I've also been considering the role that buildings and internal architecture can play in facilitating or hindering change. I don't think it's a coincidence that some of the most innovative companies at the moment are touring organizations with no fixed arts venue of their own. I'm thinking in particular about National Theatre Wales and National Theatre Scotland here, who are almost forced into constantly inventing their business model and defining it as they go along.
Having just read Nina Simon's refreshingly honest self-appraisal of her first year in the job of Executive Director at Sata Cruz's Museum of Art & History, I am conscious of the key role and responsibility of leadership in managing a process of organizational change. Nina discusses the importance of language, admitting, for example, that she was wrong in hindsight to have used the term 'failing' (the F-word) instead of the more positive 'transformation', which is less likely to alienate staff and which presents change more as a gradual and organic process than a Manichean turnaround from bad to good. She also admits to failing to recognize the stress that change can cause in staff: "While I think I did a decent job communicating my vision for the turnaround and changes with staff, I did a poor job responding to the spoken—and mostly unspoken—stress that came with it. While effective as a tool for rapid change,'embrace the chaos' is not a comfortable management strategy."
Change isn't easy even on an individual level; at organizational level it presents major challenges, both strategic and psychological, which leaders are often not trained to deal with. It is also a topic that is often swept under the carpet, almost conspicuous in the academic literature by its absence, at least in the field of arts management. So my aim in the next few weeks is to identify some of the key business theories on organizational change and critically apply them to the arts. I will also be talking to a range of arts practitioners to see how their views and experiences compare with the theory, and reviewing some of the rare case studies on organizational change in the arts.