Scapegoat Symphony: Don’t Lay Blame for Broken Arts

blameIn my previous post, I got you thinking about how you feel about the work your arts organization does, and how effective it is. Since that last post, I think it’s safe to say that the question has been nagging at you and you are eager to investigate it a little bit further—or you wouldn’t be back here today reading this post.  You’ve probably been analyzing all the things that you encounter in your day to day activities that you can attribute problems to. When I ask people to tell me what they feel is holding their organization back, clients usually will name a person who they tend to blame for organizational troubles. Then, the next most popular answer is about not having enough money to do the work they want to do.

I told you at the beginning of this series that we were going to “bite our thumbs” at some of the traditions that PLAGUE are in use in arts organization today. We are going to start right now.

1. Don’t use scapegoats to explain your organization’s troubles.  Throughout this process, I encourage you to constantly analyze cause and effect, but with a spin. For every cause, I’ll need you to think of at least 3 effects, and for every effect, I’ll need you to think of 3 possible causes.  We are going to climb out from behind our desks and up onto a ladder where we can get a bird’s eye view of the entire situation.  Nothing is exempt from examination, or inspection.

2. Never, ever, forget that the stakeholders in your organization—your Board, your staff, your interns, your donors, and most of all your audience—they are all people. These are all living breathing human beings with emotions, feelings, goals, and aspirations, and goals of their own. As you look to repair, innovate, and build your organization, you will make human-to-human interaction a primary consideration for the actions you take.

3. Ask why? Ask it often. Ask it again and again. For everything in your organization you will ask why. Why is this necessary? Why do we need to do it this way? Why does this serve our mission? Why do we need to take this action? Why are we doing this kind of work? Why do we think we need this? Why do you think you are right? Why do you have an issue with this? Why do we do things this way?  Why does our audience need us? Why do we present performances this way? Why do we interact with our audience this way?  I know that is a lot of questions, but each one will help you to define what is necessary and what is working in your organization. When you pose the question, if you get a concise and strong answer, then you will know that cause and effect has been done. You can trust that you are headed in the direction you are intending and not backtracking in anyway.

Are you ready to do these things?  Whether you are an Executive Director, and intern, or somewhere in between, you can be a leader for innovation and change in the arts organization you serve. You can set the example—you can be the change you wish to see.  In the next post in this series, we are going to look at how asking why? can get help you de-clutter and streamline your work, ditch distraction, and fast-track you to effective change.

Stay tuned,




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