An Adaptistration Poll: Strategic Planning

How important do you think it is for a strategic planning
process to include input from the organization’s artistic stakeholders, (conductors
and ensemble musicians)? Should the board determine financial prospects first
and then allow voices from the artistic stakeholders to offer input in the planning process? Is
it appropriate for artistic stakeholders to express public dissatisfaction with
a strategic plan? Weigh in on these issues with today’s Adaptistration poll on
strategic planning…




About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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4 thoughts on “An Adaptistration Poll: Strategic Planning”

  1. The “artistic stakeholders” should tell the board which compositions they want to program, which soloists they would like to book, how they feel about the acoustics in their performing space, what hiring and firing needs to be done to improve the orchestra, and such.

    The board should then figure out how to raise the money.

    That doesn’t mean that the board should automatically agree if the conductor says he wants to program Havergal Brian’s “Gothic Symphony,” Mahler’s second, and a concert version of the Ring Cycle in one season. But unless the board is challenged to meet some artistic goals, it is going to take the path of least resistance.

    I remember when the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra was considering some project that would tax the board (maybe it was the move to a new hall) and one board member complained, “Why bother, it’s only a training orchestra.”


  2. What if administrators disagree with the process or results? It’s odd to me that you profess interest in bringing people together yet put together polls (however brief) that only reinforce the us vs. them attitude. Certainly nothing groundbreaking here.

    There’s nothing odd at all about leaving a question focusing on administrators. I infer that you’re referencing the “us vs. them” as a negative trait but in this case it’s a straightforward matter of the legal separation between unionized employees and their employers in combination with workplace protections provided for in the National Labor Relations Act.

    It’s unfair (and frankly, in very poor taste) to ask managers and staffers about going public with disapproval/concerns simply because by doing so they stand a high degree of probability that they will lose their job. Conversely, musicians are afforded the security of public expression by nature of the collective bargaining agreement and the music director retains a high enough level of public exposure, professional clout, and a battery of personal representation to withstand a certain degree of blow-back from the board.

    The most likely avenue available to managers or staffers who disagree with a strategic plan or its subsequent process is to do so internally. Outside of that, they can resign but even then, if they also go public they certainly diminish their chances of finding work in another orchestral organization unless they find a board who shares their position.

    Lastly, the results have produced some very worthwhile material, the details of which will be examined on Friday, 1/25/08. ~ Drew McManus

  3. I do think it is interesting to see that the same group of people who overwhelmingly support of the inclusion of musicians in the strategic planning process also seem to have a majority that believe in their ability to then public voice disagreement with that process or the results of it.

    So it’s:

    Should absolutely be involved in the process but still be able to go public with complaints should it not be to their liking or expectation.

    “I want to be on the bus unless it doesn’t head exactly where I think it should.”

    I don’t know if I see it that way. Instead, I interpret the responses to say that musicians/conductors should be included but the ability to publicly express dissatisfaction helps ensure a worthwhile process. “I expect to the bus to head to the stop it advertises and reserve the right to leave if it doesn’t.” ~ Drew McManus

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