Tanya Cordrey started her career as a journalist for a road haulage magazine. Today she serves on several boards and consults with many leading organizations. She has led teams and international expansions in companies such as BBC and eBay, and oversaw the transformation from print to digital media at The Guardian Media Group in her role as Chief Digital Officer. She joins host Barry O’Reilly to discuss her role in leading difficult change in often very traditional organizations. Listen to Using Vision, Mission and Data To Transform Organizations with Tanya Cordrey.



Doing Something Different

Doing something different can lead to new and wonderful opportunities. Tanya’s unconventional decision to do an MBA to pair and contrast with her literary arts degree resulted in creating the opportunity for her to lead a strategy team at the BBC and later to be recruited as part of the European executive team for BabyCenter. Barry comments that many people don’t realize the challenges involved when you’re trying to do something different. Tanya says that she seeks out high-paced environments. She takes calculated risks that she believes will yield good results, like the MBA and working with technology. Both decisions gave her in-demand skills and an advantage in the market. [Listen from 5:00]

Identifying Scalable Opportunities

Convincing stakeholders to grasp new opportunities is often a difficult task. However, being clear on your vision and giving them a taste of the expected results makes the task easier. A little survival anxiety can help as well!

Tanya and her colleagues wanted to convince eBay to introduce fixed price selling—her data supported it. They were turned down initially but were later told that if other countries wanted it, they could give it a try. The international partners were all interested. At the time, Amazon was talking about launching its marketplace, which spurred the decision-makers to see fixed price selling as a defensive maneuver. The project was eventually rolled out, to phenomenal success. Within a few days of seeing the results around the world, eBay US also rolled out fixed price selling. This experience taught Tanya to think big, and use data to support her beliefs. She says that it was the first time one of her ideas led to such a huge impact on revenue. By leveraging external competitors to accelerate action, and collaborating with many different stakeholders, she was able to cause a huge transformation. [Listen from 10:50]

Shaking Off Existing Paradigms

Leading change, especially in traditional companies, involves unlearning your tried and true methods and learning what works in the current context. Having spent several years in purely digital companies that were largely data-driven, Tanya found that using charts and logical arguments derived from the data didn’t really work at The Guardian.

Tanya learned that she had to appeal to hearts as well as heads in order to persuade the media giant. Barry agrees that you need a well-constructed value hypothesis grounded in evidence and data, as well as an aspirational vision and mission to show people where you want to go. [Listen from 15:45]

Three Phases of Change

Tanya’s says The Guardian’s transformation fell into three phases: [Listen from 25:20]

  • Phase 1: Changing as much as possible, as quickly as possible. This meant finding the right product strategy, composing the right team, and having the right ways of working. During this phase, they focused on addressing core platform issues using rapid testing and experimentation. [Listen from 27:50]
  • Phase 2: Communication. By sharing what they were doing and why, and encouraging other departments to get involved, they managed to change adversaries into allies. Asking for feedback from customers helped them feel that they were part of the company’s transformation. [Listen from 31:55]
  • Phase 3: Cross-functionality. This phase is where you get people from different disciplines ideating and experimenting together. Tanya gives some tips to help you get the Finance department on your side. [Listen from 40:00]

(This is a good example of spinning the flywheel!)

Looking Forward

Tanya is looking forward to collaborating with more consultancies. She expects big changes in the industry in the near future, and is excited about the evolution of “the next big thing”.