MediaWorks, a broadcasting company that owns several radio, television and internet brands is doing it tough, this week especially, to the extent that the wheels appear to be falling off. Consider these recent events:
None of this augers well for a company that is struggling to maintain mindshare and marketshare against the national broadcaster, Television New Zealand. A blind man can see something is wrong, badly wrong.
My sense is that the spotlight needs to be shone on the board. After all, it is the board that holds the ultimate responsibility for overall company performance and the various contributory pieces including culture; values; strategy; and, the performance of the chief executive. That the company has been struggling for a couple of years or more, and seems to have been (blindly?) experimenting with programming options suggests that the board doesn't have a good grasp on things.
Sadly, MediaWorks is not the first company to trip in this way, and it won't be the last.
Several years ago, I studied another company with a successful track record that, unexpectedly, began to fail. Though operating in a different sector of the economy, that case (sorry, I can't disclose the details) had similar characteristics to the MediaWorks situation. The board had hired a sanguine chief executive to craft and implement a new growth-based strategy. The board gave the chief executive plenty space to operate, to such an extent that it did not scrutinise the chief executive or company performance adequately. Ultimately, the strategy was flawed and the board only worked that out when a staff member blew the whistle. The board had been gamed—it had been asleep at the wheel. To its credit, the board's response was strong: it released the chief executive and many directors resigned as well. Shareholders were briefed, and they were invited to recruit a new board and 'start again'. Within six months, the company had a new board and chief executive; its 'reason for being' (core purpose) was revisited; a new strategy was developed to achieve the purpose; and, resources were adjusted to suit. The company got back on track and it continues to perform well to this day.
Perhaps it's time for the MediaWorks board to also respond to the signals, by looking in the mirror; reigning in the culture of hubris and excess that seems to have pervaded the company; and, making some much needed adjustments. The fish rots from the head, after all.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.