At Least It Isn’t A Work Stoppage

There’s an intriguing development in the Philadelphia Orchestra negotiations in the form of a six-month consultancy that introduces former John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts CEO Michael Kaiser into the mix…kinda.

Adaptistration People 136The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article by Peter Dobrin on 10/6/2015 that reports Kasier will be employed for a period of six months to provide advice for the orchestra’s strategic planning and capitalization campaigns. Setting aside for a moment that the orchestra apparently had those items in place following their bankruptcy, introducing this sort of element while the organization maintains a loose play and talk agreement with musician employees is a variable that will certainly impact those negotiations.

But the six-month time frame is the real curveball here in that it makes it difficult for either side to risk upsetting the tenuous labor arrangement by ratcheting up saber rattling or actually setting a course of events in motion designed to initiate a work stoppage.

Although certainly not unheard of, the introduction of professional involvement outside the confines of formal mediation/arbitration typically lasts a few weeks; by comparison, six months is a eon in this environment.

Having said that, the organization could relieve some pressure by establishing a more formal play and talk agreement that acknowledges the consultancy and contains an expiration date falling after Kaiser’s non-binding report is due.

How long can you hold your breath?

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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