Setting the Scene
Yale University Press is the UK-based division of YUP in New Haven, CT. While the UK office clearly is part of the US company it is much more than an outpost and has established itself as a respected publisher in its own right. With a general ambition for expansion and growth in output, both in terms of profitability and product mix, plus the desire for improved transparency, the company did not underestimate the scale of the work ahead of it.
Like many well-established companies, Yale’s ways of working had developed organically over time. On top of this individual departments had, not unusually, tended to create systems and processes without reference to the needs of others within the organization. Being part of a multi-national business further exacerbated the situation – while there was both a need and desire to share information between the UK and US, the use of technology and systems in place acted as impediments to this taking place as efficiently and reliably as it might. Lack of trust in the data that was available was a common theme across all departments.
The Turning Point
Recognising that significant change was needed was only part of the challenge – how to agree what shape that change should take, let alone achieve it, was daunting and likely to lead to inactivity. Calling in external help seemed the best way forward and so Yale called on i-Publishing Consultants. They brought with them a wealth of direct, practical experience of delivering more effective ways of working to the publishing sector – but this wasn’t enough in itself. A crucial success factor was i-Publishing Consultants’ sensitivity to Yale’s ethos and ambitions, satisfying YUP that they would be able to work together positively, even when a difficult message might need to be delivered.
The Success Story
i-Publishing Consultants was engaged for an extended period, during which time interviews were carried out with each department. Working on a one-to-one basis allowed members of staff to talk freely, both in terms of expressing frustrations with existing ways of working but also in vocalising suggestions and hopes for how things might be done in the future. This was important not only to be able to identify where issues existed but also to encourage engagement and buy-in from staff across the organisation, buy-in which would be essential if the programme of change was to be successful. As outsiders to the business i-Publishing Consultants was able to ask fundamental questions to get to the bottom of what people were really trying to achieve. (So often someone does something because it’s what they’ve always done, even though the circumstances in which that task was originally designed may well have changed beyond measure.) Working systematically through an imaginary life of a book ensured that as many scenarios as possible were examined.
Having gathered sufficient information work continued off-site to develop a structured report defining the bottlenecks and risks inherent in the existing operating practices and suggesting solutions. The latter included precise details of things that Yale could easily and quickly implement themselves to improve data flow and processes, as well as suggestions for technological developments that would increase efficiency and other, more wide-ranging changes that would take longer to achieve. The delivery of the report represented the beginning of an on-going process of change and development, in which i-Publishing Consultants is proud to continue to play a part.
A Note from YUP
'Like many organizations, Yale University Press’s systems and use of technology have evolved organically over time. While this is an understandable situation it doesn’t necessarily lead to the most efficient ways of working and we recognized that significant improvements needed to be made. However it’s really difficult to do this without outside help – partly because at the same time you need to be getting on with your ‘day’ job and also because looking critically at how you (and your colleagues) do things is a real challenge. We called on i-Publishing Consultants to undertake a review of the key areas of the business and how they operate and we’re really glad we did. Jo Burges’ hands-on publishing experience meant she was quickly able to identify where and how improvements could be made but equally importantly she was empathetic of our company culture. The report she provided is hugely detailed and presented in such a way that it’s the basis for an action plan of how to move forward – which is no mean feat. We’ll undoubtedly be calling on i-Publishing Consultants again to help us implement the developments proposed.'
Heather McCallum, Managing Director