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December 08, 2008



I think some of that is driven by the infantilization of artists--the notion that no artist is ever capable of running an organization so there needs to be a business head of equal or greater power.

To my mind that might hold more weight if so many businesses weren't as horribly run as a lot of non-profits are.

Adam Thurman


True. True.

Having the right person in charge is a challenge for any org, profit or nonprofit

Lindsay Price

"Artistic decisions ARE business decisions. Business decisions ARE artistic decisions."

Love this! If only people could wrap their heads around this instead of separating the two... how far could arts organizations go?


Yeah, it's pretty simple. If someone isn't capable of doing the job, find someone who is.

This is more directly related to theatre orgs, but I never have understood why stage directing skills are thought to translate directly to being able to run an organization effectively.

You even hear critics calling for a director to "be given an institution to run" because of their productions.

But it's a completely different skill set.

Chris Casquilho

From a managing director: Amen. I've been witness to and/or participated in every shortcoming described here.

Scott Walters

I agree: the AD/MD division isn't particularly effective. But I don't think the CEO model is, either. IMO, the top-down hierarchy, while perhaps more efficient in the short run, creates a fragmented organization in which buy-in and mutual responsibility is abandoned in favor of a "sorry-it's-not-my-table attitude that ultimately impoverishes all decision-making. If you look at the original question, two models were proposed: AD/MD or shared governance. I'd recommend the latter.

Adam Thurman

Prof. Scott,

I guess my concern with shared governance is that it would slow down the decision making process in most nonprofits. This is a huge issue because most nonprofits move too slowly as it is.

I think it's perfectly acceptable to have consensus, buy-in, etc. as part of your organizational values. But you can have that with the CEO model, as long as you have a CEO who demonstrates the values the company has.

Here's the thing, most organizational structures fall into two molds:

Small (in terms of size and resources) but nimble i.e. make decisions quickly, adjust strategy quickly, etc.


Large (in terms of resources) but slow.

What doesn't work is small (which most nonprofits are) AND slow.

My concern with the shared governance model is that it would create small and slower.

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