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Moving from Tactics to Strategy in a Changing Environment

Janet McCallExecutive Director, Contemporary Craft

The Challenge:

An executive director of an innovative museum steps back into her role after a three year absence and is faced with a number of challenges. The very nature and definition of museums was shifting and business as usual would not sustain the future of the organization.

We were coming through a very tough two-year period. We also had found out that our building was possibly going to be changing hands, and so our ability to stay here was uncertain. And there had been a lot of staff turnover and loss of institutional memory during that time period that needed to be restored or put back in place.

The Solution:

Applying what she learned about the brain and mind and the importance of cultivating a strategic mindset Janet first changed her own work practices.

…we were getting immersed in our strategic planning and had mapped out an ambitious series of goals for the first year. We were beginning to work with staff on implementation. And because of all the learning that I had acquired, in particular by focusing the brain and reducing or eliminating distraction, I had completely revamped my work schedule. So I had learned to clear my calendar first thing in the morning. The staff was aware that I was trying to make this change to become more productive and so I closed my office door, put on some classical music and started researching, reading, thinking and planning. And it was– really some of the most powerful lessons that I have learned about my organization and strategic thinking occurred through that process.

Janet also began working with her staff. She taught them what she was learning in the program, restructured several positions, and made it okay to discuss emotionally “messy” issues. This freed up people’s energy to work, think, and relate differently.

Our staff is small but mighty and people work very hard and -the analogy of the hamster wheel came to us because as we were putting together our strategic plan and setting goals we began to realize that we had been on a hamster wheel for years and no matter how hard or fast we ran with great purpose and commitment to the mission, we really weren’t moving forward… hearing about the concept of the flywheel and how you can have something that’s spinning that you’re pushing round and round but instead of constantly expending energy and not moving forward, you’re storing energy that can then be leveraged and used for the future for other purposes. We realized that that’s what we needed to do was to get off the hamster wheel and to take that effort and put it into storing energy for the future.

The Impact:

20 months after participating in the leadership development program, Janet reported the following:

We’re now a little over halfway through our strategic plan and we are seeing progress. We’re hitting our goals; we’re moving forward in a way that I haven’t seen us do in the past and I’m very, very excited about what the next three to five years will bring so it’s a great time.

One year later she noted additional innovations including changes in how the museum staff were curating exhibits and the formation of a five museum collaboration to better serve the community.