report.
Less than one in four of the survey participants from 49 countries strongly agreed that there is urgency within their organisations that they must do so (23.2 percent).

Responses to the 2013-14 survey also suggested that the senior management teams in media organisations have work to do to convince their colleagues that they are up to the challenge of successfully managing their companies, and many seem to doubt it themselves. 

When ask to indicate to what extent they had confidence in the senior executive team – including top managers (owners, CEOs), along with senior editorial, commercial and IT managers – less than a quarter of respondents strongly agreed that they are able to deliver what is required to ensure their business enjoy future success. Top managers had the full confidence of just 21.7 percent of respondents, followed by editorial, 18.6 percent; IT, 14.3 percent; and commercial, 11.2 percent.  

More than a third of all respondents either disagree or are neutral about the capacity of senior executives. Some may put this down to the nature of the organisations themselves, but  there may well be more to it.

Of course, there’s the view that the arrival of any new boss will be met by a third of the staff who will support them, a third who will doubt them and a third who need to be convinced. But these findings may indicate something more profound. After all, the respondents to this study are themselves decision makers. 

While it’s important for leaders to be self-reflective and questioning, when that tips over into crippling self-doubt it paralyses organisations. And this much is clear: at times like these, the industry does not need to keep drifting down the same river with an executive team too afraid to chart a new course.

Respondents are generally positive that the culture in their organisations encourage innovation, but only 14.2 percent strongly agree with that view. 

The starting point for overcoming doubt and fostering a culture of innovation is much the same. The leadership must have clarity about the purpose of their organisation and be able to articulate a compelling - and convincing - vision of the direction of travel.

News International CEO Mark Darcey spoke at the Times CEO summit in June 2013 shortly after taking over the reigns of what he had previously described as a “refreshed executive team” at News UK in the wake of the closing of the News of World, the Leveson Inquiry and the reorganisation of News Corporation. 

In times of profound change when change is the only constant, everything is up for grabs, Darcey observed. Then he paused. “Well, everything?” he asked quizzically. “Surely there must be some limits, some essential elements that must be preserved or the business has lost track of what it’s about at a fundamental level, perhaps even lost its soul,” he said. 

“Some businesses do seem to be happy to transform themselves utterly, even finding themselves in quite a different sector. But many others ask themselves a simple, but important, question: Deep down what am I in business for? What is the thing that if it were lost in the pursuit of survival in success it would all have become a little bit pointless?”  

Whatever else senior executives need to do to transform their businesses, findings from the last World Newsmedia Innovation Study highlighted that they should not lose track of this: As a matter of urgency, the newsmedia leaders worldwide need to reaffirm their visions of what future success will look like and articulate it in ways that convince not only their staffs, investors and other stakeholders, but also themselves. Or else, as Darcy observed, the pursuit of survival and success may all be a little pointless.

Over the next 10 weeks we’ll again be surveying news media decision makers, which we define as those with executive control of resources, to find out how they have been navigating change inside and outside of their organizations. And, again, participants can choose to receive a summary of  both the current 2014 report as well as the full 2015 report when they complete the 22-question survey, which is available in 11 languages until 30 June 2015.

Of course, we welcome any questions about the study and am particularly keen to hear from academic researchers, industry associations and sponsors who are keen to help support the project.