Re-Orgs Are Good

Usually my blog posts come from one central idea – often a statement, something like “radio uses Twitter wrong”. I then sit down and try and back it up with some evidence or just have a bit of a rant. For example, often the RAJAR ones start with a belief, that I quickly research, and then find out is completely wrong. They’re usually the RAJAR posts where I say “nothing much has happened”. The other posts that I don’t tend to write are the ones I think will get me into too much trouble – I’ve got to eat after all. Then there’s ones that will just get a load of grief for me ‘missing the point’. I’m sure this will be one of those.

At the moment there’s lots of talk about re-organisation in the radio business. Whether that’s the Myers report on how the pop networks should be structured, the impact of DQF or the way Global Radio’s changed how they deliver localness.

Normally the re-organisation never goes down well with staff, the notion of why it’s doing it is challenged and the end result questioned. ‘Change’ is often seen to be part of “all that management bollocks”.

Which is a shame. Because change is an opportunity. For everyone.

If you start anything new, you think about how to achieve a goal, design a plan and then you execute it. It then might go right or it may go wrong. Whilst you’re enacting it you alter things – it’s something that’s new and you need to be able to react.

An athlete, after reaching this point, usually makes continuous changes to refine their processes to make things more efficient to generate a better result. Quite often it’s about simplification – taking unnecessary things away and focusing on the goal.

Organisations often go in the other direction. After you’ve deployed a new way of doing things, the positions get fixed. Over time things evolve but the change usually is additive and comes when you need to react to something. Someone adds additional responsibilities to their job or you make some alterations to deal with new competition. It’s rare that we spend our time refining and getting better at achieving that first objectives.

Small companies do re-organisations all the time, but they’re much less noticeable. When there’s four of you working in an office, you have much greater visibility on your business. The result is roles and responsibilities shift to meet the company’s changing demands. If they don’t then it’s likely the business will disappear. There’s rarely a need to sit down and explain the bigger picture as you all live it.

Large-scale reorganisations are often about meeting a new (or adjusting an old) objective and then working out the best structure to deliver it. Sometimes, of course, that is about money. We have to do x and we only have y.

For me though, an opportunity to reset an organisation to be focused on the world today and building for today’s future is something that should be grasped with both hands. Are we doing the best for our customers? Is the system we run at the moment the best one? What do we already know we should change?

Of course there is a human cost to any change and I’ve seen, first hand, when that’s been handled in a good way and a bad way. Similarly as well as companies handling it well and less well, the same can be said of team members as well. None of us have an unalienable right to do the same jobs in the same way forever.

In radio I think we need to be focused on our consumers and customers. For the BBC they’re the same thing, for commercial radio it’s slightly different. But, we have to look after those customers/consumers in the best way we can within the budget we’re given.

Now you can argue that the commercial organisations pay their Directors too much, or want to deliver profit margins that are too high and at the BBC you can talk about the horrific waste there is ‘in other departments’, but they’re both things out of your control. You can only look at doing the best job for the money you have.

Structure is a means to and end. The end being delivering value for audiences. We are often merely caretakers of organisations that our listeners love. Our role isn’t to preserve the organisation it’s to make sure we do our best to continue to deliver the things that they love.

In an ideal world, we would all be like the athlete. Making iterative changes to do a better job at reaching our goal. In the absence of that, re-formulating what we do every so often is no bad thing.