A Better Way To Find New Answers To Old Questions

In the process of interviewing Seattle Symphony Orchestra stakeholders about their new musician pension plan, one item that stands out is the approach both sides adopted in order to arrive at their outcome.

While it certainly falls into some of the parameters for interest based bargaining, what really struck me is how much more it aligns with the “Yes, And” approach toward improvisation. If you aren’t already familiar with it, I highly recommend you take the time to pick up a copy of Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses No, But Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration–Lessons from The Second City.

Holly Mulcahy recently published an article at Neo Classical on this book that’s worth your time as well and she does a better job than I could boling down the key points into actionable bits as applied to non labor relations questions inside the orchestra field.

You should also take the time to watch a TEDx talk from one of the books co-authors, Kelly Leonard. He offers no shortage of lessons that apply to labor relations and internal staff development:

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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