Monday, March 17, 2008

CAM 2008 Session: More Than Setting the Goal, Combating the Spirit of Mediocrity and Culture of Entitlement

After her friend's declaration that the nonprofit world "tolerates a spirit of mediocrity" and has a "culture of entitlement," former Palm Springs Art Museum Director Janice Lyle wondered if these statements could be true and decided that yes, they were. But if museums want to accomplish anything, they cannot accept mediocrity nor feel entitled and everyone must "step up to the plate." But how then to combat these barriers to success? Janice emphasized the importance of creating priorities and follow-through. Selecting one goal as the sole priority will ensure that the goal is successfully--not just adequately, but successfully--met.

In order to really focus on a sole priority, everyone must be on board and the team must be comprised of dedicated, proactive problem-solvers with a focus on delivery of services to the public. The board must also both be on board and do their part. Many boards are too large and are populated with members who are there for social or prestige reasons rather than to accomplish goals. Demanding a (financial) re-commitment from the board with real consequences for inaction (such as removal from the board) can help to pare down boards to only those members who will serve the team well.

Janice also stressed the benefit for museums using a business model, stating that doing so forces museums to "look at the hard questions." Business analysis is "good and healthy" and critical analysis is crucial to success. Janice encouraged museums to "be bold" and "unflinching" in the face of difficult issues, to "look for the elephant in the room, paint it pink and learn to dance with it." This is how real solutions for real change can be implemented.

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