Case Study

Digital transformation in Swiss public broadcasting (A): Leading & accelerating change at SRF

12 pages
March 2024
Reference: IMD-7-2532

This case examines the leadership challenges faced by Nathalie Wappler, the new CEO of SRF, a public media company that operates in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and is part of the largest media company in Switzerland, SRG. The study spans the period from 2019 to 2021, capturing the seismic shift in corporate identity, disruptive changes in consumer behavior and the emergence of new players in the media industry. The central challenge revolves around two key questions: First, how to lead a traditional media organization towards the future while also maintaining its core amid industry disruption? And second, what leadership qualities are required to effectively navigate such a dual transformation? Drawing on a combination of internal strategy documents, along with publicly available information, the case highlights the strategic journey undertaken by Nathalie amidst the turbulence of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the broader challenge of leadership in the face of an unpredictable black swan-style event that becomes the new normal. It reveals that strategic decision making should not be paralyzed by incomplete data and emphasizes the importance of a robust and bold strategy combined with the right type of leadership. The findings underscore that Nathalie’s leadership style, characterized by collaboration and inclusivity, was complemented by a clear vision and strong conviction. This framework enabled her to effectively navigate the transformational journey and overcome potential short-term derailments. Unique and unfiltered access to Nathalie and the SRF organization provide valuable insights, enabling students to explore the complexities of decision making in dynamic industries. The case prompts students to consider when to persevere, adapt or pivot, and encourages self-reflection on their own leadership adaptability in similar challenging scenarios.

Learning Objective
  • Analyze the challenges faced by traditional media navigating industry disruptions and changing consumer demands.
  • Assess the impact of extreme systemic disruption – Covid-19 – on strategic decision making and transformation efforts.
  • Examine how leadership drives strategic transformation and identify the qualities needed to navigate accelerating organizations.
Media, Entertainment, Change, Black Swan Theory, Crisis
Europe, Switzerland
Swiss Radio and Television, Media, Radio, Television, Travel and Leisure, Entertainment
Field Research
© 2024
Available Languages
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Teaching note
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