Castle gate, Budapest, Hungary (More)
Effective museums are characterised by cohesive leadership and visitor-focussed public programming. Where change has been effective, leaders and senior managers have been concerned to explain the reasons for the change, what the changed organization will be like and have provided resources to assist the change. Museums associated with government are generally less effective.
These are the results of a four year study by Des Griffin and Morris Abraham (University of Technology, Sydney) involving 33 museums of all kinds in five countries. The detailed results of this research have been published in the following research papers:
1999 (with Morris Abraham): Management of museums in the 1990s: governments and organisational reform. In Kevin Moore (editor), Management in Museums. New Research in Museum Studies 7, 45-92. London & New Brunswick, NJ: The Athlone Press. Pp ix, 285.
1999 (with Morris Abraham and John Crawford): Organization change and management decision in museums. Management Decision 37/10, 736-751.
1999 (with Morris Abraham and John Crawford): Effective management of museums in the 1990s. Curator 42/1, 37-53.
2001 (with Morris Abraham): The Effective Management of Museums: Cohesive Leadership and Visitor-focused Public Programming. Museum Management and Curatorship 18 (4), 335-368 (2000).
Effective museums are characterised by cohesive leadership and a focus on
- a concern for quality,
- shared goals,
- good communication,
- attention to training and
- strategic allocation of resources.
Cohesion – working collaboratively towards common goals in the context of shared values – is a common feature and includes
- senior managers working together as a team,
- goals of the museum supported by staff,
- goals of departments cohesive and well integrated,
- staff encouraged to respect the skills and contribution of others,
- a high degree of commitment by staff along with
- a high sense of involvement and so on.
Cohesive leadership supports and encourages staff involvement in matters which directly affect them including, in particular, the important area of training and development. As well there is a focus on organisational learning.
The styles characterizing cohesive leadership resemble those which contribute to an effective organisational climate:
- setting a clear long-term vision,
- modelling appropriate behaviours and
- giving support to staff.
In effective museums public programming – exhibitions, educational services and so on – emphasises strategic approaches to achieving positive outcomes for visitors including
- provision of a variety of learning strategies,
- ensuring that exhibits are in working order and
- attending to problems “on the floor”.
The first of these strategies represents a recognition of constructivist approaches to learning, of the visiting experience as being much more than just inspection of the exhibits but rather an opportunity for a further elaboration of one’s understandings. Effective museums both demonstrate cohesive leadership and are considered by staff and experts to have effective public programs.
Effective management of change in museums is characterised by patient and considered leadership. Leaders
- translate external needs to internal vision and then to employee action,
- integrate tasks, structures, processes and systems at the technical, political and cultural levels
- build internal and external unity
- give time and resources to the change process.
- clearly link change to strategic issues facing the organization
- clearly explain the nature of the future organization and the advantages of the proposed changes to key internal groups of staff.
The study included museums closely associated with governments (as in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada) and independent of governments (particularly found in the USA). Museums closely associated with governments are generally less effective in areas of leadership, governance and many practices including communication and training as well as public programming. We have ascribed this to the close and centralised control – an emphasis on compliance and a focus on the financial bottom line – exerted by governments.
Analysis of perceptions of staff from different disciplines supports the professional bureaucracy model of organisations: not only do certain “professional” groups of staff seek considerable control over their own work but also control over the work of others. It is often difficult to develop an integrated and cohesive approach because the values of certain groups are not shared by others. It would appear that science centres and science museums, and like organizations such as aquaria, exhibit these features to a significantly less extent.
Conflict is frequently over public programs (and administrative issues). These same issues are the ones which appear to distinguish museums of different kinds. It seems that in science centres and science museums there are fewer differences between staff in their perceptions so making for greater levels of cohesion. (In general science centres/museums receive more positive assessments: that is greater cohesion does lead to greater effectiveness.)
The final paper on the project drew a number of important conclusions.