Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"Being number one requires no explanation" Paul Drew

Paul Drew deserves far more credit than he gets. He remains one of the masters of the radio art and it is fair to say we can all learn something from "PD." Paul's teaching was rich with metaphor, especially sports metaphor; he loved Lombardi's attitude on what it takes to be #1 and lived it. The Lombardi book Run to Daylight has been an annual read for me since Paul first suggested it.

Paul was also fond of saying "planning affords the best ROI." He would suggest locking up your seasonal promotions and programming early (read: planning Christmas in June) giving one more time to think about, develop topical promotions and programming.

Let me now share some thoughts on one type of planning - succession planning. The majority of media organizations fail to search for talent until the need becomes urgent. When the team starts to focus on the urgent rather than the important, the eye is not on the ball and matters can get seriously out of hand. The identification, recruitment, development and retention of talent deserves to be high on the agenda of every media enterprise. However, most media firms fail to respect or properly appreciate HR. Too often charged only with thankless tasks related to compliance HR should also serve as the lead in creating a challenging, positive environment for creatives. Job one should be the care and feeding of individuals obsessed and passionate about the art. Job two is continuous, relentless recruitment. Indeed, the very best time to find a rock star is before you need one.

At the local level most media properties give the business manager responsibility for HR (one of those additional duties as assigned). What might be the single most overworked department in the shop gets delegated the mission critical assignment of caring for the future. This is beyond understanding. Exceptional and gifted talent has never been available in greater supply than it is today. However, not enough teams are taking advantage of this abundance of riches. In point of fact, never before has more time and money been wasted on ineffectual, failed recruitment efforts. To blame the talent pool, or lack of one, is naive, disingenuous - to use the off-repeated canard "there's no one out there" when failing to build the needed team is malfeasance. Enough already. Those that would have you believe young people are not chasing media jobs today as they once did are the very same folks that did not attend the student-rich RTNDA/NAB sessions last week, the same, pardon me, hacks who have no idea what the Bayliss scholars and intern programs are about. The fish stinks at the head first and what we have here is a first class leadership problem. Make that leadership crisis.

Investing modest amounts in trade and consumer ads to meet your EEO model is prudent, to depend on those ads to actually bring you qualified candidates is foolhardy. As Kevin Sweeney once taught us about newspaper classifieds "The people our clients want to reach already have good jobs, they don't read the want ads" When what you are doing is not delivering the needed result you need to stop and do something different. There is just no good excuse for replicating avoidable failure.

Over the years we have employed many methods in succession planning and found two in particular to be excellent: scenario planning and game theory.

The Royal Dutch/Shell method is a personal favorite but there are many flavors to choose from. More on scenario planning here and Martin Borjesson has put together a good resource page including links here. You may find reading on game theory here, here and here.

Here then is the mission...

Identify a first and a second choice to replace every talent now on your team. You may find some are under contract, no matter, get to know them and stay close. Cultivate a relationship with all of your candidates. Granted this is nothing short of a major load of hard work - no way around it - but you'll find it to be a very valuable investment, one that yields an exceptional ROI.

On the day job we helped a station identify and pre-screen a complete staff of anchors and reporters. That team was ready when they lost their morning star without notice. We are now at work on a succession planning assignment for another station in the group. this relates to the David Lee Roth adventure. Was it a failure of succession planning by Joel Hollander and staff? No, the answer is not that simple. Lots of moving parts at work. The mess, in my opinion, had its origin during Mel's watch. Mel's loyalty to Howard while commendable also seems to have resulted in a complete lack of planning for the day when Howard was no longer there. Was it Mel who made the first mistake by taking his eye off the ball - the result a company now being made to pay for a serious compounded error? One could make that case.

While I'm at it please allow me to disabuse you of a romantic used to be a better place to work than it is today. Unadulterated nonsense. No matter the media - newspapering, broadcast, wired, each and all is much better today, more exciting, filled with far greater promise. The folks complaining the most are those belonging to "the party of the past." They tend to be those who have become highly skilled at a game that is no longer being played (my thanks to Goldsmith). I once made the mistake of saying there were not as many new artists being signed by labels, I remain in Paul Drew's debt for his reply "look at this weeks Billboard Hot 100 and you'll find lots of artists that were not around a year ago." A truly valuable lesson. It was ever thus; Fox has three hits passed on by others...Idol, House and 24 - each fresh and radical in their own right. One may respect the past, have good memories of days gone by but one must live in the present making the best of the hand you now hold. Which brings me to the good doctor Hamel. Gary Hamel has suggested leaders employ radical measures...

"Does the word "radical" still make you uncomfortable? Get over it. Today's world is a tough place. It's going to remain a tough place for the foreseeable future. You can wallow in timidity, or you can realize that the case for radical innovation is stronger than it has ever been, because there are fewer options than there have ever been. My question to anybody who's still skeptical is this: What other choice do you have? What's your Plan B?"

Read more Gary Hamel on innovation here

Seems appropriate to add a bit of Tom Peters writing...

“The bottleneck is at the top of the bottle,” strategy guru Gary Hamel reminds us. “Where,” he asks rhetorically, “are you likely to find people with the least diversity of experience, the largest investment in the past, and the greatest reverence for industrial dogma?” His answer, obvious to anyone except the incumbents: “At the Top.”

I can only say, “Amen!” And add: The Board ought to bear at least some, slight resemblance to the market we serve/aim to serve. In general, Boards do no such thing!

Bonus - thanks to the crew at Blogger for the pointer - another wicked good waste of bandwidth here


Susanna said...

Well said. Working as a first-time producer and I love my job. The war stories shared by the old timers in our newsroom are interesting but I'm glad we have moved past those early days of smoke filled hard drinking journalism.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for speaking the truth to power. I work for CBS and only have two complaints. The geezers need to shut up, let it go and move on. Their good old days don't seem half as interesting or as much fun as the brave new world of my generation. Secondly the suits at the top are not all lame but the lame are making totally stupid decisions re: Roth, Jack, etc The last days of Mel were terrible. Radio began to tank when the cable dude was hired to run the division. Joel needs to take a good hard look at the regional veeps until we get new leadership in the field nothing will change for the better. Blog on dude!