Change in Publishing: A Reflection from BookMachine’s United We Publish: III

Last week BookMachine and Unite hosted the third in a series of events focusing on working in the publishing industry. United We Publish III: Consent or Coersion consisted of a panel of speakers discussing the role of change in the workplace and how to manage it. During a fascinating evening we heard about ‘change’, ranging from the past 45 years in the industry to day-to-day change in a growing publishing company. The founder of BookMachine, Laura Summers, says that an event is only worth attending if you learnt three things and it was as I was considering my three insights that I saw how they applied to us here at emc design.

I Change is Inevitable

The idea of change was a constant of the discussion and one fact was assumed – as John Pettigrew put it – change is inevitable. Whether it is something we choose or whether a victim of circumstance the fact is that change will happen. Richard Charkin demonstrated this very well when he spoke about the change he had seen in the industry, from the rise of digital publishing to the globalisation of rights in today’s market. We see it in sudden market shifts, the rise of social media, the e-book and the advent of Adobe software. But our industry is also going to change because in a creative atmosphere people are always going to try something new.

Here at emc design a lot of change is both created by us and given to us. We have seen change in the form of new clients, adapting workflows and sometimes changing projects. The very nature of publishing means that relationships grown and fostered with clients can change when people we work with move on. Those relationships need to adapt but we also gain the ability to work with new and talented people. Over the years we’ve worked with many fantastic editors, designers and production teams and I think everybody would agree with me when I say that we always hope to maintain those great relationships no matter the move. Change may be inevitable, but it is not necessarily bad.

II Change is Constant

Another overarching theme was the idea that change is constant. Throughout all of our careers things will change around us, sometimes even those very careers themselves. We are always encouraged to have a five year plan but how often do we reach those five years and discover that we are in a completely different place from our expectations? John Pettigrew discussed change in the form of redundancy, a sad form of change that is the reality in many companies now, both in and outside of publishing. I was particularly struck by the idea that change will happen throughout our careers. Recently we have had our own staff changes. We will sadly be losing Kathryn to the wilds of Kent and personal change that occurs on top of career change! Kathryn has been a vital part of emc, driving change in the form of creation of the Creative Services team (newly dubbed Publishing Services). However, this kind of change offers opportunity and here we have been able to hire an incredibly talented and experienced individual to help drive and grow the team towards offering further services in the future. Watch this space to see more developments!

We also see constant change in a much smaller way. As part of a deadline driven company I see change on a day-to-day basis. New artwork is needed, design styles adapt and schedules are shifted dependent on the client’s needs. If we receive an email asking for proofs early, discussions ensue about how best to allocate work to get the proofs ready and checked. I find that ASAP is a term used often in our line of work! The recent volume of work in the studio has meant that we have been able to welcome three new graduates this year – part of constant planned change in the form of our graduate scheme. Keep your eye out for introductory posts to meet our new grads.

III Change is Manageable

Possibly the most important thing I took from the evening is that change is manageable. This was a conclusion reached by all speakers. Even if change is thrust upon us we can still make choices. Hazel Cushion, Managing Director of Accent Press gave an honest account of how a change she had taken had backfired when she had eased control of her company. To manage the unfortunate downturn that ensued she had to step back into the day-to-day business. Sometimes change can result in unexpected circumstances but the choices we make can turn that around, as Hazel did. Accent Press is once more a growing company with an exciting future.

One example of manageable change we have seen in the studio recently is a noticeable shift in workflows. We see here the desire to improve and drive change. Publishers want to adapt traditional models of publishing and are actively searching for ways to build on current processes, a reflection of our own ongoing efforts to improve our processes within the studio. Part of that effort is our most effective tool to manage change: communication. We believe that honest, open communication is vital to running an efficient project. After all, you can’t manage change if you don’t know about it!

As within the industry, there’s a lot of exciting change coming to emc, particuarly within my own close-knit Publishing Services team. Last week’s event was an excellent opportunity to take a step back and reflect upon these developments. Sometimes it is hard to believe that change is coming, and even harder to accept that it will always be coming, but I take great comfort in the idea that we can take power in preparation, whether it be months or minutes, taking that time to focus can help us face change and be a part of it, enthusiactically and optimistcally.

 

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