Nebraska University Press
A Binding Culture at University of Nebraska Press
The University of Nebraska Press turned to the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) for guidance in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of its leadership and organizational culture.
Founded in 1941, the University of Nebraska Press (UNP) has grown to be the largest university press between Chicago and California. It publishes books, with more than 6,000 titles in print and approximately 160 new titles each year, and nearly 30 different journals each year.
In addition to the Nebraska imprint, the UNP also publishes books under the Bison Books imprint and the Potomac Books imprint, and publishes the books of The Jewish Publication Society under a special arrangement. In another special arrangement, the journals division produces the publications of Nebraska Extension, a division of the University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Donna Shear, the UNP director, says she began working with Laurie Matthews, NBDC account representative, to develop a survey that would “take the temperature of the climate here.
“NBDC is experienced in gauging organizational effectiveness, and we had felt it was a good time to see how people felt about working here,” Shear says. “We didn’t really know if we had a strong culture or not.”
Matthews says that in order to determine whether leadership and workforce development exercises would be necessary for the UNP to make changes outlined in its strategic plan, NBDC recommended and administered an organizational effectiveness survey. After analyzing the results, consultants facilitated a workshop in October 2016 where the conclusions were shared and an improvement plan was developed.
“Publishing is a challenging industry,” Matthews says. “No matter how dedicated to excellence the overall organization is, over time, departments can become siloed. Once they understand where each person fits in the complete puzzle, the organization can move forward together.”
Shear says the survey results were both reassuring and prescriptive.
“We asked each department to present ‘what they do’ to the entire staff,” she says. “With seven or eight departments and nearly 50 people, that process took about a year. In the end, it helped create a real appreciation for the overall operation.”
Other recommendations included reminders about communicating often with every level of staff, she says. “Thanks to some of these tips and suggestions, our leadership team has become even more effective,” she says.
Shear says she and the UNP will continue to work with NBDC as the press strives to build an even stronger culture.
“I love that NBDC is a part of the university system,” she says. “They are very easy to work with, and our efforts have gone a long way in improving staff morale. When our staff sees we are serious enough about building culture that we would seek outside help, that alone helps us move forward.”