Dyke's epilogue for the BBC

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The Independent Online

On Monday, in the bowels of Television Centre in London, 400 BBC managers are to gather in Studio Six to hear from Greg Dyke whether they are to keep their jobs.

The rest of the BBC's 20,000 staff will be gathered around the sets that adorn most BBC offices to watch the new director general present his vision of the corporation. The new structure will be "flatter", they will learn, andprogramme-makers will be in charge of the Beeb's future. Hundreds of jobs will go.

But they will also be witness, for the first time, to the essence of Dykism, as it may soon be known. This, they will see, is about straight-talking and putting emphasis on people and leadership rather than management systems.

Mr Dyke gave a flavour of what is to come last Friday, when he was in Bradford to speak to the BBC works council, called BBC Forum.

He avoided metaphors where facts would do, and was almost brutal in his criticism of Birtism. The BBC, he said, was "massively overmanaged" and "underled".

The observation goes to the heart of Sir John's style. Mr Dyke's predecessor was the creator of the infamous "Birtspeak", which littered conversation, speeches and internal documents. It also seemed to be a not-so-veiled reference to the fact that Sir John was big on setting up committees and management structures, but poor on giving personal leadership and inspiration to the BBC staff.

"We have too many systems and processes which drive us all nuts," said Mr Dyke. "We've made this a more complicated business than it is. So there will be fewer rules, but the rules we have, people will have to follow."

Unsurprisingly, this was taken as a criticism of the fact that in Sir John's final years the complexity of BBC bureaucracy had become byzantine and - at odds with its overall aim - inefficient. At the Forum, a member of staff, Brian Le Cornu, who organises trails for BBC programmes, said that on one occasion he had to bike video cassettes to 17 people to get clearance for a last-minute change to a single trail.

Mr Dyke clearly feels such nonsense must go. He said he wanted the BBC to be a "happier place", adding: "I want people to feel this is management without fear. We don't have to use fear to run our business." The comments had immediate resonance for those present. In the mid-1990s John Birt was attacked for introducing a "climate of fear" into the BBC.

The veteran India correspondent Mark Tully complained of it publicly, and cited it when he resigned in 1994. "So many managers parrot John Birt's name that many of the staff fell there is some sort of Big Brother watching them," he said at the time.

Mr Dyke's challenge is to deliver the new, happy BBC he says he wants. His new management structure is designed to go some of the way, and has met with approval from the few senior managers who have already discussed it with the director general.

"The big change is that Greg is clearly going to be more involved with the day-to- day running of the Beeb," said one.

"In John's final years it became very frustrating. You could go through huge numbers of meetings, agree a strategy with all the key people, but John would not get involved. At the final stage, you would take the plans to him - only to have him say 'no'. There was a lot of wasted time ...

"Greg is clearly going to be more like a chief executive of a company. His senior managers will be able to bounce ideas off him at an earlier stage of the process, and get some notion of whether he likes them."

Another manager said: "There is already a change of culture here, and the new management structure reinforces what is already happening. Greg sends e-mails out to the staff signed 'Greg'. That's such a change from John's approach. He rarely, if ever, sent e-mails at all, and if he did they were just as likely to be signed 'the Director General'."

In one aspect - senior managers are wondering how much like Sir John - the new boss is keen on management- guru and business-school fads.

Mr Dyke has brought in to the BBC Gareth Jones, a former professor at the Henley management centre.

Mr Jones told those attending the BBC Forum that he would be launching a "leadership training programme, starting with senior managers" in autumn.

That might sound like plus ça change to production staff grown accustomed to their bosses going off to Wharton or Stanford on expensive management courses.

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