Sunday, August 4, 2013

In Reach: Finding the Connectors

I'm working with a colleague shepherding a community media organization through overcoming its inertia to make much needed changes. She has no budget, no mandate, and no power. Her success is going to be the result of what I call "in reach" - reaching inside the organization to develop relationships and build trust with the people who can make the organizational change happen.

People are important

Duh. We all know this. But we tend to forget, especially at small organizations, that we can collectively achieve more if we integrate and coordinate with each other, rather than focused on our projects. The trick is figuring out what's important, and that's hard. Everyone sees their small role as essential to the organization - local news reporters especially suffer from this bias, even though in public broadcasting the content that generates the revenue and keeps their jobs from going out the window are national shows. (Footnote: Car Talk is the bohemoth that is keeping public radio audiences tuning in and pledging to their local public radio stations. In public television it's national pledge breaks produced by T.J. Lubinsky. He's like the Rodgers and Hammerstein of TV pledge: you can sing (and occasionally dance to it) and it appeals to a mass of folks, especially baby boomers.)

Leadership is important

Again, duh. But what leadership mean? It means knowing who needs to talk to whom and getting the facts down. If there's one thing working at a public broadcaster will teach you, it's that no one agrees on what the "facts" means (and frequently get them wrong.) So this takes a lot of professional development, a lot of managing by walking around, and indeed, a lot of meetings (and I say this as someone who hates meetings.) In short it takes relationships, and the great leader is the one who can facilitate and referee and empower people to have the relationships that will make the organization stronger.

Resources are important

So many stations are a penny wise and a pound foolish. They don't want to spend the cash on a solid database system that could integrate their accounting, membership, web management and content creation. In the short run, they're right: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But what about the long term? Is there growth in not changing? And more importantly, is it efficient in the long run? Yes, it might be cheaper not to change the system this fiscal year and even the next - but if it means having to hire more personnel, adding to the bulk of HR expenses when an integrated system could mean fewer people doing more work, public media needs to examine where it's putting its dollars.