Cleaning Out Our Closets


Recently I was cleaning my closet and came across several  items that no longer fit well or had long  since gone out of style – yes, I am either “that old” or styles change rapidly, take your pick.  I wondered why I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of those clothes.  I am an organized and reasoned person so what was holding me back? And then I began to wonder if programs are like clothes in our closets, which was a great distraction because it kept me from dealing with the problem at hand.  But think about it: we buy things that reflect who … [Read more...]

Three Strategic Planning Challenges

I’ve been part of a group helping the Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) review their guidelines for graduate-level education in strategic planning. I’ve found myself thinking about three challenges in strategic planning that we see in our work, and I wanted to release these thoughts into the wild and see what happens. On the one hand, I hope raising these questions sparks your thinking about your strategic planning challenges. On the other, I (and I have no doubt our entire community) would love to hear stories about how you … [Read more...]

A Single Customer Promise?

Program-level positioning statements

There is a question we get all the time in our Strategic Marketing seminar: should an organization be able to create a single positioning statement for the entire organization to summarize its value promise, or should it have a collection of positioning statements for different programs and target audiences? This always leads to interesting discussion but I've never felt we had a galvanizing way to answer the question. Earlier this week, Gail Crider and I were working on the design for a program in cultural entrepreneurship for a potential … [Read more...]

The Competing Values Framework

Competing Values Framework

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: We’re looking for new ways of doing things. We are a highly collaborative organization. Our work is dictated by process. Our staff is goal-oriented. We’ve all likely made at least one of these statements, each of which are indicative of an implicit value contained within our organizations’ cultures. The issue, however, is that some of these values are in opposition to each other. So, while we may have said these things, hopefully it was not in the same breath. Welcome to the world of the Competing … [Read more...]

Innovation strategy: The Innovator’s Manifesto

Innovation is the hot topic in many arenas: politics, economics, business and not the least, our own cultural field. Financial Times writer Philip Delves Broughton (former and now part-time journalist, fiction writer and somewhat regretful Harvard MBA) reviews Michael Raynor's The Innovator’s Manifesto. The author notes leading thinking on innovation has cleaved (emphasis mine): On one side are those who embrace the ideas of collaborative consumption and fast failure, who argue that innovators need to experiment with their potential … [Read more...]

Finding Your Funding Model

In a follow up to their 2009 article 'Ten Nonprofit Funding Models,' Peter Kim, Gail Perreault and William Foster of the Bridgespan Group argue organizations often have a clearer vision of what their programs will be in five years than of the funding that will support them. They offer a road map for leaders seeking to develop appropriate funding models for their organizations: Getting a deep understanding of one’s own fundraising approach and history, learning from peers, tallying the likely costs of change and weighing them against expected … [Read more...]

IBM’s Centenary: The Test of Time

This article (IBM's centenary: The test of time | The Economist) is a great reminder (or introduction) to the way in which organizations can limit their opportunities by thinking about their purpose too narrowly. "IBM’s secret is that it is built around an idea that transcends any particular product or technology... Building a company around an idea, rather than a specific technology, makes it easier to adapt when industry 'platform shifts' occur." In the arts the "mission" is the broader "idea" to which arts organizations are committed, and … [Read more...]

Give Smart: Philanthropy that Gets Results

We often talk about strategy, competitive advantage, and differentiation from a traditional business perspective in our work. We consider these concepts essential for arts leaders given the range of competitors cultural organizations face today for money, attention, and time. We also consider this understanding essential for effective collaboration across arts organizations: each player in the community needs to know exactly what they do best and what unique benefit they contribute to the cultural "ecosystem," so together they can assemble … [Read more...]

Rethinking Capitalism

In this video interview on Rethinking Capitalism, Michael Porter (of Porter's Five Forces fame, among other things) shares an interesting take on the new nature of relevance for organizations in society. Porter argues that the old standby "what's good for business is good for society" that has defined the relationship between U.S. business and society is giving way. He turns this on its head, arguing "what is good for society is good for business." For most people in our sector, the traditional capitalist argument probably never held sway. … [Read more...]