Ready for Change
By Liz Schultz
I think my classmates would agree that when our co-workers, families, and friends ask how things are going and what we’re learning, it’s hard to summarize. The lessons of last week can be boiled down to soundbites: Change is hard, you can’t tolerate mediocrity, objects can engage. But through all of the discussions, readings, case examples, and Q&As, what we’re really doing here is rethinking how we think, and how we do our jobs. What do people really get out of visiting a history museum? Is it more important to design a program that earns revenue to fix the roof, or do five outreach programs for schools? Should I spend the next ten minutes digitizing a letter from 1863 or walking a summer intern through our strategic plan? We don’t have answers to these questions, but we’re becoming more aware of the challenges we all need to tackle, and the need for balance and change.
We spent one day learning about our own leadership strengths, such as whether you are an Administrator, Integrator, Producer, or Entrepreneur. Not only was it useful to recognize the imbalances in my own skills and the need to work with a team that fills the gaps, it was fascinating exploring how organizational imbalances in those four areas can summarize the maturity, and perhaps growth or decline, of an organization. If a museum is strong in Administration, Integration, and Productivity but not Entrepreneurialism, is it going to be able to anticipate, not to mention adapt to, a change in its funding base? If it has strong Administration and Production but no Integration, is it functioning efficiently? Is everyone on board with the same message? And if a museum manages to get all pistons firing, AIPE, will it then rest on its laurels? I think as we all listened to this lesson we were evaluating our own organizations in a new light.
Another core subject of the week was Change. One of our readings started off with the point that in order to fully bring about change, you have to convince 75% of your leadership that the status quo is more dangerous than the unknown. Congratulations SHA – you have us scared. Between sessions about decreases in funding, real and perceived gaps in relevancy, and a world rapidly changing in technology, demographics, economy, and climate, we are scared.
But, as we learned, change doesn’t have to be scary. Everyone’s stomach will plummet on the way down the fast-moving Ferris wheel of change. Some people, by choice or because their ride is up, will exit at the bottom. And just when you start to enjoy the rise back to the top, you see the world drop out from under your feet and the next cycle of change starts. My analogy doesn’t cover what was a great run of SHA sessions, but the main point was that in the museum world, your organization should constantly be riding a Ferris wheel of change* and the more often you go around, the less afraid you will be.
Why do we do it, and even look forward to the ride? As you can see from some of our many photos from the week, WE LOVE MUSEUMS!
*A Ferris wheel with a strong framework and reliable, friendly attendants. Not a flaming, out-of-control, Ferris wheel from hell. For an analogy of change like that, maybe you should check out the carousel scene from Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train.” (spoiler alert – it does not end well)