Monday, July 30, 2007

Emap: Strategic review? Against what world view?

Emap plc is undertaking a strategic review - which roughly translates as 'is up for sale at the right price'.
As a humble employee I'm told to 'carry on - business as usual'. And, to be honest, isn't any and everything up for sale, at the right price, at any time?
Experience of friends who have been through similar strategic reviews in other companies suggest one thing: This process won't be fast. So I'm not putting my seatbelt on just yet.
Latest rumour is this was all sparked by a specific £1.3bn offer for the B2B division.

As usual, when I'm close to a story that makes the mainstream media, I'm completely underwhelmed by the standard of 'professional' reporting. No wonder mainstream broadcast media is characterised as struggling! (and I write as a professionally trained journalist of some 20 years experience).
Take for example the Mail on Saturday's report on emap's Friday announcement. It said emap had done a u-turn only months after claiming the numbers didn't stack up for a sale or demerger. And our expert financial guide in the report thrilled us with the insight that the change in mind was as a result of the share price hitting £8.65.
But, as any semi-sentient would have been able to tell the writer, the share price rose to that level as a result of the announcement on Friday morning. Basic cause and effect. Basic point missed.
No wonder people now turn to each other to create trust. A handful of partially informed non-experts would have spotted that simple error. A co-created version of the story is already ahead on points!
And the moment a report makes a simple mistake like that one - that's the moment I lose faith. Why trust the hotch-potch of suggested buyers tagged on?
A digital communal version of that would have that simple notion revealed- and corrected in moments, faith restored - sensible discourse continued.
No surprise then that NowPublic has just secured another $10.6M of funding.

The Sunday's were little more enlightening (those I saw, anyway, please do share if you found someone who had a sensible view writing somewhere).
One argued that major emap shareholders were getting jittery over emap's lack of a decent digital strategy.
Without context there is no meaning - so to say emap lacks a decent digital strategy means little unless you're going to compare it with what (for example) other traditional mainstream media companies have done or have revealed they are doing.
Off the top of my head - emap has one - is investing heavily in one - and is growing its digital revenues. How does that compare with traditional media rivals? I'll leave that to the time-rich Sunday print journalists to consider.

A strategic review responds only to the stakeholder with the most political power in a system: The City.
The City is conservative in its thought. If it can be characterised in systems terms, it is a hard systems thinker.
To be an effective company in a time of change means operating at the creative edge of chaos. It means having a paradigm shift in world view. It means soft systems thinking.
None of these sit well with the view from the single most powerful stakeholder.
But if The City is genuinely interested in growth, as opposed to comfortable mediocrity, it has to change its world view.
The City wants to see us honing our scissor kick technique in order to keep raising the high jump bar. It's the only way it understands change.
We have to do a fosbury flop. It can't even guess at how that might work.

Make no mistake, the world is changed. Your world view must change with it. A number of key stakeholders will always have an important role in influencing how well any system adapts to that change. Their world view must change too.
It's up to us to make that happen.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?