The NonProfit Times TV recently sat down with Jennifer Ferro, general manager of the LA public radio station KCRW, to talk about how to change an organization's culture. Here is an excerpt from that interview (Note: Questions and answers are paraphrased):
NPTtv: Jennifer, what were some of the challenges you faced coming to an organization that was used to doing things a certain way?
Jennifer Ferro: I think my position was a bit unique, because I came from inside the organization [she was promoted to her current position after two years as assistant general manager], so the biggest challenge for me is trying to see this organization as an outsider would. I know the personalities involved in the organization really intimately, so one thing you have to do as a leader is to look strategically at your organization, and look at the roles people play. So that's what I've been working on the most right now.
NPTtv: What kind of problems did you see that you wanted to change?
JF: The structure of the organization. Because it had started really from nothing and grew up around that, there was basically no structure. It was the leader, me, and everybody else. There are some benefits to that, but there are also obvious structural challenges with it as well. As we go forward in the future, that's the one thing we need to address: How can we create an organization that maximizes what we do already, but at the same time fosters innovation.
NPTtv: When you became general manager, how difficult was it putting your own stamp on the position without changing what the organization was already used to?
JF: That is one of the advantages of coming from the inside. Because I came from within, people already knew me, they trusted me, and they supported me. A lot of the changes that I wanted to make with the board leadership, the staff, all that kind of stuff, those were things that people were not fearful of because they understood who I was and what I was about. You do have to be sensitive to what people want, however. When you come into an organization with no structure, what ends up happening is that people have their own way of working. When there is a threat to habits, there can be some backlash. That hasn't happened to KCRW, but there is a certain level of anxiety. Anxiety can be good, but it can also be damaging. So I've just had to manage that.
Make sure to check out the full interview with Jennifer Ferro on NPTtv.