Archive for the 'Strategy' Category
Monday, March 9th, 2009
â€œI think we live in difficult and dangerous times. We’re faced with problems that are both unprecedented and serious caused by human numbers and associated impacts exceeding the globe’s sustainable limits. The problems are not yet insuperable. But to solve them we require a paradoxical mixture; not only the questioning fact-based spirit of the Enlightenment to acknowledge the problems and seek solutions to them, but also people and institutions showing high levels of cooperative behaviour, the evolutionary origins of which may well be associated with inflexible and authoritarian beliefs and structures which are antithetic to such a questioning spirit.â€
(Lord Robert May speaking at the Lowy Institute, 19 November 2007; excerpt from transcript, ABC Science Show, 1 December 2007)
Asked what he thought was the biggest challenge museums faced these days, Thomas P. Campbell, 46, appointed September 9 to be Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to succeed Philippe de Montebello at the beginning of 2009, said without hesitation, â€œA crisis of confidence.â€ In his view museums are often cowed by an audience that they donâ€™t fully understand.
â€œThere is a fear that the collections themselves are not sufficient, that one has to somehow gussy them up with presentations and dumb them down to two-syllable labels that can be read by a 6-year-old,â€ he said. â€œAnd of course you should never underestimate your audience.
â€œIn this age of communication and the Internet our local and international audiences are actually very sophisticated. So the big challenge is how to deliver different levels of information to different audiences.â€
Carol Vogel, â€œFrom Tapestries to Top Job, Ready for Metâ€™s Challengesâ€ New York Times September 11, 2008
There is no inherent reason why we should always trust those in positions of authority.
There are five main points to make about museums in Australia in mid-2008, and the future, where they should be and how they might get there. Five because, as I learned many years ago, most people manage to keep seven, plus or minus two, things in their head at any one time. And if we want to move together it is a good idea if we can do so without having to look up the book all the time to find the right lines to speak.
1, Get the social processes right
2, Be engaged
3, Believe in our own goals
4, Celebrate achievement
5, Form alliances.
And we need to laugh more!
None of these justify the existence of museums or distinguish them as special. Rather they recognise that museums are social organisations, groups of people. That is reflected especially in the first point. Professionalism will flourish in an environment conducive to that flourishing!
â€œMuseums are coalitions of like-minded people in search of a constituency, one that will value the product more than they pay to gain access to it. Like clever politicians, the successful museum person knows the utility of the common agenda, vocabulary and shared values. But they know also that the logic of the market is imperfect and that trusted allies are essential. The real experience will give a competitive advantage but the collections and associated scholarship will secure the future only when influential constituencies value the past and its lessons.â€
Museums are caught up in the financial meltdown like everyone else. However, letâ€™s not forget that over the last several decades a lot of things have gotten in the way of clearly seeing a viable future. I am not talking about museums having lost their way and don’t know whether they are Disneyland or academies.
In times like these â€“ the present financial crisis â€“ the tendency is to see that the main game is ensuring the health of the budget. Unfortunately, that has often been the focus over the last several decades as neoliberal and market-driven philosophies have held sway. Accountability and transparency have been demanded but seldom exercised by those making the most strident demands for it. A fundamental of this philosophy is its inherent short run focus. But most organisations, particularly museums, have to have a long term vision.
The principal contributions of board and executive, indeed of everyone in the organisation, are those which provide an environment conducive to the ongoing goal to acquire, conserve and research material evidence of people and their environment so as to make a difference to public understanding. Excitement and understanding!
The whole point of all this is not to pursue management as an end in itself but to get things working so that the really important stuff, doing what the show is set up to achieve, can be done and done well!
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