Good For Philadelphia

The 7/1/2010 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer published an article by Classical Music Critic Peter Dobrin that reports the Philadelphia Orchestra and Philly Pops have decided not to pursue plans for the former to absorb the latter. Regardless the reasons, it’s good to see that both groups were willing to honestly examine the situation and back away from a decision regardless of appearances…

The best way to get out of a bear trap is avoiding it to begin with.

The topic of performing arts mergers has been an ongoing topic here at Adaptistration over the years, most notably the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera merger (here and here). By and large they are fraught with governance related bear traps, most of which make it difficult to back out without sincere damage to both institutions.

In Philadelphia, it seems they made the right decision by waiting to merge boards until after a reasonable trial period. This key point makes it possible for both groups to get out of that bear trap without having to gnaw their leg off to do so.

At the same time, both groups aren’t ready to scrap the idea of a merger. Dobrin reports that they will continue to work in a collaborative fashion with joint strategic planning but maintaining separate boards. All in all, it’s good to see a level-headed decision at a time when chaos seems to abound.

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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