Successful transformation comes from within

Springer Nature Group
By: Joyce Lorigan, Mon Apr 22 2024

Author: Joyce Lorigan

Global Head of Corporate Affairs

At this year's London Book Fair, Springer Nature's Joyce Lorigan - Group Head Corporate Affairs - took part in a panel discussion looking at change management within publishing. The below article reflects the key takeaways from that discussion, summarised by the pannel's chair, Charlotte Talmage, CEO & Founder of Uuna, a transformation and change consultancy and recruitment specialist, with a specialism in publishing.

The following article was originally published in the March issue of Research Information and is reposted here with permission.

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From left: Antonia Seymour, Daniel Ebneter, Charlotte Talmage and Joyce Lorigan


"Meaningful and successful change – that sustains energy and enables employees and the business to thrive – has to come from within the organisation." 

In a world where the demands for transformation and change are ever-present, how can academic publishers respond? 

1.Being comfortable with discomfort

To kick off the discussion, Antonia Seymour, CEO of IOP Publishing, emphasised the importance of building internal resilience to withstand ongoing turbulence and uncertainty. While change can inherently feel uncomfortable, leaders have a responsibility to help others. As Antonia noted, "you have to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Organisations need to cultivate a flexible mindset across their entire workforce through open dialogue and education, said Seymour: “Building awareness of individual and collective strengths fosters the adaptability required to respond with agility as conditions evolve.” However, she acknowledged that change also takes an emotional toll, highlighting the need for regular check-ins to support employees. 

Joyce Lorigan, Group Head Corporate Affairs at Springer Nature, highlighted the value of community involvement from within when rolling out a new publishing system using an agile, iterative approach. The organisation purposefully prioritised getting user satisfaction levels right over short-term project delivery targets – a decision that required confidence and buy-in internally. 

She explained that agile development requires building new change management "muscles" – such as education, training, feedback loops that weren't required in the same way in the past – and that needs new skillsets.

2.Building trust from within

Finding that traditional hierarchical structures in publishing were resistant to change, Daniel Ebneter, CEO of Karger Publishers, explained how he has transitioned his company to a distributed accountability model using decision-making "circles," made up of a cross section of business representatives. 

This modern, forward-thinking, agile structure empowers employees from within and facilitates quick decisions aligned with emerging strategies. However, Ebneter cautioned that communicating a clear vision is not enough to get change results on its own; leaders must put equal effort into engaging people through the change process with clear goals, transparency, and building trust from within.

For sustainable transformation, incremental progress driven internally was emphasised. It is important not to overload the organisation, and to prioritise what you can sustainably take on. 

IOP Publishing’s Seymour agreed that change happens by being "one percent better every day" through small, employee-led victories rather than top-down mandates: “We have to constantly balance the need to transform and perform.” Lorigan concurred, advocating starting small, with internal pilots and metrics to validate ideas, before large-scale implementation.

3. AI: opportunities and threats

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) poses both opportunities and threats for academic publishers to navigate. Seymour explained that AI could enhance productivity, content analysis, and new product development at scale. However, threats to research integrity, and lack of strategic investment, also need addressing. 

Panellists agreed that AI success relies on educating employees and involving them in identifying high-value use cases aligned with organisational strategy and stakeholder needs, experimenting and scaling what works.

Looking externally, collaboration across the academic ecosystem was also seen as crucial to effect change in publishing. With competing priorities and "change fatigue" setting in, publishers must embrace open dialogue and a shared commitment to research integrity, accessibility, and evidence-based policymaking, coming together in the spirit of partnership. As Seymour concluded, "the enemy is not each other" – it is challenges such as research misconduct and underfunding that the community should unite on to overcome.”

In closing, the panel offered a positive position that transformation can be navigated from a place of inner strength and clarity of purpose. By embracing adaptability, empowering employees as owners of change, and strengthening internal alignment through clear communication and collaborative decision-making, academic publishers can respond to disruption from a stable inner foundation. 

With flexible, authentic leadership attuned to people's wellbeing and a focus on sustainable progress over time, the industry is well-positioned to emerge stronger through navigating challenges from within.

Three of the best

We asked the panel for their three take-aways on managing successful transformation from within:

Antonia Seymour:

1. Change is difficult and you won't always feel comfortable, so accept the discomfort;

2. Build resilience across the organisation through incremental daily progress, that’s what drives change and resilience – it’s how we show up every day to do this; and

3. Celebrate small successes along the way rather than waiting for big rollouts.

Joyce Lorigan:

1. Start small by piloting ideas and learning from small experiments before large-scale implementation;
2. Use clear measures and metrics to track progress on change initiatives, get feedback and build on what's working; and
3. Foster an environment of transparency and active listening to validate ideas with stakeholders and incorporate their input into changes, to build trust in the change.

Daniel Ebneter:

1. Having a clear vision and communications are important, but put equal effort into engaging people through the change process – think goals and KPIs;
2. Trust people and give them ownership, even if it means they do things in new ways you aren't comfortable with. Be prepared to make a call when someone is not going to come on board, and change the organisation accordingly; and
3. If you’re working with a distributed accountability model – working in an agile way – the organisation also becomes part of the change process, and you’ll need to constantly reflect on and evolve the organisational model.


Author: Joyce Lorigan

Global Head of Corporate Affairs

As Global Head of Corporate Affairs and member of the Springer Nature Executive Team, Joyce Lorigan leads teams responsible for communications, sustainability and public affairs. A history graduate from the University of Leeds, Joyce has spent more than 25 years in communications in global organisations including Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG plc), the Walt Disney Company and EuroDisney. She joined Macmillan Science and Education as Global Communications Director in 2012 and became EVP Communications for Springer Nature following the merger in 2015. Joyce chaired the Board of London-based business partnership Urban Partners from 2014-2017 and is a Trustee of the Marine Conservation Society.