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Archive for March, 2008

Advancing Museums and Organisational Change

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

There are several new items on museums as organizations and achieving change. Firstly, I have recently come across some excellent pieces relating to teamwork.

A Peter Day program on the BBC (which incidentally includes stuff about the Cambridge Boat Race team) featured amongst other people Professor Lynda Gratton of the London Business School. On her website there is a link to a podcast by her dealing with teams. The BBC piece is extremely interesting. Of course one of the reasons I liked it is that yet again it demonstrates what we can learn from other people and other organisations, in this case from the mobile phone giant Nokia and the University boat races on the Thames.

By the way, a recently broadcast piece on the ABC Radio National program “All in the Mind” dealt with apes and it would be a challenge to work out what one can conclude from that about how human groups work.

In the recently started ‘ning’ (an online service where you can create, customize, and share your own Social Network) deals amongst other things with achieving organisational change and there is a post there which may be of interest.

Before finishing, a recent appointment to directorship of a large museum in Australia and the reaction to it highlights some of the challenges museums face. This is also dealt with in Museum 3.0.

Last, A paper entitled “Advancing Museums” has just been published in Museum Management and Curatorship.

Here is an extended abstract of the paper.

In the last 40 or so years museums, like many other nonprofit organizations, have focused to a greater extent on the demands of a market (or “rational”) economic model, adopted by most developed western countries – business and government alike – as a governing paradigm. Financial efficiency, restructuring, downsizing, outsourcing and fixed term contracts for senior staff have been major corporate developments. Boards have come to see their main role as oversight of executive management. Museum executives have been encouraged to be more entrepreneurial. Performance indicators have been introduced to show that museums contribute value for money.

Simultaneously, there have been substantial and vitally important advances in understanding of the learning experience in the museum environment, an experience which depends significantly on prior knowledge and contributes to individual identity and. Dramatic developments in information technology have also led to a great increase in public accessibility to knowledge about the collections.

A review of high performance forprofits and nonprofits and the most effective museums shows that best practice involves understanding the ‘industry’, a challenging work environment and attention to recruitment. Strategy for the executive leader means creating and communicating a vision encompasing unique deliverable value and appropriate organizational values. In all high performing organizations there is great attention to recruitment and to training and development.

A revised agenda for museum boards and executive leadership is developed and some other challenges are identified. Boards and executive leaders must seek advances in strategic issues which only they are responsible for; performance indicators must reflect that focus, not operational issues.