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Design Your Program - Restructuring CEO Responsibilities

For a station to succeed in major giving, the CEO must devote up to 30% of his or her time to the effort. This requires the leader to acquire new skills and to reassign some of the existing workload. This page provides strategies and tools for the delicate task of restructuring the leader's responsibilities.

Topics of Interest
Topics of Interest

Why Talk About Restructuring?

As Public Media undergoes transformation for sustainability through the 21st century, leaders at the corporate and station levels must adjust their focus, skill set, and productivity aligning with this transformation. The external forces of change driving this transformation create a ripple effect of shifts inside each station that require skill, analysis and strategy.

Restructuring the CEO's responsibilities to focus on fundraising, development, and philanthropic activities is a strategic objective to assure financial stability and sustainability for public media — in a nutshell, it is about transformations — transformation in how we view ourselves, in how the public views public radio and television, how local community members experience the impacts of our service, how we strategize and plan for the future, for performance, for sustainability.

If not undertaken at present as a strategic objective, it may become a future necessity for station sustainability.

The Wave of Transformation in Public Media

Public radio and television are deepening the service mission originally set down in 1967 by evolving programs and service beyond traditional broadcasting to include new technologies, platforms, and networks as Public Media. The transformations underway are the result of a combination of organic industry evolution, strategic innovation, and necessary adaptation.

The strategic planning of CPB captures internal and external expertise and recommendations for priorities to successfully transform to meet the demands of a 21st century media environment in service to an increasingly diverse public.

Broad outcomes that CPB seeks to accomplish include increasing the relevance of programs to local/diverse audiences, increasing the accessibility to programs/services, streamlining and productivity of public broadcasting support and service organizations, and transition to a funding model that provides long-term sustainability for stations. Leadership for Philanthropy specifically focuses on transitioning station funding models to a multi-stream revenue generating model that relies on the current strengths of membership/fund drives, underwriting, and grants while adding philanthropic mechanisms including major giving, planned giving, and community partnerships.

Transitioning the funding model is critical to achieve the numerous, complex, and interrelated objectives articulated by public media leadership (PDF, 367KB). To increase relevancy, expand access, increase industry collaboration, remain vital and viable as a media outlet, and to accomplish this in a sustainable manner is expensive.

Time and Resource Investment Required by the LFP

While these objectives require the collective effort and expertise of station personnel, shifts in the funding strategy at the station level depend primarily on the leadership of the CEO with the support of the development team and volunteer board. This will require a significant time investment by the CEO over the next few years, particularly if major giving is a completely new strategy for the station.

The conversation about restructuring the CEO's responsibilities must begin early so time becomes available for LFP work and the eventual implementation of the major giving program. The success of the major gifts program will be directly proportional to the amount of time invested by the CEO and the quality of their interactions with prospective donors.

Impacts and Outcomes

Efforts to transform Public Media at the industry, station and leadership levels have a wide range of impacts. The outcomes are all beneficial to the sustainability of Public Media and individual stations, but only if the strategy accounts for the risks, challenges, and setbacks that might occur along the way.

One of the challenges is the restructuring of CEO responsibilities to allow for this work without causing a trickle down burden on senior staff for station operations or neglect of other CEO responsibilities. One of the primary risks is insufficient time invested by the CEO to accomplish LFP goals or to engage the donor community. Without sufficient attention to restructuring, there is also risk that support and morale from staff will diminish and undermine the effectiveness of station operations and fundraising strategy.

By talking about restructuring we signal that change is coming; we signal that everyone needs to engage in the process of assessment, analysis, and strategy formation because, in the end, everyone will be impacted by even the smallest type of restructuring. Station leaders can expect a number of beneficial impacts and outcomes (PDF, 367KB).

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Strategies for Restructuring the CEO's Responsibilities

A shift in focus and time investment on the part of the CEO has implications for every staff member. Many CEO's "live their work" putting many more hours than the typical 9-5 worker. In addition to business hour operations they attend community events, sit on boards of community organizations, cultivate funding relationships, and perhaps have time for a personal life.

Even a minute shift in focus and time toward philanthropic goals means that a usual task is awaiting attention and delays the productivity of the rest of the team. To avoid this, the CEO works with consultants to assess what restructuring their position means.

CEO Work Functions, Essential Competencies and Time Investment

The starting point for determining which restructuring of a CEO's time and responsibilities might be an option is to ask these and related questions:

  • How does the CEO currently spend her time?
  • How does this measure up to industry standards?
  • How does this compare to CEOs/CEOs at cohort/peer stations?
  • Which functions are essential for the station?
  • Which functions are essential for the CEO to handle?
  • Which functions can shift to other senior leadership?
  • Which functions can be out-sourced?
  • Which functions are no longer essential and can be eliminated?
  • Which functions have greater return on investment?
  • Which functions are not essential yet provide increased value to the audience, members, and/or community?
  • Which functions contribute best to balance productivity, sustainability, and value?

Strategies to Assess CEO Functions and Time Usage

At the individual level, such as the CEO, there are many formal and informal ways to assess time on task, time investment, and critical functions including but not limited to those listed below.

Formal:

  • Macro-time-on-task analysis (by management function)
  • Micro-time-on-task analysis (by minute, quarter hour, etc.)
  • Comparison for congruence of job description to actual work functions/time investments
  • Comparison of job functions to industry standards or trends
  • Comparison of your position description to model/sample position description for CEO
  • Comparison to peer CEO/CEO Time-on-Task Analyses (within or beyond your station cohort group)
  • Surveys on the critical skills for CEOs and CEOs
  • Time-cost-benefit analyses

Informal:

  • Facilitated discussion or survey of board volunteers to identify necessary CEO competencies (to lead the station today; to lead the station in 5 years).
  • Assessment of congruence between CEO skill-set and the formal strategic plan/priorities
  • Senior staff assessment of necessary CEO tasks and functions

Impacts and Outcomes

The process of restructuring the CEO's responsibilities do more than just recover time and prioritize leadership tasks. The process has benefits (PDF, 367KB) to the senior staff, development staff, volunteer leaders, and the station as a whole.

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Strategies for Restructuring the Organization

Once the CEO shifts her time investment, the domino has been tipped for the rest of the organization. It might be easy to make tweaks in the CEO's calendar or the time allocation for various activities to free up a little more time for philanthropic work. For a major giving program to get off the ground and reach its potential as a primary revenue source for the station, however, the CEO must make some strategic decisions about station operations.

At the macro-level, in order to restructure CEO responsibilities, you must first consider essential functions for the effective operation of a public broadcasting station.

Strategic Questions About Station Operations and Functions

  • Which functions or competencies persist at our station that may no longer be necessary for station operations and can be eliminated?
  • Which functions or competencies are essential to strategic planning for station viability, relevance, and sustainability in the future?
  • Which functions or competencies are essential to daily operation and service delivery of the station?
  • Which functions or competencies, while not essential, add value for listeners, membership, community members, or the brand?
  • Which functions or competencies (such as implementing a major giving program) will eventually be required given current trends in public broadcasting?

While every station is distinct, the essential categories of functions or competencies are fairly consistent across most stations or formats. While not exhaustive, we have provided a list of functions and competencies (PDF, 268KB) necessary to lead and operate a public broadcasting station beyond the requisite combination of education, experience, and leadership skills needed to attain any position at a station.

Strategies to Assess Organizational Structures and Functions

As part of the LFP, organizational assessment needs to be narrowly focused so it does not become a time consuming, expensive, or disruptive process. Within the scope of LFP goals, we are seeking to answer the question "what shifts must take place to allow the CEO sufficient time to champion a major giving program?" Therefore, the assessment should focus primarily at the CEO and Senior Staff functions and responsibilities. Below are some of the strategies that can be employed to assess functional and structural aspects of the station.

Formal:

  • Comparison of organizational charts, structures, functions, and roles between your station and cohort stations
  • Develop a matrix charting senior staff and essential functions for the station to determine overlaps, gaps, misalignments, etc.
  • Conduct a staff needs analysis to determine staff capabilities, need for support, motivation to handle new responsibilities, motivation to learn new skills, etc.
  • Conduct a work flow analysis (formally or informally) of major projects, functions, deliverables for each senior staff member and the resulting productivity level for each
  • Conduct an organizational audit utilizing a consultant or third party to chart essential functions, position descriptions, and other data to determine alignments, gaps, conflicts, etc.

Informal:

  • Review of industry reports and studies for trends in public broadcasting; particularly those commissioned by CPB and associated organizations or from non-profit think tanks (Aspen Group, Knight Foundation, etc.)
  • Develop conceptual maps such as association of related functions or association of functions and the responsible staff member
  • Examine the balance of major functions, number of staff, and responsibilities for senior managers; evaluate this balance with respect to the competencies/capabilities of each staff member

Impacts and Outcomes

As with restructuring of the CEO's responsibilities, the entire organization benefits (PDF, 273KB) from the completion of the restructuring process, which allows everyone within it to view the programs and operations of the station holistically.

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Formulating and Implementing a Restructuring Plan

Whichever options you select, there will be direct impacts on some staff and indirect impacts on the rest. No matter how beneficial, necessary, or well-intentioned — no matter if decided by executive authority or committee — every strategy that results in shifts in responsibilities, functions, reporting lines, number of staff, or any other change is likely to result in an outcome more desirable for some than for others.

Balancing Transparency and Involvement

In an ideal world, you want to involve your senior staff in the process of evaluating your options for restructuring. This has many advantages including deeper analysis and scrutiny of options, transparency, and building buy-in. This would also minimize push back, confusion, and unintended impacts as the plan is implemented. If senior staff or board members are included in your process, it should be made clear that the group is helping to frame a number of options and the pros and cons of the viable strategies. Trying to build consensus may not be a strategic approach as each of staff members involved will be impacted by the final decision thereby placing them in a position of conflict to advocate for/against strategies that might benefit themselves, or not.

In some cases, particularly for small stations with flat organizational structures, the staff you would most likely want in the process are also those whose abilities and readiness to take on new responsibilities you must assess. In cases where the politics, personalities, or other circumstances do not allow for senior staff strategy sessions, you may want to bounce your ideas off a peer CEO, the consultants, or some board members. This is a delicate balance between transparency and input — too much input and there will be resentment for not choosing a particular strategy, not enough engagement and there will be an air of secrecy and anxiety.

Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together

The end goal is to free CEO time to focus on major giving and philanthropic goals. Some options free up a small amount of time while others may create a significant shift in available time. There is rarely a single option that will achieve the desired outcomes. The best strategy will result from considering a complex set of drivers, options, and extraneous factors like pieces of a puzzle and fitting them together in such a way as to achieve the desired goals without significant disruption to the work environment, and that will serve the mission, staff, board, and community well.

This is easier said than done since your strategies to reclaim work time all require balancing objective and subjective factors to divine the final strategy. Some of these factors are listed below although there are likely many others that you will consider.

Objective Factors

  • Number of staff available
  • Number of hours in a work day/week
  • Dollars and resources available
  • Seniority of staff
  • HR policies and procedures

Subjective Factors

  • Staff personalities and relationships
  • Staff competencies and capabilities
  • Staff readiness, willingness, and motivation
  • Staff workloads
  • CEO management, leadership styles, and preferences

Decisions, Options, and Implementation

Piecing together the right combination of strategies that will shift sufficient amounts of time for the CEO to accomplish their work is definitely more art than science. As you make your decisions, you will want to utilize as much data as possible since this presents the best case for your decisions. Even so, your knowledge about the staff, their capabilities, productivity, leadership, and other factors are not reflected in the data. The data should inform your decisions but not drive them.

The Options: Shift, Reduction, Reorganization, Expansion, and Status Quo

You've arrived at the moment of truth and are ready to specify the set of strategies that will be the best fit given the all factors considered. You are likely to choose one or more of the options listed below, bullet points are brief lists of examples:

Shifts involve altering the way time is used, ordered, protected, etc.

  • Blocking uninterrupted time at your desk to complete tasks
  • Changing the scheduling order or frequency of senior staff, department, and one-on-one meetings to create more streamlined communication of work priorities
  • Shifting the start and end time of your work schedule to interact with more staff and allow more "quiet time" at your desk
  • Shifting assignment of specific tasks to increase productivity
  • Shifting assignment of specific tasks to align with related tasks

When making shifts, it is important to realize that efficiency or productivity may increase, but little "new" time will be reclaimed to add a time driven function such as major giving. For the purpose of freeing up chunks of time, shifts are a valuable option and are best utilized in conjunction with other strategies.

Reduction involves reducing the number of tasks, functions or staff.

  • Discontinue answering the phone when it rings and checking messages once or twice a day
  • Eliminating functions, competencies, or responsibilities from position descriptions since they are no longer utilized by the station
  • Eliminating a position to reinvest resources in a position with needed functions or competencies
  • Reducing one-on-one supervision meetings from weekly to bi-monthly

With the exception of reducing the number of staff, reductions can be an effective way to reclaim time without broader impact. Reductions perceived as "down-sizing" are rarely viewed as a strategic move; rather, they are typically seen as a reactive or necessary action. Within the scope of LFP work, position reductions are only advocated where the reduction is likely to occur independent of LFP but is now a strategic move as part of the overall plan.

Reorganization involves realignment of existing tasks, functions, or staff.

  • Reducing the number of direct reports by shifting the reporting line of a staff member; for example, the office manager may report to a senior staff member instead of the general manager
  • Reducing the number of direct reports by shifting the reporting line of a department; for example, the Information Technology department might report to the Engineering/Operations Director instead of the CEO
  • Realigning departments for strategic or functional reasons; for example, separate music and news departments might be realigned to report to one Program or Content Director

Expansion involves the addition of tasks, functions, or staff.

  • Adding responsibilities to an existing position as part of a promotion; for example, the Director of Engineering and Operations might be given the additional responsibility for overseeing station facilities and security, which was previously not a formal function within anyone's job description
  • Adding new positions to oversee needed station priorities; for example, creating a new position to oversee New Technologies, Social Media, and Online Content
  • Adding an administrative assistant position to support the CEO and senior staff; for example, many CEOs see an administrative assistant as a luxury or extravagance, but, in today's operational culture, it is no longer efficient for a CEO to handle all phone calls, emails, correspondence, and other traffic directed their way; nor can administrative tasks await the availability or return of the CEO in order to move forward
  • Adding a staff committee to take responsibility for a task or function; for example, creating a Content Committee to review website content for brand issues, needed content, community outreach, etc.
  • Adding a board committee to lead development strategy for volunteers and to serve as direct liaisons to the development staff

Expansion of staff responsibilities or positions typically requires investment of station resources (read: money) either to pay promotions, add full positions, or to provide support resources. When the position is of strategic importance to the station, the investment to pay for a position is typically worth it in the long run. If there are no available funds to support expansion, then serious consideration must be given to the short versus long term capabilities to support a major giving program without reductions elsewhere.

Status Quo is leaving tasks, functions, and staff in place.

  • A CEO believes he can handle the additional time pressures by being more strategic with his time
  • A CEO informs the senior staff that she will need their help and will ask for it when the time is right
  • A CEO believes the development director can champion the major giving program and that they will just need to show up at events or for an occasional ask for a gift

The status quo approach typically causes under-performance for a major giving program. This is due to the need for donors to have numerous "quality touches" from the CEO prior to being asked for a gift. Retaining all current responsibilities will simply add workload and pressure to the CEO role. At some point something has to give, and most often it is the function that has the least immediate priority. Major giving is about the patient cultivation of prospects over time. Attention to this needs to be constant, consistent, systematic, and sincere. This requires a lot of time and attention that is easily eaten up by issues of the day and short term priorities.

Temporary and Permanent Strategies

As you put your plan together, you may find that the station is not optimally positioned to implement all aspects of the preferred plan. This not uncommon. Many of the options you consider can be implemented as temporary strategies until resources or conditions become available. Even in cases where conditions are right, the plan may be implemented on an evaluative basis for a defined period of time before making the changes permanent.

Steps for Implementation of a Restructuring Plan

Once you identify the strategies that will serve you best, it will be important to develop an implementation plan before making any announcements or putting anything into action. Every strategy, whether minor or major, will have impacts that are anticipated as well as some that are not. Lack of a plan may cause a rush to action, missteps, expenses, or negative reception. This template (MS Excel file, 11KB) can be your starting point to develop a detailed implementation plan.

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Managing Reactions to Restructuring

From the moment you announce that there will be some consideration to restructuring how the CEO uses her time, the proverbial "cat is out of the bag." Reactions to assessment of how staff use their time, how functions align with station priorities, and similar activities, all raise questions, concerns, blood pressure, and anxiety for some staff. This to be expected, but for the most part, negative emotions and responses can and should be minimized to the extent possible.

Strategies to Minimize Negative Reactions

Like any strategic initiative for the station, sound leadership and management principles go a long way:

  • Planning and strategy
  • Transparency
  • Engagement of senior staff in the process
  • Empowerment to provide input and ideas
  • Developing shared solutions
  • Making informed decisions — Like most strategic issues for the station, final decisions about restructuring are typically an executive decision by the CEO with input/recommendations from others. This is not always the case, but consideration should be given to this prior to involving others in the process.

Taking an Affirmative Approach

If approached with apprehension, secrecy, or defensiveness, staff will reflect those behaviors/emotions and raise anxiety levels. From the start, advocate this as a welcome strategic opportunity for assessment and growth with numerous positive outcomes. Engaging in this process presents opportunities for:

  • Assessing professional skills and competencies
  • Assessing collective skills to meet station priorities
  • Adjusting to industry trends
  • Expanding individual and collective performance areas
  • Professional development, growth and advancement

The Power of Data

The use of relevant data is almost universally accepted as the best approach to important or strategic decision-making. Data provides a good foundation from which to analyze some of the questions asked during restructuring, but, it will not be definitive or the only information you will want to consider:

  • Decisions supported by data are readily accepted than those without.
  • Quantitative and qualitative data both offer valuable and valid information for decision making.
  • Existing industry data such as National Studies, Performance Reviews, Reports, and similar sources are readily available through CPB, DEI, SRG, and other associated organizations
  • Existing station data may include budget reports, performance appraisals, organizational charts, performance data, cost analyses, and other sources.
  • New data can easily be generated from existing data sets or new research can be conducted specific to the questions you want to answer. Audits, surveys, cost analyses, assessments and other strategies can yield valuable data to inform your decisions about restructuring.
  • Data at the individual level can be used to evaluate questions relative to a specific person or position
  • Data at the collective level can be used to evaluate questions relative to a department, function, staff, station, or other grouping.
  • Objective data, although rare, is available and useful; for example, audience reports, budget reports, and number of staff are typically considered objective data. Even these sources are oftentimes considered subjective due to inclusion or exclusion of counts due to one reason or another.
  • Subjective data is the most typical, although no less useful; for example, performance appraisals, program evaluations, productivity reports, and most other forms of data utilized on a regular basis tend to include data that was interpreted by someone and is likely filtered through their experiences, filters, and biases.

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Restructuring Plan Template (MS Excel file, 11KB)
Activity Log (MS Excel File, 24KB)
Time and Resource Assessment Strategy (MS Word File, 161KB)
WAMU Self Management Tool (MS Excel File, 2.1MB)
Beyond Collaboration: Strategic Restructuring of Non-Profit Organizations (PDF, 109KB), National Center for Non-Profit Boards & The James Irvine Foundation, 1998, written by David LaPiana

David La Piana, President, LaPiana Consulting,
Author, Beyond Collaboration: Strategic Restructuring of Non-Profit Organizations

David La Piana, President, LaPiana Consulting,
Author, Beyond Collaboration: Strategic Restructuring of Non-Profit Organizations