One of the reasons newsrooms are such a great model for maximising communications performance is that they are the perfect example of what I call the Goldilocks principle – not too much process, not too little, just the right amount.
I have seen project management offices and consultants foist all manner of systems, processes and checks onto newsroom operations. And to be candid, I have probably been guilty of that too.
Such things are an anathema to editors and journalists who have a finely tuned “B.S” radar and want to get on with their busy jobs, not be weighed down by spreadsheets, meetings and ticketing systems.
Too much process can strangle a good idea, create confusion and derision, and waste time, energy and money. Too little is worse.
I have seen project managers become pariahs in the midst of change programs because of their incessant calls for someone to fill in a risk register or similar.
Newsrooms do have processes. They have lots of them to produce content across platforms. They have a series of procedures, from news conferences to email updates to make sure they can survive the relentless news cycle. These are engrained in a journalists’ way of working. They are usually simple methods but certainly important and agreed upon.
Not all newsrooms operate like this, of course. I have seen plenty of senior managers who either abrogate all strategic process to others or let it sail past to the detriment of all.
In short, too much process can strangle a good idea, create confusion and derision, and waste time, energy and money. But too little is worse. I have seen organisations ignore any manner of process, flounder without direction and continually return to interrogate well-worn subjects. And by doing so they risk their very own future.
As a trained project manager, I apply traditionally accepted process phases. Most people will find the 600-plus page Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) the best sedative going. All you really need to know in setting up a DIY Newsroom™ is to follow the general principle of starting at the beginning. Project management, quintessentially, is putting framework around common business sense.
This involves the phases of:
If you have someone internally who knows project management well, and who can execute without become a monster, tremendous. Otherwise discuss in your team the approach that works best for you.
But, like Goldilocks, you will want to find the most comfortable position.
Stuart Howie is a communications and media consultant. He runs Flame Tree Media and is the author of The DIY Newsroom. Stuart has worked in media and publishing for more than 30 years as an executive, editor and strategist.