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"From the inside, things don’t look as smooth and fast and agile. From the inside, it looks a lot more like trial and error."

Tina Stiegler, EVP of people and strategy at Schibsted, shared insights into the media group’s transformation, speaking at the World News Media Congress in Portugal on 7 June.

Schibsted media houses include VG, Aftenposten, Aftonbladet, Svenska Dagbladet and other titles leading the way in the digital era, and the organisation as a whole reaches over 200 million people around the world, from Norway to Brazil.

Stiegler, who joined the company as a management trainee in 2002, witnessed the group’s evolution from a Scandinavian newspaper group to an organisation that operates in 22 countries.

She has been working on change at Schibsted for the past ten years, and a part of the Group Functions Management Team since 2015. One of her key areas of focus has been changing the structure of Schibsted from separate companies around the world into one global organisation, "to take advantage of our technology resources and our product resources across the group".

"Change is part of the Schibsted DNA," she told attendees. "Our history is about trying to dare to accelerate the inevitable."

"I think the Schibsted culture is a super self-critical one and that's what's driving us to constantly change.

"It’s better to change today than to be forced to change tomorrow by your boss or external trends."

She shared four lessons she has learned on her journey transforming Schibsted.

1. Clear and simple structures set you up for success

Keeping things simple is crucial for avoiding “change fatigue”, she explained.

The essence of change is to replace something old with something new, but all too often organisations are stuck with both, she added.

This can be confusing and expensive for the organisation. "We were stuck with a double set of decision makers in some cases, and that's really not what you’re looking for."

"It’s very hard to make the new work if you don’t dare to remove the old."

2. Change depends on empowered individuals

Most changes are incremental, and giving employees the tools to understand the mission, the plan, the organisational chart and to develop their own skills is crucial.

"To have a good change pace in your organisation, you are really dependent on empowered individuals. Empowered individuals are your organisation’s change engine."

Every day at 10:45 in the morning, Schibsted holds a short evaluation meeting where everyone in the company is invited, down to the admin assistants. This is where both the decisions made the day before and the priorities for the day ahead are discussed.

"Having this open meeting to me is a change booster. Change comes from repetition and small cultural actions."

3. Make room for everyone

Schibsted has been a leader in digital transformation, but the organisation’s efforts haven’t been without their failures.

A few years ago, Schibsted created a good example of what Stiegler called an "us versus them culture". The organisation wanted to create a world class technology hub with only external talent, and wanted them to challenge existing products. The idea was good, but the results were mixed, she explained.

"We didn’t take into account the idea that we needed to unite the old and the new.

"You cannot force the culture on anyone. In a big group like Schibsted, you will always have different cultures.

"However, it’s important for everyone to know that they’re part of something bigger."

4. Drive change from the HR side

Schibsted is a people-oriented company, but Stiegler explained the organisation is still "immature when it comes to strategic HR, especially when you compare to Facebook or Airbnb".

"Schibsted is learning now that bold future-oriented HR is necessary. We need to structure and drive change also from the HR side and internalise a new way of looking at the workforce."

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