Our museum is about to lose a multi–year foundation grant for a program that we desperately want to continue. We have not developed other sources of support for it. How can we convince others to support this program?
The city has offered our dance company an urban renewal building. It’s much larger than our current facility, and we have to raise funds to renovate and operate it. Should we accept?
Our theatre is losing subscribers but we hear so are many others. Our operating deficits continue. Our spirits are declining. How can we restructure our operations to sustain our artistic purpose?
Each of these scenarios calls for thoughtful planning. However, difficult environments can discourage some organizations from engaging in planning – after all, why plan when so much can change so quickly? Yet it is precisely during turbulent times that a clear, firmly-grounded sense of direction is most valuable.
At Management Consultants for the Arts, we see planning as a structured process of understanding the present and looking toward the future. It’s that simple. And that difficult.
Planning in its best sense is a process of gaining insights that enhance the value of services and programs. And just as importantly, planning is an exploration of the most effective strategies for getting target constituencies (audiences, donors, etc.) to perceive that value as real and meaningful.
In order to gain these insights, we believe that a structured method of strategic thinking needs to be created. This entails at least the following components:
· Mission and Core Values - Planning should proceed from mission – the organization’s reason for being, as well as from its core values, the fundamental beliefs that guide the enterprise.
· Analysis - Sometimes called a situational analysis, needs assessment, management audit, or “SWOT” (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats), it captures the state of your organization at a particular moment in time and provides a rigorous assessment of how well the organization is serving its mission.
· Vision - A motivational statement of what the organization should look like, what it should be doing, and for whom, many years hence. It should be bold; it should clearly allow for consistency with mission and adherence to core values; and it should inspire.
· Strategies - Good strategies provide the organization with competitive advantage, focus and scope and must be financially sound. They articulate the program, the operations needed to support it, and the finances needed to realize it.
Equally important to the decisions and insights is the process of planning itself. These explorations, when structured well, bring together both internal and external teams to provide their best collective wisdom about the organization’s future. An honest and direct series of dialogues will strengthen the organization. New leadership for the future may emerge. An exhilarating, educational process will have occurred.
Planning should be the responsibility of a task force or a committee established by the board and senior staff comprising trustees, artists or program leaders, staff, key stakeholders, and others; the composition should reflect the organization’s purpose and culture. A variety of voices should be heard during the planning process.
The collaborative approach is time consuming. It requires personal commitment by the participants and a willingness to openly and candidly discuss ideas and issues. The entire exercise may take six to nine months because reflective time is critical for making significant decisions. There is another benefit of collaboration. It has a galvanizing influence and engenders buy-in. If a wide variety of people invest in the plan’s development, chances are better that it won’t be abandoned on a shelf.
When facilitating a planning process, Management Consultants for the Arts serves as counsel throughout the entire effort; we do not develop a plan independent of the client. We help the organization think about and conduct planning in a structured yet inspirational way, building a consensus that will allow the plan to be implemented successfully. We provide objectivity and a reality check against trends and directions in the industry. We cite best practices. We help to develop benchmarks that have meaning to the individuals involved, and to the organization.
Throughout this process, we facilitate discussion and interaction among various players toward a common purpose – a flexible roadmap showing what strategic directions make the most sense given the organization’s mission, values, constituencies and programs.
Why Choose MCA?
More than 25 years of counseling experience within the cultural community and experience with over 200 planning projects enables us to speak the language and understand the concerns and needs of the groups involved in the planning process. We have learned as much as we have taught through this work. And we share that learning in a way that is focused on the unique needs of each client. Our goal is to unify all constituents around a plan that truly reflects your organization’s mission and direction – setting a new course for future success and enhanced well-being. For a more detail understanding of our approach to and philosophy about planning, visit the Publications section of our website.