Considering The Walking Dead Triage Option

The always astute Joe Patti posted an intriguing article over at Butts In The Seats on 11/20/2012 that wonders about the value of liquidation bankruptcy on instituting new model type of change. Patti uses the ongoing Hostess liquidation saga in the face of employee’s refusing to take additional concessions in the wake of a series of cuts since 2004.

chop cutPatti speculates on the long term value of bankruptcy decisions; although they may appear to solve problems in the here and now, it may end up biting your organization in the ass down the road.

Have we trained people only to respond to dire predictions? Or perhaps they have trained us that they will only respond to appeals couched in those terms.

Bankruptcy and tales of woe really isn’t the most constructive way to develop a relationship and confidence from your community. It impacts credibility and people soon become inured to news of financial crises.

One of my genuine fears about the Season of Discontent and the rash of bankruptcies and extended work stoppages is the formation of a new attitude among a generation of arts managers, boards, and musicians who see these tools as some sort of new normal for labor relations.

Can you imagine any field capable of enduring boom and bust cycles based on that sort of attitude? It’s this sort of thinking that gets you thinking whether it wouldn’t be better for the entire field if situations where groups faced with a prolonged and bitter work stoppage and/or a questionable bankruptcy should jump right to liquidation. No muss, no fuss.

Think of it like the scene from the Season 3 premier of AMC’s The Walking Dead where [SPOILER ALERT] following a zombie bite to the ankle, Rick had to cut off Herschel’s leg in order to save him from turning into a zombie. It was far from pretty and certainly not an easy decision (especially since it had not been established as an effective solution), but it did save Herschel’s life.

So would the field, as a whole, benefit from adopting a similar strategy? Sure, there will be plenty of questions, second guessing, etc. but would it be better for the classical music body if the infected limb(s) were removed?

What do you think? Mull it over while watching that scene from The Walking Dead. Warning: not for the squeamish (seriously, this is an intense scene) and most definitely NSFW. You’ve been warned.

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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20 thoughts on “Considering The Walking Dead Triage Option

  1. I stopped reading at spoiler alert, as I’m watching the Walking Dead on Netflix, and I’m only in season 2. Sorry. But I must say, bankruptcy is the farthest thing I can imagine from “no muss, no fuss.” If that’s a new normal, it sounds awful, and the stress of it will soon begin to outweigh most managers’ passion for the music. It would be like living in a near-constant state trauma, just like on Walking Dead.

    • That’s a beautiful analogy Aaron and I’d agree with you. The only distinction I’d make is the nu muss no fuss is related to liquidation as opposed to reorganiaaiton; the latter of which seems to currently be the preferred method. And I agree that the long term effects from an increase in the stream of reorganization bankruptcies will have a dreadful impact on the field as a whole.

      And I’m glad to know the spoiler alert in place did its job!

  2. Drew – great article. I am a fan of the ongoing WD television and graphic novel series.

    Here is another idea to chew on.

    In the graphic novel at the same point and time of this clip, the survivors are unaware of what causes the ‘zombie-ism.’ When the leg-chopping happens, it is a life-saving move because the prevailing thought was that zombie bites cause people to turn into brain-sucking psychopaths.

    In the TV series however, the troop already knows that ‘zombie-ism’ is something like a virus, that gets you after you die. In previous episodes the characters even discussed that fact.

    In this context, the leg-chopping is really unnecessary, and poor ole Herschel might have been just fine with a missing chunk left to heal on its own. Both my wife and I were puzzled by this paradox. Why didn’t they just clean the wound and wrap it up?

    The general point being that severe acts like this have context, and in Kirkman’s zombie mythology it gets played out two different ways.

    I would love to be a fly on the wall at the Twinkie factory.

    [Insert your metaphors here, while I slowly step back from the keyboard and slinking away…]

    • Sorry – to clarify:



      in the Kirkman zombie universe, bites from zombies do not necessarily turn people into zombies. Everyone is already infected with a zombie-virus of some kind, that does not activate until one’s death. It is the combination of death and the virus that causes the zombies.

  3. “Can you imagine any field capable of enduring boom and bust cycles based on that sort of attitude?”

    Maybe “enduring” is a stretch, but doesn’t that pretty well describe the airline industry post-deregulation?

    • Yes, the airline industry, and the stock markets, too.

      One thing that doesn’t get commented on enough is that we have a wave of orchestra crises like this one every time the stock market crashes (and for three or four years afterward, as the crash’s effects work their way through the endowment-draw system and the rich-people-contribute system).

      The problem is that we had two stock market crashes within a decade after the year 2000 – and nobody seems very hopeful that we can get the regulation in place that will keep it from happening again and again (like in the 1880s and ’90s).

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