Pachyderms In Enclosed Spaces

One of the latest contributions to Thomas Cott’s always sharp You’ve Cott Mail newsletter features a trio of posts examining the value of addressing pachyderms in enclosed spaces. There’s a particularly intriguing contribution from Rebecca Atkinson-Lord via The Guardian’s [UK] Theatre Blog where the author considers the positive potential of increased transparency and a culture that doesn’t punish those for exposing unhealthy practices.

Adaptistration People 091Granted, the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 contains whistleblower protections that extend to nonprofit organizations but I’m not aware of a single instance where it has been set into motion for a performing arts organization. But set aside something as profound as whistleblower protections and focus instead on simply fostering a culture of improved self-regulation where field manages to weed out bad apples and one has to wonder whether or not the field of performing arts would receive a passing grade.

I’m still wrapping up the last few days’ worth of work in my week of living dangerously (it’s been a great ride so far) but Cott’s pointer crossed my mind in conjunction with an article by Robert Trussell in the 4/30/15 edition of the Kansas City Star about the Lyric Opera of Kansas City eliminating the position of artistic director and assigning those duties to the current administrative executive.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy some peanuts.

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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