Case Detail

Case Summary

Northlands Ledger (B): Bringing Customer Focus to a Newspaper

Case Number: 5-111-006(B), Year Published: 2011

HBS Number: KEL537

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Authors: Robert Dewar

Key Concepts

Leadership, Change Management, Strategy Implementation, Customer Focus

Abstract

Case (A) describes the situation at the Northlands Ledger, a newspaper on its way out of business due in large part to its publisher and editor’s focus on what they do and want to keep doing rather than on what their customers (readers and advertisers) want. The value proposition to the reader is that ‘we deliver the paper reliably and give you the latest national and international news’. The value proposition to the advertisers is that ‘we print your ads accurately and runs them on time’. Both value propositions are outdated, and, even if they were what the customers wanted—which they are not, neither is executed well. The paper’s key performance indicators—circulation, classified ads and commercial advertising are all in decline despite the fact that the community it serves is growing. The senior management of the Paulus chain that owns this paper has forced the publisher, Allison, to retire and brought another publisher, Potter, in from one of its other papers, The Sun Belt City Star, where Potter was highly successful. However, he cannot simply transfer his success formula from the Star to the Ledger.
Case (B) details his efforts and may be used as a classic example of good change management and leadership practices. Potter established a clear cut set of objectives, formulated a new strategy of responsiveness to readers and advertisers more in line with finding out why they hired the paper in the first place. To implement his new strategy he terminated senior managers and others who he did not feel could contribute to the new paper, and made significant changes in key dimensions of implementation: culture, structure, information and decision support systems, incentives and human resources. Throughout he used a mix of both authoritative and participative change management—a mix that may provoke an interesting class discussion.

Learning Objectives

Provide a realistic example of leading and managing change with successful transformation of a previously failing company while simultaneously illustrating key dimensions of implementation of strategy.

Number of Pages: 5

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Management, Organizational Behavior, Strategy

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: United States

Industry: Newspaper/Media

Organization Name: Northlands Ledger

Organization Size: Medium

Decision Maker Position: Publisher of the paper

Decision Maker Gender: Male

Year of Case: 2008