Part One is here:
Allow me to quote myself, from Part 1
The first nonprofit arts shadow is a strong, institutional resistance to change. This is by design. Hierarchy, structure and change do not mix. The world is filled with groups that either couldn't see the world evolving or couldn't summon the will to deal with the change.
We have to consider our structures and how we can remove the natural barriers to change.
All Part of the Plan
Certain classes you always remember. For me, it was a class on organizational design. Our professor spent weeks hammering home this fact:
Nothing is an accident.
The way an organization is structured (designed) creates the outcomes. The way a theatre, orchestra or dance company is designed can stimulate innovation, it can improve morale, it can increase productivity.
The reverse of that is also true, poor design can shoot all those good things in the proverbial face. This is true even if the place is filled with well meaning people. People respond to their organizational environment. It can bring the worst (or best) out of people.
He also hammered home this point:
Design can be changed
Organizational design is a set of decisions. Some spoken. Some unspoken. They are a set of decisions about how information flows, how power is shared, how quickly change happens, or whether change happens at all.
If you change the decisions, you change the design.
If you change the design, you change the outcomes.
This is such an important point to consider because we make so many assumptions about how a nonprofit arts organization must function.
We assume that the Boards of Directors have to operate in a certain fashion.
We assume that vital functions such as marketing and fundraising have to be based toward a certain audience and have to be staffed by certain types of people.
We treat these assumptions as if they are sacred law delivered by a guy stepping down from a mountain.
By contrast, the thriving nonprofit of the future will understand that every element of their organization structure is a decision. It isn't law. It's a choice.
The thriving nonprofit of the future will spend as much time considering the design of their organization as they do sweating their revenue generating operations.
They will understand and embrace the idea that nothing is an accident.
The Good Idea Test - For an example of how this may look in practice, consider the "good idea" test. Instead of seeing your organization as a series of departments or functions, think of it as a place where good ideas thrive or die.
Now imagine that a really good idea has popped up in some area. Maybe it comes from an intern, maybe the Executive Director. Now consider the place in your organization where that idea dies. Is there an unhelpful committee structure that kills the idea? Is there a particular meeting where the idea would be swatted around but no action would be taken . . . which is the same as killing it?
Consider that moment.
The principles of organizational design tell us that you can increase the chance of that good idea surviving by making a new decision about that moment.
Maybe you change the committee structure. Maybe you put in a new set of rules in that previously idea killing meeting.
New decision. New outcome.
When we the series kicks up again, we will take a look at the harm caused by short term thinking. We will look at how organizations in other fields have beaten this problem and what we can learn from them.