Our latest Together We’re Better event was held on the 11th March 2015. With attendees from organisations including British Red Cross, The Brooke, National Deaf Children's Society, Macmillan, Samaritans and Shelter, it was a lively discussion with Sift Digital's MD Nick Torday at the helm.
With the Chatham House Rule in place at our events, attendees can join in the conversation and express views without them being attributed to them or their organisation outside of the event.
Having recently collaborated with CharityComms to release Team Talk: the changing structure of charity communications departments, Nick was keen to explore these themes further.
In questioning who had been through an organisational restructure in the past 12 months, it was apparent that nearly all of the organisations in the room had been. However, Nick was keen to highlight that change should be a considered, strategic decision; not a knee jerk reaction or indeed, just for the sake of it. Without a strategic vision for restructuring, issues can escalate and more alterations can be required. Often it is the case that more silos are formed, when the point of the restructure was to break them down. All this leads to unsettlement at both operational and managerial levels.
“If you’re planning a restructure, make sure you’ve got an understandable, embedded strategy first. Don’t just restructure for the sake of it: strategy should lead any structure. If it doesn’t then you’ll either find that the new structure is very siloed or you’ll find yourself restructuring again in a year’s time.”
- Previous event attendee
Triggers for structural change can include:
- New strategy
- New leadership
- Operational constraints
- Disruptive external factors
Culture Vs. Strategy
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”
- Peter Drucker, founder of modern management consultancy, 1909-2005
While an internal reorganisation will struggle to be successful without an overarching structural strategy and guidance, it will also be unsuccessful without an investment in the culture to support it. The right people, an investment in skills and capabilities, efficient processes and a learning and development programme build a culture that will provide the foundation for a solid restructure.
Learning and development can be the catalyst for positive change within an organisation. Good governance, training and process can highlight the benefits in progressive investment. Often the appetite for change is apparent but time is not allocated to explore these avenues. It's imperative to get buy-in from senior management, evidence from user and market research will often be most effective to deliver this. In conjunction with this buy-in, an investment in grassroots training and empowering those who've been trained to use their skills can lead to hugely positive change for the organisation.
Audience expectation has changed
The shift in device use and the way in which people consume content has changed dramatically. Planning and strategy needs to be looking 5 years ahead. Digital is pervasive and an integrated, cross-functional approach is needed to respond to this in the best way. An adaptive, integrated team is best placed to respond to change.
Disruption is a good thing
Challenging the status quo can uncover better ways of working and more innovative solutions. It can highlight inefficiency and blockage. Disruption is constant and incremental and often digital is the catalyst for rocking the boat.
The International Civil Society Centre’s Riding the Wave report lists three strategies for how to position a company towards disruption:
Active Disrupter; Actively advances potential disruption rather than trying to avoid or mitigate the effects. Tends to be newer rather than older organisations. ‘Disrupt before you get disrupted’ mentality.
Opportunistic Navigator; Carefully screens changes in its environment and prepares itself to quickly embark on a deep-rooted process of change, should it become necessary. Ready to adapt, but watchful and shrewd. Adopts the successful strategies of others in the sector.
Conservative Survivor; Tries to navigate around disruption as much as possible, adopts a “wait and see” approach. Risk averse and overly reliant on past success.
T Shaped people
“Communications roles have been massively influenced by the rise of new technologies and social media, which has had a huge effect on the way charities communicate with their supporters. We no longer see general digital roles – digital skills have become a key requirement for any role.”
- Kate Maunder, senior consultant, TPP Not For Profit
A team of people with a core expertise, but also with a clear understanding of the focus of those around them can create a more efficient and collaborative working environment. However, sharing of knowledge shouldn’t rely on this collaboration, but rather be harnessed and used as a springboard for cross-team learning. Regular meetings, or “lunch and learns” can be really beneficial in disseminating knowledge and project information throughout an organisation.
Key points to consider:
- Cultural change underpins strategy
- Don’t obsess about structure
- Influence and empowerment
- Be alive to the changing market context
- Welcome disruption!
The slides from Nick's talk can be accessed on Slideshare.