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Leading for Change: Building Sustainable Organisations

At Spektrix Conference 2018, we were delighted to have Christina Hill, Senior Consultant, TRG Arts and Claire Murray, Communications & Fundraising Director at Sheffield Theatres present their experiences on building long-term sustainabilityin the cultural sector, and how this can be driven by different approaches to leadership and organisational culture. 

At TRG we believe in the power of the arts to change people’s lives. In our work, we’ve heard some moving stories across the sector about how organisations are driving change through education, outreach, inclusivity, and artist development.

AND – in order to deliver on organisational missions over the long term, sometimes we need to change the way we’re doing things. How are we evolving today? Some are recognising the power of joined-up work to maximise impact. Others are implementing technology to create new revenue opportunities and generate more data. Many are building on programming to extend reach to even more people.

But how do we know what are the right changes to empower us for our future? Are we building the infrastructure to support these changes in the long-term? Are these new ways of working fully embedded in the organisation? When we achieve success, how are we able to expand on and amplify it?

Challenges to Leading Change

Change is difficult, and especially hard to maintain over time. Below are two of the biggest challenges I’ve seen organisations face in creating change:

1. Capacity. Having the time and financial resources to support the desired change. We know you work hard and on tight budgets. How can more time be found to do more? At TRG, we believe data can help us prioritise the most impactful work so that organisations can stop trying to do everything and use precious resources where they will have the greatest ROI. 

2. Communication and adoption of change, both internal and external. We all recognise the need for and value of working more closely together. But we also know that it’s not always easy to implement. In our work, a data-led, patron-centric focus helps break down the silos. Putting the patron at the center of the work gives clarity to how roles and activities should connect and flow, therefore creating a more joined-up organisation. Data shines light on patron behaviour, creates a roadmap for growth and removes emotion from our decision-making processes. 

Recommended reading 

The Changing Role of the Box Office: Part 1

How the New Wolsey Used Data to Drive Innovation

Sheffield Theatres Case Study: Growing Ticket Revenue and Accessibility

Building Success

In order to capitalise on these opportunities, and address challenges, there are two fundamentals that we can and must employ. 

1. Change management - do we have the systems in place to support change over the long term? 
Creating change is like a stretching a rubber band – we can change its shape by exerting pressure, but as soon as we relax our focus, it wants to return to its original shape. It’s critical to develop a strategy, prioritise, and build the foundational process to support the change you want to see over the long term. 

STRATEGISE. Invest time to stop, evaluate and plan. Use data. Identify the change that is needed and what is necessary to implement it. Building a strategy came back as our number one key to achieving success. Dig into your data to develop strategy, but also build long-term data discipline to support change over time.

PRIORITISE. Stop doing everything! Prioritise that which will help you build foundational revenue first. The biggest opportunities to grow financial resources boil down to two areas: 1) earning more from ticket sales, and 2) fundraising - engaging patrons to support our mission financially through charitable contributions. Implement the highest ROI activities first.

ACTIVATE. Collaborate to find efficiencies and magnify impact. Staff co-working is both a challenge and an opportunity, and plays a critical role in change management. Build communication, leverage strengths, clarify roles and define processes that ensure the change you’re making will stick. Insist on action and measure success. 

2. Capacity building - do we have the resources (time and money) to support these changes and our mission? 
We can grow them over time. Creating a resilient organisation doesn't happen overnight – it needs to be built gradually. The good news – by taking an iterative approach, we can find efficiencies and build more resources. Start where you’ll have the highest ROI. Achieve success. Reinvest, and repeat.

If you use data to identify the right change needed, and create a supporting structure to ensure that it lasts, you’ll build more revenue and time resources, and achieve results that sustain your organisation over the long-term. You’ll then be secure on the path to deliver your mission, grow your impact and change even more lives.

Christina Hill, Senior Consultant, TRG Arts

Follow Christina on LinkedIn

www.trgarts.com
@TRGArts

Find out more about Sheffield Theatres journey in leading transformational change – download their case study.