In Chicago, The Hunt Is On!

There were two excellent articles in the Chicago Tribune over the weekend dedicated to the ongoing executive search process to replace Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) president Deborah Rutter.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-126First up is an article published on 1/31/2014 by Tribune music critic John von Rhein which provides a meticulous review of the CSO’s history in order to better understand where it is today. And be careful not to miss the bits about the hall renovation.

Next is an article published on the same day by Mark Caro, which takes a closer look at Rutter’s accomplishments along with details such as key members on the search committee.

A Few Thoughts On The Search Process

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the CSO has a unique internal culture and any performing arts organization this large and complex would benefit from a thorough, and independent, administrative and board audit to help define where strengths and weaknesses currently exist. Feeding this data in the search parameters will only help avoid potential errors or oversights when identifying and reviewing candidates.

Based on my professional experience, this is the one area within an executive search process where most groups fall short; as a result, they may do a superb job at creating executive criteria to help identify who they want, but that’s not the same as identifying who they need.

The bigger the organization, the more important this step becomes.

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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2 thoughts on “In Chicago, The Hunt Is On!”

  1. Have you or anyone else in a position to know done a publicly-available study of the impact of a strong CEO vs. a middling vs. a poor CEO regarding various indicators of orchestra association performance? I should think that a board would have to evaluate and grade any candidate on quite a number of factors. In some cases something not blowing up might be taken as evidence of competence, but it may just indicate good fortune or inertia. Evaluating “vision” requires a certain mindset and experience that may not be present on some boards. The Minnesota Orchestra CEO and board–or at least the voting majority–seem not to have had a clue about what could or would happen with the recent fiasco, for which they are now famous.

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