Fixing the BBC Sports Web Site: Part 2

October 31, 2016

Three Leaders We Deserve subscribers made further contributions to the recent post dealing with the challenges facing the BBC in changing its Sports web-site

Contributors: Paul Hinks, Susan Moger and Conor Glean

Paul:

September 1 2016

I really enjoyed your blog about the BBC commentary of the Olympics in Rio. In terms of the BBC generally I’m a big fan -great value, still a world class service and still a leader in my opinion – but I agree with the sentiment of your blog.  Its sports website is on the back foot at the moment.

The BBC sports website needs to do better.

Great Britain is a sporting nation – we are passionate sporting participants – and equally passionate spectators. What I liked about the Rio coverage was the way the BBC celebrated success in a genuine (un-British stiff upper lip way). You captured this observation perfectly in your blog.

In terms of the other BBC products – there perhaps is room for improvement. I see the BBC website as a flagship product. It would be great to see the BBC deliver more innovation and creativity in a way that provided genuine engagement but also provided expert high quality analysis. This is not an easy achievement, and perhaps one that is easy to highlight when absent, but easy to overlook when present.

The BBC is almost a de facto home page for news, sport, politics, weather, etc.  It has credibility that provides the benchmark for others to reach, yet like you, I’ve also noticed their sports section has really weakening over the past year or so.

Navigation is less intuitive. Content and coverage is thinner than previously noted. There’s a move to media clips rather than written script. The media clips haven’t quite worked out in my opinion. There’s just too many of them, and again the quality and depth is often lacking. It’s a shame because the BBC still beats Sky hands down in my opinion.

The bigger picture for me is that while the Internet maybe (has) disrupted journalism – there is a risk that the quality high-end coverage is being lost/eroded.

We’ve already seen printed press struggle to compete against ‘free’ online coverage – and yet often the online material is a poor imitation of the quality broad sheet journalism that provides carefully positioned arguments from alternative perspectives.

I’ve mentioned previously that this is where I see huge value add in LWD. LWD is very high quality material Tudor – and yet it’s almost a public service. There’s other high quality sites out there too. I suspect they also face the same dilemmas. [Thanks: The editor]

There’s a paradox within IT. Information Technology is inherently extremely complex with many dimensions to it. It is expensive to run and operate – and yet the perception is that IT is free and should be very easy to use. I suppose the BBC faces the same dilemmas as the wider public sector in terms of how it justifies its budget. How do you keep squeezing more out of a forever diminishing pool of resources when expectations continue to rise? A very challenging proposition.

September 2 2016

Susan:

Thank you for such perceptive comments.  I agree with your observations; I think the sport section of the BBC website is really suffering because it is in many ways still following the template of a previous generation of sports reporting and I don’t think there is the resource, and possibly the understanding, about how to work with the website more effectively.  It’s like the established banks trying to offer digital services which are add-ons and not part of the bank’s DNA, as it were. Of course, Sky has set the standard and the expectations of what sports broadcasting now looks like.

I listen to the BBC World service a lot, and I think the same this is happening there; the budget cuts mean that there is a huge effort being made to get more with less and at the same time the ‘digitisation’ phenomenon hasn’t been embedded so it sits awkwardly with the more traditional offering.

The ‘new’ BBC website seems very clunky to me,  and it probably would have been better to have stuck with what they had.  For me the BBC stands for integrity of information and of presentation

I agreed that LWD now has a similar status in that its longevity and the breadth of coverage mean that it can be trusted and in these days, I think that is a very rare thing indeed!

September 4 2016

Conor:

Hi guys, my comments are somewhat echoing those already made but I feel that in a world of constant, instant headlines from the social media sphere, we are used to knowing ‘the box’ of what happens as it happens via a tweet from anyone (e.g. Serena withdraws from US Open) and expect ‘the contents’ (what, where, when why), which come from the news outlets and require time if to be done well, to come at the same rate – resulting in a diluted quality of story in order to be relevant.

I think this relates to the ease of use of the BBC sports website, because, although you can specify which sport you want, the number of ‘box’ headlines in all sports clutter not only that specific sport’s page, but the homepage, causing for what seems like a poorly put together site which confuses when it’s just trying to keep up with the demands of 2016 sporting journalism.

I don’t think that the issue is exclusive to BBC as (to my shame) I’m a sky sports news mobile app user and since not having a smart phone for the last few weeks, I downloaded the Sky Sports app on my friend’s phone to see an average rating of 1 5- 2 stars out of 5 (it was the only outlet I’d ever used so I didn’t notice if I was up to date or not). Also, when trying to find stories that I knew had broken during the transfer window on sky sports’ website as opposed to the app, I experienced some of the issues you have highlighted in using the BBC’s.

September 5 2016

Paul:

Great note by Conor with many relevant comments.

I agree that in general terms online coverage of events can improve – but equally I feel it’s important to highlight and acknowledge that technology – and how it enables the effective dissemination of information – has come a long way in a relatively short timeframe.

Mobile computing is here – it’s maturing quickly – but there is more to be done.

You make a good point in that the BBC is not alone in terms of opportunities for further improvements to its website – I still believe that the BBC could do more, but they should be given credit. The BBC site remains a leader in my opinion. Consumer expectations are being set higher all the time – it can be difficult to reconcile those expectations with the reality of here and now. Particularly in a world of finite/reducing resources.

The BBC is still a leader in many different ways (in my opinion). However, it is right to look for opportunity to continuously improve its offering, but there remains a great deal that is ‘right’ about the BBC.

Editor:

Thanks to Paul, Susan and Conor for these follow-up contributions to the earlier post. There seems to be consensus around several points The BBC retains the admiration of the contributors but as Paul put it:  Its sports website is on the back foot at the moment.

All three note the difficulties of competing against sites with much larger budgets. Susan noted a similar problem with the BBC World Service.

Paul continued his defense of the BBC with his closing remark that The BBC is still a leader in many different ways (in my opinion). However, it is right to look for opportunity to continuously improve its offering, but there remains a great deal that is ‘right’ about the BBC.


Is it Openreach or overreach?

March 2, 2016

This week’s report by industry regulator Ofcom concludes that BT will retain control over the Openreach operation, but with changes to permit more competition. We examine the arguments for complete spin off of Openreach

This is a more modest proposal than that offered by a cross-party parliamentary group which was very much in favour of splitting off Openreach to counteract what it described as BT’s monopolistic features.

In the analysis by Paul Hinks published in LWD recently., Paul concluded that if Openreach is split off from BT, and starts to either compete with rivals, or offer technologies that align with specific customer/partner needs, then really we may just have new different challenges around agreed technology standards and regulation.

BT agreed, but I found its response unconvincing. It repeated the message of the necessity for the business to have the backing of its own its powerful resources. There is something rather chilling in its protectionist tone

A Personal View

Paul sets out the strategic issues, but I would like to offer a more personal view. The BT model reminds me of the Network Rail situation. Ideologically appealing as a way of improving the sluggishness of the predecessor, the nationalized British Rail. Rail users remain unimpressed by the new system with its complex regulatory mechanisms and lack of adequate coherence ‘joined upness’ of to help customers make valuable choices.

Living with Dynosaurs

My personal experiences of both dinosaurs have mostly been frustrating. A few years ago I was locked into an apparently irresolvable four party struggle between myself, Openreach, my ISP and BT to reconnect me to the Internet. By far the most customer friendly was the ISP. I was left with the distinct impression that Open Reach would be better able to deal with me if I switched to BT and its then developing broadband system.

It took six weeks to sort it out.

Discussions on twitter (thanks to access from my local library) revealed that I was far from alone in my dissatisfaction in particular with BT itself.

It may or may not be relevant to conflate this experience with my sense that the BT huge venture to inject competition into televised sport is not resulting in a better consumer service.

I await change, bur remain less than optimistic about the leadership of BT in the vital challenges of achieving a Great Leap Forward in the necessary information highways of Great Britain.

Is it Overreach with Openreach?

Regular LWD contributor Susan Moger, Senior Fellow in Leadership,at the Alliance Manchester Business School, suggests that Openreach may risk Overreach. She notes:

What strikes me is that in managing all these ‘moving parts’ BT is struggling to cope with the changing nature of its customer base and that of a modern organisation, which BT’s Openreach is.

A good Quality high speed broadband service is a MUST for everyone now, not a luxury. In its advertising, BT has raised its customers’ expectations enormously, and is now struggling to meet them, for whatever reason.
There also appears to be an intention to manage the Openreach business in the same manner as the ‘BT in the days of copper’ ie as a command and control organisation, and this may not be appropriate.

Openreach may be a separate organisation. However, given the massive investment made BT in sports broadcasting. there is still a possibility that BT is hoping that there might be a ‘contribution’ from Openreach at some stage. In any event, underperformance and overtly bad performance by Openreach can’t help the BT brand.

Meanwhile, Ofcom’s new director Sharon White signals that BT is still under scrutiny, although there are voices suggesting the proposals need to be clearer with more specific and measurable outcomes.


Charismatic Animals

September 7, 2015

How far is it helpful to extend the construct of charisma into the animal world?Desert Orchid

For many people there is little doubt. Some animals are treated as ‘the special ones’, just as is the case for humans.

Race horses are already genetically special ones, bred for performance. In this respect they begin life as ‘born to lead’, and receive intensive training to release their natural potential.

Desert Orchid

A classic example from the 1980s in England was Desert Orchid, a magnificent white creature (or grey, in racing parlance). His spectacular appearance, coupled with his front running style and stamina, gave him iconic status. Dessie seemed to enjoy attention, enthralling his audiences as he cantered up to the start, or as he paused to acknowledge applause. His National Jump racing results were exceptional, considered to place him among the top six hurdlers of all time.

Janice Coyne, long-serving stable girl, had to defend Dessie after a rare act of its petulance. “He’s only human” she protested.

Red Rum and Sea Biscuit

In some contrast is the more plebeian courage and stamina of two other horse legends, Red Rum and Sea Biscuit. Whereas Dessie had an ethereal beauty, neither Red Rum nor Sea Biscuit stood out for their natural grace among the other horses on parade.

Red Rum suffered from a form of arthritis that threatened his career and left him with a rather ungainly gait. Under different circumstances he might not have been spared from an early end. To add to evident physical weaknesses he was lethargic in training and inclined to prefer sleep over exercise. He was not even bred for jump racing at which he excelled. He was to become one of the greatest of racers over Aintree’s’ Grand National course, an idol for his fans. He was to star in films and books about his remarkable career. On retirement, he appeared on the celebrity circuit ahead of B List humans in demand for opening charity events and supermarkets.

Sea Biscuit, an earlier sensation in American horse racing history, was as unpromising as a foal as Red Rum. Undersized, ungainly, almost unmanageable, the damaged horse was rescued by an equally scarred Jockey. The combination released Sea Biscuit’s potential. During the Great Depression the horse became a symbol of hope and even a money earner for the near defeated masses who backed it.

Perfection and hope

I think of Dessie as symbolizing perfection; Red Rum and Sea Biscuit as symbolizing hope, and triumph of the weak over the privileged, the flawed over the perfect. Or maybe  beauty. as is often suggested, lies in the eye of the beholder.

Acknowledgement

To Susan Moger for her unrivaled knowledge of equine history


The power of Yes And thinking

April 8, 2015

NHS Health Check

Susan Moger and Tudor Rickards

The power of Yes And thinking is explored within a workshop on Taking Tough Decisions: A creative problem-solving approach. as part of the Fifth National Medical Leadership conference 17th April 2015 at the Macron Stadium, Bolton

This post is based on an earlier document which we used regularly with MBA students at Manchester Business School over a period of years. We have retained it in its original form, and appended references to subsequent work.

We believe that the climate for creative ideas can often be negative. As a shorthand, we talk about a YES BUT climate in which people are prone to respond to any new idea with a ‘Yes But’.  This negative mind-set is based on unconsciously held beliefs and we can weaken these by becoming conscious, to the extent of becoming self-conscious of ‘Yes Butting’. In this way we begin to reduce the damage caused by excessive Yes Butting by substituting ‘Yes and’.

Yes but’ implies ‘There is something wrong with this idea. I want nothing further to do with this bad idea’.

In contrast, ‘Yes And’ implies ‘There is something that can be improved about this idea. I am willing to work at it to improve it as best I can’.

To take a simple example:

‘I have just thought of the idea of flypaper to go in cars to stop insects distracting you when you are driving’.

‘Yes But … wherever you put it someone would get stuck sooner or later’.

‘Yes And … if you could design it so that passengers never get stuck it would be even better. How about an insecticide block or the paper inside a mesh with fly attractant. Or how about combining it with the air freshener?

Note: In follow-up studies of participants on our courses, more find they have applied ‘Yes And’ to benefit than any other technique.

Since we wrote the manual [sometime in the 1990s] we have continued to find Yes And a powerful means of overcoming negativity, promoting creativity, addressing tough leadership dilemmas, and resolving communication difficulties. It engages with issues of positive psychology, discursive communications theory.and conflict resolution approaches.

Updating

We acknowledge encouragement from Dr Rebecca Baron for reviving this note  as a contribution to The National Leadership Conference, and Shropshire NHS for the creative image urging Health Checks..

The overall Yes And approach was published as The Power of the And in The Handbook for creative team leaders . We further revised it in The Routledge Companion To Creativity,  and in Dilemmas of Leadership


Creative Leadership: Broken Windows, Maps and Dilemmas

June 13, 2014

Creative Leadership: Broken Windows, Maps and Dilemmas illustrates an approach for changing dysfunctional environments into more positive and creative ones

Creative leadership: broken windows, maps and dilemmas from Tudor Rickards

Who Broke my Windows?

The Broken Windows approach was initially used as a way of understanding how the quality of a physical environment can influence criminal behaviour. Thinking about this in terms of a creative climate we suggest that neglect of a physical working environment, together with poor quality personal behaviours (lack of courtesy, sarcasm and so on) can lead to a deteriorating atmosphere in which people feel demoralised and that their work is of no value. This leads to a downward spiral of performance and morale which can be very difficult to deal with.

We know from the work of Teresa Amabile, Steve Kramer, Goran Ekvall and others that behaviours are critical to sustaining a creative climate. If put under the stress of change we can all behave poorly, without realising it and without meaning to. It is the role of a creative leader to understand how these behaviours happen and how they might be addressed.

The unintended behaviours are

Being Rude
Being Greedy
Having Favourites

And the way to address them is to think about

Clarifying
Connecting and
Communicating

so as to involve individuals, teams, and wider social groupings.

To be continued


By popular request: what happened to David Moyes?

April 25, 2014

MacBeth wikipediaThe dismissal of David Moyes as Manager of Manchester United in April 2014 was both expected and unexpected.

It was expected

It was expected when media reports [April 21st 2014] announced his imminent departure, days after a Premier League defeat of his team, confirming there would be no European Cup matches next season.

Campaigns for his removal were gaining pace from disgruntled fans through the media. By mid-afternoon, a perfect storm was brewing on Twitter. A few scraps of information were repeatedly retweeted. ‘Moyes sacked. Moyes is about to be sacked. Moyes will be sacked soon/at the weekend/at the of the season.’

It was unexpected

It was unexpected because despite the poor record of the team, Moyes had been appointed as the choice of the departing Manager, the iconic and hugely successful Sir Alex Ferguson. He was understood to have been chosen for the long-term. In an emotional farewell speech to a packed stadium at Old Trafford, Sir Alex urged fans to get behind the newly-chosen one. His own last season had been a triumph of psychology over the aging legs of his team which finished Premier League champions.

Neither expected nor unexpected considerations took account of the preoccupations of the owners of the club, the American entrepreneurs, the Glazers. Their financial model has been widely recognized as involving finance of a creative kind to reduce their entrepreneurial risks When results disappointed, Moyes would have been seen as adding to the riskiness of their investment. Ten months into his long-term contract, he was toast.

‘It were well done quickly ‘

The club confirmed through Twitter the following morning that Moyes had been dismissed. It turned out he had been told the news very early that morning.

The timing was said to have been chosen to meet the requirements of information released to investors on the NY Stock markets.

The hunt for red assassins

I was surprised at the extent of the coverage of the story locally and globally. The early print editions of the British media had given it high visibility on the sports pages, writing as if his immediate dismissal was certain before the official announcement.

The early morning news bulletins followed suit, clearing the way for interviews with assorted pundits and players. When the news broke, the hunt for the assassins began. MacBeth morphed into Julius Caesar.

The poisoned chalice

Someone contacted me suggesting I should write about the poisoned chalice that David Moyes had received. Or hospital pass, I replied, remembering a tweet I received on the topic. Incidentally, the poisoned chalice is mentioned in the soliloquy by MacBeth which begins ‘if it were done when tis done….’

Another colleague wondered whether Moyes had indicated through his body language that he was not convinced that he was up to the job? Maybe, although there is something of a catch 22 around that line of questioning. Any authentic leader would recognize the foolishly high expectations of the fans on match day and as the game was being played. Anyone with super confident body language would likely be deluded or faking it.

The routinization of charisma

I go back to the pronouncement of Sir Alex regarding the appointment of his successor. In leadership terms, the former leader was deploying his emotional credit banked with the fans. It is known as an attempt to achieve the routinization of charisma. Sir Alex had acquired enormous credibility for his near miraculous powers of leadership. Much was attributed to the mystique of his charismatic personality. In practice, dilemmas arise, not least as the fans/followers reflect more rationally over the credibility of the replacement.

This analysis does not investigate the motives behind the appointment of David Moyes. Nor does it reflect on his tactical judgements of team selection and on-field substitutions. I leave the former to speculation by media pundits, and the latter to the larger number of pundits also known as football fans. What does seem to make sense is that the leadership issues at Manchester Unite can hardly be reduced to a simple error of judgement either in the selection of David Moyes, or in his dismissal.

Acknowledgements

To Susan Moger, Paul Haslam, Paul Hinks, Keven Holton, Ewan Leith, who were among colleagues who encouraged me put some ideas down for discussion on this fascinating leadership issue. To Wikipedia for the poster image of MacBeth.

Watch this space for further updates

April 25, 2014

Edward Spalton says:

Probably the best comment on this episode was by Richard North of eureferendum.com. that UKIP should try to recruit Moyes because he got United out of Europe in ten months.


Exerting His Influence

March 9, 2014

Susan Moger

by Susan Moger

He may never have heard of management writer Stephen R. Covey and his theory of working within your ‘Circle of Influence’. However, that is exactly how 8 year old Caydon Taiplalus, from Michigan, USA acted, when he saw a classmate refused a hot school meal

His friend did not have the money to pay for the food. When Caydon got home, he began to collect used cans and bottles and small change from his relatives. His fundraising raised $64 and this was enough to pay off the deficit on his classmates’ lunch accounts so that they could have a hot school meal.

The Circle of Influence

Stephen R. Covey urges individuals to develop a proactive attitude by working in their ‘Circle of Influence’ He suggests that we can all be more effective if we recognise that we operate in a Circle of Influence and a Circle of Concern.

The Circle of Concern

Our Circle of Concern includes things that we cannot directly control (the climate, our organisational structure, our relatives, past disagreements). This contrasts with Circle of Influence which includes things we can directly do something about, including our behaviour and our responses to situations. By being active and positive we can increase our Circle of Influence, by being passive and negative we can decrease it. Positive behaviour can also draw other people to us, even if we didn’t originally intend to do this.

Caydon works in his circle of influence

Now totally committed to his idea with help from family and friends, Caydon has developed a website and recently had collected $7,000, to help other children in Michigan and beyond whose parents are struggling to find the money to pay for a hot school meal.
‘It isn’t right that kids go hungry at school and if I can do something about it I will’, he says.

If we all took our cue from Caydon and ‘did what we could’, then perhaps maybe things that ‘aren’t right’ wouldn’t stay that way.

[Susan is Senior Fellow in Leadership at Manchester Business School. Her work involves directing executive programmes. Susan also teaches leadership on MBSW MBA programmes.]