Diversity: Macmillan USA Makes Major Changes in Management Approach

From Publishing Perspectives:

In two memos to staffers, the Big Five publisher Macmillan in New York City has signaled a substantial change in its management arrangement.

The effort is described by CEO John Sargent as “an exercise in changing power dynamics, and in making sure we have diverse perspectives in the decision-making process.

“We will make better decisions,” Sargent says, “if our company structure is more representative of the world around us, and we can only do that if we align recruitment, training, and retention with our day-to-day business decisions.”

And with that, Sargent is unveiling an approach that could resonate with other companies, establishing one model of how to start making the American publishing industry something that more accurately reflects the multicultural range of the United States’ market itself.

. . . .

In his introductory memo, Sargent is announcing that he is stepping back “from day to day management to make room for new voices.”

And to that end, he–with Don Weisberg, president, and COO Andrew Weber–have put together a 13-person group of leadership players “who will meet regularly to decide on the key issues for Macmillan Publishers.”

Sargent writes, “The committee will form a different and more inclusive management team, representing a wider range of experiences.”

He goes on to say, “This level of change is difficult, but I believe it is necessary. For some in the company this will be challenging, while others will see tremendous new opportunities. For the company as a whole I am confident that this will make us better and more capable in the years ahead.”

. . . .

“We need to change as a company. We need more diversity in the titles we publish, more committed positioning and marketing of these titles, more hiring and promotion of diverse staff, more inclusivity in the decision-making process, and more open dialogue throughout the organization.

“As John [Sargent] mentioned [in his memo], we have been planning a new leadership structure, one that fundamentally changes the group of people at the table where key decisions are made concerning our company strategy and priorities.

“An organization that is more representative of the company we need to be for our employees, our authors, and our readers.

“Today we are announcing the creation of the Trade Management Committee. This committee will set the goals and objectives for the publishers, divisions, and departments that comprise US trade and shared services. In order to ensure accountability, the committee will track the progress of key initiatives, including diversity and inclusion across the company and in our publishing programs, and report on results.”

As they’ve put the trade committee together, the two write that they’ve worked for “a mix of publishing, operational, and human resources representatives, which will allow us to tackle the management of the company while ensuring increased diversity across functions. The group will include others on a project-by-project basis and will regularly solicit feedback and support from a broad cross-section of staff from throughout the organization.”

One technical point that Sargent has made in his own memo: “This new management group will focus on running the overall company. The publishing houses will remain as independent companies, and the publishers will continue to report to Don directly.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Color PG skeptical10

Here is PG’s stereotypical profile of the ideal minority hire for Macmillan or any other large NYC publisher.

  1. Appropriate skin color or surname
  2. Mother is a Wall Street lawyer and father is a heart surgeon
  3. Attended one of a short list of academic institutions located in the Eastern United States
  4. Achieved a B average (At these institutions, that would place the hire in the bottom 20% of the class, but every graduate with better grades can easily locate a job that pays much more than a traditional publisher will. Besides, it’s the name of the institution on the diploma that counts, not what the applicant did or didn’t do (or smoked) while hanging around campus. Any major will do, although it’s a plus if the major was an ethnically-trendy term followed by the word, “Studies”)
  5. Either shows or cleans up nicely
  6. Doesn’t mind being placed in any photo of a group of employees intended for the publisher’s website. Willing to spend time (with pay) being photographed sitting at a conference table making a profound gesture or standing at a whiteboard pointing to a pie chart.
  7. Is willing to have the PR department write a quote attributed to them for inclusion in the publisher’s annual diversity report, for example, “Working at Macmillan has allowed me to reach my full potential without abandoning my ethnic and cultural roots.”

17 thoughts on “Diversity: Macmillan USA Makes Major Changes in Management Approach”

  1. Standard big business crisis management:

    Step 1: Press release acknowledging “issue” and promise to take “immediate and effective action”.
    Step 2: Assemble select committee (of insiders) to study response.
    Step 3: Wait for a different crisis to drive subject from the news cycle.
    Step 4: When no one is looking, dissolve committee.

      • Well, my nature is more on the contrarian side but I’ve seen my share of corporate CYA exercises.
        Long on PR, short on change.
        In this case, if they wanted change they would’ve done something any of the last hundred times the charges surfaced.
        So what has changed this time?

  2. I’m worried about independents. Where are they going to find 13 (or more) managers to form such a committee, not to mention scrape up the money to pay them? Won’t they get left behind?

    • Well, customers exist.
      Not to the volumes they need to subsist but they do exist.
      They just don’t know what exactly they will buy. At most they might do a few “blackface” covers, like B&N just tried…
      https://www.thepassivevoice.com/barnes-noble-cancels-black-history-month-covers-after-backlash/
      …or they might try to do Blaxploitation books, like Hollywood in the 70’s.
      At most, they might go on a race-bending editing jag, effectively blackfacing characters without changing the white suburban narrative. Or, worse, the mid-life english teacher crisis.
      TV has been doing that, indiscriminately, for years now for mixed results at best. And creating unnecessary backlash when they replace a geeky Olsen kid with a studly heroic black male. Or female.
      They won’t do anything meaningful. First, because they don’t know what to do or how to it gracefully, even if they actually hire academic “diversity experts”. Second, because there is no money in it at the levels they expect. Right now, no book they put up will deliver that kind of return, but if they do release a few diversity specials, they’ll note the non-blockbuster results, and say there’s no money in diversity.
      Which there isn’t. Not the way they work.
      People want stories, not sledgehammer preaching.
      At most they might make a few token moves, heavily promoted, but in the end nothing meaningful will change.
      But tbere will be a few more twitter storms, like in corporate YA.

        • It’s a long underserved market.
          Remember back when Author Earnings reported that the Urban Black LitFic niche was over 90% Indie?
          And Black Romance is a category of its own.
          Even Hallmark features RomComs with minority protagonists and not just in the “best friend” role.
          There’s money in serving diverse customers and most other content businesses have known and exploited tbis for decades. It’s just the Manhattan Mafia that doesn’t know how to do it.

          You don’t have to go much further than KKR’s stories about her SMOKEY DALTON mysteries. They were mainstream period mysteries that kept being marketed and shelved solely as minority fiction.

          They’re only fifty years behind Hollywood in tbis market.

    • No question.
      Nothing will change, moneywise, if nothing meaningful changes.
      Manhattan publishing is very good at making stasis look like change. They have 20 years experience.

    • Sure, they will do fine. They have been doing it for a long time. They will continue to operate to max sales, and will run a PR operation for a few selected authors.

      • Uh, make that *flat* sales to be more precise.
        They’ve been barely keeping up with inflation since 2003. While US population has gone up by over 50M over the last twenty years (19%), their sales have gone down and revenues have remained essentially unchanged after inflation and mergers.

        The issue isn’t the few authors they promote to stay afloat; it’s everybody else who doesn’t find their audience.

        • Agree. My standard is managing a firm in a declining market, where the decline is a function continual erosion of competitive advantage. The last thing they will do in that situation is put diversity above cash flow.

          Their competitive advantage is based on paper. They know it better than anyone else.

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