You may reorganize pieces or all of your newsroom in doing the work of Project Unbolt, but that is not the goal. We want to change how your newsroom works, not the org chart. Action changes newsrooms, not structure.
I’m not saying that structure is unimportant. But changes in structure should support your changes in what you do. They won’t drive the changes in how you work. I’ve been through too many newsroom reorganizations that accomplished nothing and I’ve worked for too many bosses (at the editor level and the CEO/publisher level) who got bogged down in pursuing organizational change without actually accomplishing change.
Some examples of how organizational change works effectively:
- The New Haven Register wanted stronger breaking news coverage and wanted beat reporters working more on enterprise reporting. The Register created a breaking news team a couple years ago and this year expanded the operation to be statewide and broke it into a breaking news team and a web production team. In both cases, the organizational change reflected a change in how the newsroom was working. The new positions supported the stronger digital emphasis, freeing some staff members from print responsibilities and strengthening the staff’s commitment to digital responsibilities.
- Digital First Media and other newspaper companies have consolidated print design responsibilities in regional hubs to produce newspapers more efficiently and to free newsrooms to focus on news coverage first for digital platforms. The change in what people do and how newsrooms work has been significant.
Some notable organizational changes involve a single position: You decide you need to do more engagement or curation and create a new position such as curator or engagement editor. Or you decide you want a reporter working an early breaking-news shift.
You also can change action significantly by creating a new beat, which generally involves shutting down an old beat or shifting someone from a different position to reporting. Both deciding to do something new and deciding what to stop doing focus more on action than organization.
I have seen reorganizational effort that was intended to produce great change bog down because of too much focus on the organization. Actual change was pushed off again and again as we planned extensive organization changes but didn’t get around to actually changing what people do.
It’s much more effective to give people specific responsibilities and make sure that they change their work and make swift changes in the organization to fit and support the changes in the work.
The more time you spend on changing the org chart, the less time you spend on changing action. And action is what changes an organization.
More resources on newsroom organization