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Posted in OUR NEWS

journalismAI.com – ‘a head start on the next disruption’


Our new companion site, journalismAI.com, tracks advances in artificial intelligence and how they apply to the practice of journalism. We want journalists everywhere to have a head start on the next disruption.

We offer an independent look at the capabilities, limitations, and influences of AI as they apply to journalism — part what to look for, part ‘look at this.’ We follow the whole conversation, daily, from news reports around the world, commentary in leading periodicals, recommendations in reports, ideas from industry panels, talks, books, or academic articles, through to findings in research labs that may influence events ahead.

We track developments in four areasAI in the newsroom, AI advances, ethics, and impacts on journalistic trust. The site is international in scope and updated often. There is a primer on AI fundamentals and a blog.

See journalismAI.com. We also offer briefings in artificial intelligence and news practices.

Posted in CONTINUOUS CHANGE

The special needs of transformation in media companies


When changing outcomes means changing culture, the dots need to connect all the time.

Media companies and news organizations dislike change even more than the norm. It’s curious because ‘new’ is part of the media DNA.

We come from media. We’ve managed many change projects in media companies and seen them through to successful conclusions. We’ve been there when things went wrong and, from it, we’ve learned how to get the process back on track.

Our experience is that it takes more than incentives, a coalition, and quick wins. Those can help, but by themselves, they leave the potential for backslides and reversions. Media transformation that’s sustainable over time comes after at least four extra pieces are in place:

  1. Before starting: determining change readiness
  2. While underway: connecting the dots between values and vision, and what’s working and what isn’t and why
  3. Start to finish: helping the audience be part of the change, and keeping an eye on the external environment. Are there new offers? Shifts in audience behaviours?
  4. Before starting and after the main part is done: over-communicating with staff, providing evidence-based findings with both internal and external examples.

It takes continual adaptation. Forcing a change to stay on track simply because it was planned that way is counterproductive. Knowing the tolerance for change before starting takes the guesswork out of adjustments. Keeping people informed continually is essential: critical thinkers become critics when they don’t know enough about what’s going on around them.

No two change projects are ever alike. But it helps to know the telltales to watch for.

OUR DELIVERABLES

  • Project design and validation
  • Change readiness assessment
  • Facilitation of sessions at key stages
  • Issues management
  • Identification or design of training programs as required
  • Guidance to management, or direct project leadership, as warranted
  • Progress reporting at regular intervals, or by milestones, or both

DURATION

  • 3 – 18 months
  • Elapsed time is influenced by the project scope and by emerging circumstances
Posted in OUR NEWS

Our new colleague


Esther Enkin is known across Canada for her work as CBC’s Ombudsman from 2012 to 2018.

Around the world, she is more likely known simply as Esther. She is the past president of the Organization of News Ombudsmen and Standards Editors, an international non-profit organization with members on every continent except Antarctica. The ONO brings together news ombudsmen, reader’s representatives, and standards editors from many of the world’s leading news organizations and acts as a forum to protect and enhance quality journalism.

While the CBC Ombudsman, she formally reviewed nearly 400 audience enquiries, and for each provided written findings based on journalistic ethics. She also was a guest lecturer at journalism schools about ethics, accountability, trust, and the impact of social media on journalism and journalistic ethics. Before becoming Ombudsman, Esther led a comprehensive update of CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices code, including new provisions for digital publishing and social media.

Through her involvement with the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma, she was one of the creators of Mind-Set, a guide to mental health reporting for journalists. The Guide is used in many newsroom and is a resource in schools of journalism across Canada. On top of her work responsibilities, Esther is a volunteer leader in community organizations.

We’re thrilled she is becoming our colleague.

Ethics is the new strategy. Esther’s extensive background in practical applications of ethics is a natural fit with our experience-based approach to continuous change, learning, and strategy support. Over the weeks ahead we’ll describe new offers about applying ethics in organizations.   

For now, a brief pause as we salute Esther and welcome her aboard.

Posted in STRATEGY SUPPORT

Helping find better workflows


Better practices today become the best practices of tomorrow.

We work directly with teams to help them identify better ways of doing things. We gather their ideas and organize the results. The focus is 100% practical: things to keep, things to lose, what to try, what can be improved.

We know how content teams work: the rhythm, the language, the values, and the culture. We’ve seen lots of new things tried before, many that made a positive difference and some that didn’t. We provide context for both.

We focus on what’s practical and measurable. We nudge for new and encourage learning by experimentation.

Think of the times people say, ”someday, when we have a moment…”? These sessions create that moment. Afterward, things move faster.

OUR DELIVERABLES

  • Design and prepare session(s)
  • Facilitate the group
  • Prepare and provide a written report of outcomes. The report can be used afterwards by the group as an ongoing reference and checklist for implementation.
  • Review report with commissioning manager(s)

DURATION

  • Group sessions typically are 1/2 day or 1 day each
  • Some objectives may involve multiple sessions or multiple groups
  • Variability is by scope and in the availability of participants

Posted in LEARNING

Middle management skills


Middle managers are expected to point the way forward while following signposts set by others.

THESE 1×1 LEARNING SESSIONS are designed for the unique circumstances of leading in the middle tier. Individuals work with a confidential third-party who functions as a silent partner with ‘been there’ experience.

The focus is on improving core skills, such as:

  • Managing, leading and following at the same time
  • Communicating with others in a way that connects
  • Holding meetings people want to attend
  • Implementing plans when you don’t understand the objective, or do understand but disagree
  • Having difficult conversations
  • Creating proposals and presentations that stand out
  • Leading employees in other locations

TAKEAWAY 

Topics are weighted to individual objectives. It’s like having a personal trainer for work. Every session combines principles and examples, customized to each situation.

TIMING 

  • Suitable any time
  • 1×1 sessions are by phone or video call

DURATION

  • 1×1 calls are 60-90 minutes each over 8-12 weeks
  • Time and days by individual preference

GROUP OPTION

  • An alternate version is available in a group workshop format
  • Groups of 6, 8, or 12 people for 1.5 days
  • Sessions can be arranged at your office or offsite
  • We work internationally
Posted in LEARNING

AI + News Practices 2019


AI systems are being used in more ways in more newsrooms.

The future of AI in news is not about HAL or Terminator becoming reporters, but involves much more than current uses of automated systems. This collection of briefings for news leaders looks at the fundamentals of artificial intelligence and its benefits, limitations, and influences in news organizations. Examples are updated through the year to reflect the latest information in how machine systems are being used in journalism.

Today

Algorithms are gathering news, signalling news, preparing news, and presenting news. Some AI machines are producing deep fakes, showing authority figures saying false things. Others are simulating trusted personalities, creating AI-driven ‘virtual anchors’ to deliver the news. AI tools are expected to keep improving, perhaps exponentially.

Tomorrow

Future systems will challenge traditional ideas of journalistic authority and competitive advantage. It could be at the scale of the last disruption, known as ‘the crisis’. Or it might create a renaissance in journalism, surfacing facts and patterns previously inaccessible, making stories more relevant for audiences, handling routine coverage so human storytellers can spend more time on human stories. Either way, AI systems will influence how news work is done and who does what. Impacts are likely in workflows, standards, ethics, recruiting, re-training, and in new relationships between storytellers and technologists.

Four modules

We break down the material into manageable chunks, liberally drawing connections to newsroom relevance and working through topics in a mix of briefings and discussion. The sessions are in four modules, offered either consecutively or as stand-alones:

  1. Fundamentals of how AI works – concepts, terminology, what to look for in emerging developments
  2. AI in newsrooms – applications in use, the force multiplier effect, augment/replace, build/buy, recruiting, workflows
  3. Possibilities and perils of algorithms – datasets, bias, appreciation, standards & ethics, accountability
  4. Practical steps forward – building capacity, curiosity-based design, codes, developing individual action plans per newsroom

Options

  • Strategy workshop format: All 4 modules over 2.5 days – groups of 4-8 people, resulting in an action plan for application of AI tools
  • Group orientation format: 3 modules (1, 2, 3) in one day – briefing and engaged conversation
  • 1×1 discussion format: 3 modules (1, 2, 3) in one-hour sessions over 6-8 weeks – tailored to the needs and situations of individual leaders
  • Standalone format: Any one of the modules, by situation

Suitable for

  • Publishers/news executives
  • Senior editors
  • Journalism leaders

Note: this is not a course about coding, nor about data journalism, and instead about concepts and influences of AI as they apply to news organizations

Takeaways

  • Critical assessment of the benefits and limitations for AI systems in news operations
  • Practical steps tailored to respective newsrooms
  • Watchlist for new developments
  • Go-forward familiarity with the terms and concepts of AI systems

Locations

  • Workshops and group formats can be conducted at your business, or we can arrange an offsite venue nearby
  • One-on-one format is by video call or phone
  • We work internationally

Bookings currently available for August 2019 and beyond

See our site for journalismAI.com

Posted in STRATEGY SUPPORT

White papers | decks | frameworks


We crystallize ideas and plans so they can be clearly communicated.

We canvas the necessary people, gather the available ideas, and workup position papers, supporting briefs, presentation decks, and keynote speeches. For example:

  • The rationale for a change process
  • Making a case for amendments to policy or funding 
  • Advocating a point of view in public forums 
  • Building consensus with a contentious issue
  • On-going practices to make improvements 

OUR DELIVERABLES

  • Research from materials and discussions with key staff
  • First draft (text or deck or both)
  • Second draft (text or deck or both)
  • Third draft (ready for use)

DURATION

  • Varies by situation
Posted in ETHICS

Developing & updating codes


Codes help organizations meet what’s ahead.

Most places have certain ways of doing things and standards they wish to maintain. A code puts that in writing. It presents ways to respond as circumstances emerge. It makes expectations clear to everyone, both inside and outside the organization.

A code tells the public what standards of service they can expect. Often, a code will include a means to complain if it seems like promises haven’t been met, together with an explicit process for reviewing complaints. It’s a way an organization says here’s what we intend to do, and here’s what you can do if you think we’ve fallen short. A best practice is presenting complaints that have been resolved and how the process worked.

The net effect increases trust. With it can come greater loyalty to the organization.

  • Codes of practice typically lay out specific do’s and don’ts that apply to the work of the organization. There may be codes for the whole company, for senior teams, or even participants in standing meetings. Sometimes, they’re for specialized units, for example, newsrooms within a larger media company.

  • Codes of ethics express values and aspirations. Instead of specifics of what to do, a code of ethics describes how to approach what to do.

  • Some places have one or the other, others have both. Or they may preface a code of practice with its underlying ethical principles.

Codes are dynamic documents. Expectations and standards may change, perhaps from recent events, or findings in law, or new possibilities. For example, a growing number of organizations working with artificial intelligence have recently developed codes to guide their research and new products.

We’re accustomed to using codes in day-to-day operations:

  • Developing new codes of practice or codes of ethics
  • Refreshing existing codes to reflect new practices or circumstances
  • Delivering workshops for staff about new/updated code provisions and how they can be applied
  • Briefing senior management or boards about matters arising from codes, acting as a trusted third party

DELIVERABLES: Determined by project

TIMING: Determined by project

Posted in CONTINUOUS CHANGE

Overcoming resistance to change


Change projects too often end up like a new year’s resolution.

A few months after a big launch, momentum fizzles and backsliding begins. Eventually, familiar ways regain their hold. The majority of change projects end up this way.

Change that lasts over time requires more than an action plan, resolve and ‘quick wins’. The best of intentions can be overpowered by deep-seated beliefs that reside naturally in all of us. Some may form an immunity to change, a human phenomenon discovered by psychologists Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, both Harvard professors. As principals of Minds At Work, Kegan and Lahey have developed a framework to identify hidden factors that are creating resistance to change. Their methods are used around the world. 

We help people see their own ‘change immune system’, based on our training with Minds at Work.

TAKEAWAY Participants quickly see factors that may be conflicting with change sustaining over time. They leave with a personal plan for change readiness.

TIMING Especially helpful when starting a transformation or re-setting a transformation that’s stalled.

INTENDED FOR  Individuals  |  Leadership/creative teams 

Posted in CONTINUOUS CHANGE

Getting from here to there


Managing change takes constant navigation.

Similarities to a journey are apt. There can be slowdowns, obstacles, detours, and people wanting to know, ‘are we there yet’? There even can be ‘weather’, events elsewhere in the organization or the environment that influence how much progress can be made at any given tim.

Our experience is that effective change management requires more than incentives, building a coalition, and quick wins. Those can help, but we’ve seen that sustainable change comes after four additional pieces are in place:

  • Before starting: determining change readiness
  • While underway: looking for weak signals and making course corrections accordingly
  • From start to finish: keeping a constant focus on the external environment
  • From before starting and lasting after the main part is done:over-communicating with staff

It takes constant adaptation. Individuals and circumstances change, too. The map of where you want to go is still valuable but requires deviations and course corrections all along the route. Forcing a change to stay on track simply because it was planned that way is counterproductive. Knowing the tolerance for change before starting takes the guesswork out of any adjustments.

We’ve implemented many changes projects, large and small, and seen them through to a successful conclusion. We suggest a reasonable period be built-in before any change project gets underway. The overall time to a positive outcome likely stays the same, but more time upfront means the process can proceed more quickly.

OUR DELIVERABLES

  • Project design and validation
  • Change readiness assessment
  • Facilitation of sessions at key stages
  • Issues management
  • Identification or design of training programs as required
  • Guidance to management or direct project leadership, as warranted
  • Progress reporting at regular intervals or by milestones, or both

DURATION

  • 3 – 18 months
  • The high degree of variability is influenced by the project scope and by emerging circumstances

Posted in CONTINUOUS CHANGE

Transformation re-starts


The longer a transformation stays idle, the harder it is to get going again.

Stopping part-way through squanders the groundwork already invested. It denies opportunities anticipated in the original plan. Stopping also reduces the chances for success in the next change project.

Regaining momentum requires a concerted effort. Missteps reinforce resistance, retrenchment, and the negativity that may have already put the project in park. The way forward needs to be clearly and universally communicated until traction is assured.

We get things moving again, either advising from the sidelines or in a front-line role. We have several prior instances to draw upon, including changes in presentation and formats, substantial shifts in workplaces and workflows, and implementing new operating priorities.

We begin with where things stand without dwelling on ‘what went wrong’. Instead, we focus on practical steps forward.

OUR DELIVERABLES

  • Resumption of transformation in a way that will sustain over time
  • Step-by-step advice or direct project management, as situations warrant

DURATION

  • 3 – 12 months
  • High degree of variability, influenced by the project scope and by emerging circumstances
Posted in STRATEGY SUPPORT

Facilitating senior teams


We help senior teams figure out their next moves.

Most often all the ingredients for the next plan are already in the group. They simply need to be surfaced and organized in a way that draws from everyone’s experience and doesn’t get pre-empted by the needs of the day. We can help. We’ve worked in senior teams and know how they function.

We prod for clarity and push towards measurability. We understand that when the stickies and dots are put away, the needs of the organization resume right away. We’re committed to delivering tangible outcomes for immediate and longer-term implementation.

We can be a trusted third-party when difficult conversations are needed. Surfacing sensitive topics can be more productive when directed by a person not involved in the circumstances.

Our facilitation services are best used for:

  • Setting new directions, priorities, and targets
  • Building alignment on an initiative or theme
  • Determining and framing changes/reductions
  • Working through sensitive issues

OUR DELIVERABLES

  • Session design and preparation (including venue details)
  • Facilitation of session
  • Debrief with commissioning manger(s)
  • Written report/summary, as needed

DURATION

  • Typical sessions are 1/2 day, 1 day, or 2 days
  • Varies by scope
Posted in LEARNING

Having positive disagreements


People often avoid raising objections for fear of hurt feelings, retribution, or ‘not knowing the right thing to say’. 

THIS WORKSHOP shows how to become comfortable with dissent as the gift it can be. Every idea improves by talking it through until the proverbial ‘gem of an idea’ emerges, but discomfort with adversity can shut down the process before it has a chance to work. In the workplace, this means mediocre ideas go forward unchallenged or unrefined breakthroughs get dropped.

TAKEAWAYS Participants work through real-world scenarios in small groups and learn how to use ‘the language of the same side’, a way of expressing reservations and disagreements that can be used to improve ideas while preserving relationships.

TIMING Anytime

DELIVERY  4 – 20 people

AVAILABLE from May 2019

Posted in STRATEGY SUPPORT

Listening for better


The experts in an organization walk in the door every day.

Their observations and ideas are highly relevant because they are grounded in everyday practice. Talking with them and listening for what can be done better identifies course corrections that make a difference. It also surfaces high-value practices that are important to preserve in the midst of change.

Our focus is on identifying solutions, of any size, in a series of conversations, either one-on-one or in groups. We help people detach from next-hour needs and think of the bigger picture. All comments are unattributed.

Often small things can make a big difference. Big ideas emerge, too. Either way, the results add from-the-floor validity to a plan that’s in development or speed-up an implementation that’s underway.

OUR DELIVERABLES

  • Conduct interviews with staff members, and if desired, external stakeholders
  • Facilitate one or more group sessions (if required)
  • Provide written findings with recommendations 
  • Present report to commissioning manager(s)

DURATION

  • Typically completed within 2-4 weeks
  • Varies by the numbers of people involved and their availability
Posted in LEARNING

Doing strategy in real-time


A strategy is no longer something you set every few years. In complex environments, it needs to adapt as circumstances change.

THESE 1×1 LEARNING SESSIONS are for leaders who are preparing or managing a strategy that involves sensitive or significant organizational change. In personalized one-on-one sessions, we go over experienced-based methods, tailor them to individual needs, and focus on ways to increase personal effectiveness.

Our work concentrates on adaptive strategy, preparing you to consciously and skillfully adjust to emerging factors. Topics include:

  • Creating a vision everyone can see for themselves
  • Mapping both the external and internal terrains
  • Checking for change readiness
  • Differentiating between technical and adaptive issues
  • Creating conditions to speed adoption
  • Recalibrating as circumstances evolve
  • Communicating in a way that connects
  • Achieving outcomes that will last over time

TAKEAWAY 

Topics will be weighted and adapted to suit individual objectives and situations. Participants receive a foundation in adaptive strategy concepts with just-in-time practicality. Combining principles and practice reinforces learning and strengthens the projects at hand.

TIMING 

  • When preparing or managing a strategy
  • Sessions are by phone or video call

DURATION

  • 60-90 minutes per session over 8-12 weeks
  • Varies by individual preference