fortress organisations – sound familiar?

I thoroughly enjoyed Simon Andrewes Arcadia seminar this week – describing the very radical transformation the BBC News has undergone in the last 3 years or so. The changing digital environment, financial cuts and common sense meant that a root and branch style re-organisation of the structure and organisation was required.

No tinkering round the edges!

There was lots to enjoy about the whole talk, not least some fascinating facts, such as

  • there are 120 hours of news content created in any 24hr period;
  • 500 webpages are written every day
  • they achieve 80% coverage of the British population (pretty impressive!)

They were also trying to plan the changes with 5 key principles in mind:

Audience / Shared / Simple / Efficient / Flexible

I think there’s lesson in that for all of us.

What really stuck in my mind though was the picture of a fortress organisation – each section of the organisation seeing itself in competition with the other sections, fiefdoms who were suspicious and compartmentalised. The staff within each section were incredibly loyal to that section, and often very long standing employees. But it was “us against the world”. And that one hand didn’t know what the other hand was doing – no communication between divisions since that could give away a perceived advantage.

sound familliar? What a shame, what a waste.

One part of the solution that the BBC used was to to ensure that there wasn’t one overall person in charge, but that on a regular basis the role of “overseer” rotated around the heads of each division so that everyone would have to see the whole picture on a regular basis. They also tried to reduce tribalism by making someone with a background in radio, for instance, head of the online delivery.

However still there were situations where there were loads of people working on the same story, but didn’t realise it.  So they’ve set up a portal which will allow social networking between the jouranlists who might be scattered round the globe, or sitting in the same office, to encourage sharing and collaboration.

we could all learn a thing or two, I think.


2 Responses to fortress organisations – sound familiar?

  1. Libby Tilley says:

    Interesting how the rotating editor worked! Very similar (bar the time ‘in post’) that the SAH librarians’ recommended in recent proposals. Reduces heirarchy; allows the company to benefit from many more skills and gives people opportunity to try the role out; removes much of the potential for griping – and so on!

    • ilk21 says:

      yes – sounded like a very interesting model, presuming that someone didn’t go mental being king for the day and make loads of decisions that the next person spent all their time undoing. am sure the BBC would be much more grown up than that!

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