This week, ArtsProfessional welcomes Heather Newill, Director of the Arts, Entertainment & Media practice at Friedlander Sachs Human Capital and Recruitment Consultants, to host an occasional column discussing some of the key management issues facing arts organisations today.

Delivering Excellence Through People

?Action without vision is a daydream. Vision without action is a nightmare?.

Creative output is the core business and the raison d?être of most cultural organisations.

Their vision statements, set by the Board of Directors, represent clearly defined aims to deliver artistic excellence, educational opportunity, increased access and cultural diversity. Let?s assume that the vision of everyone engaged in cultural activity has already been established, and the question of ?Where are we going?? has been debated and agreed. The greatest challenge facing most executives then becomes, ?How do we turn this vision into reality??

The answer lies not only in inspirational leadership, but also within organisations themselves, where employees are motivated, empowered and recognised by the contribution they make to the creative process. Only then is there unilateral alignment between the leader and the organisation in the realisation of their stated objectives.

There are countless lessons to be learnt and examples to be drawn from organisations that have failed to fulfil these fundamental principles. Equally, in recent years there have been demonstrable attempts to adopt best practice in many arts organisations. An analysis of the success stories suggests that there are some consistent qualities that combine to produce an organisation capable of delivering operational excellence.

The importance of culture and values and how they determine the way that an organisation works, communicates and engages its employees on an emotional, professional and intellectual level cannot be overstated. Through an inclusive process that brings together the commonly held views and aspirations of everyone in the organisation, a charter can be established that promotes consensus and a desire to work together to achieve a common objective.

Delivering excellence through people is not an artform but a process. This process starts with the creation of effective ?contribution summaries?. These allow greater flexibility and increased emphasis on the output of each jobholder?s role than traditional job descriptions. Building on this platform, successful companies have introduced evaluation processes, such as 360 degree reviews, through which their leaders can then build increased capability. This promotes greater levels of accountability and encourages a learning culture where continuous feedback is actively sought and acted upon.

Given the financial demands placed on arts and cultural organisations, this emphasis on performance and greater transparency is not optional, but essential for both the biggest and the smallest arts organisations committed to delivering their vision through limited human resources.

Heather Newill is Director of the Arts, Entertainment & Media practice at Friedlander Sachs e: heathernewill@eu.spherion.com