The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations Info

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Many arts organizations today find themselves in financial
difficulties because of economic constraints inherent in the industry.
While other companies can improve productivity through the use of new
technologies or better systems, these approaches are not available in
the arts. Hamlet requires the same number of performers today as it did
in Shakespeare’s time. The New York Philharmonic requires the same
number of musicians now as it did when Tchaikovsky conducted it over one
hundred years ago. Costs go up, but the size of theaters and the price
resistance of patrons limit what can be earned from ticket sales.
Therefore, the performing arts industry faces a severe gap between
earnings and expenses. Typical approaches to closing the gap―raising
ticket prices or cutting artistic or marketing expenses―don’t work.
What, then, does it take to create and maintain a healthy arts
organization? Michael M. Kaiser has revived four major arts
organizations: the Kansas City Ballet, the Alvin Ailey American Dance
Theater, American Ballet Theatre, and London’s Royal Opera House. In The
Art of the Turnaround he shares with readers his ten basic rules for
bringing financially distressed arts organizations back to life and
keeping them strong. These rules cover the requirements for successful
leadership, the pitfalls of cost cutting, the necessity of extending the
programming calendar, the centrality of effective marketing and fund
raising, and the importance of focusing on the present with a positive
public message. In chapters organized chronologically, Kaiser brings his
ten rules vividly to life in discussions of the four arts organizations
he is credited with saving. The book concludes with a chapter on his
experiences at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, an
arts organization that needed an artistic turnaround when he became the
president in 2001 and that today exemplifies in practice many of the ten
rules he discusses throughout his book.

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Reviews for The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations:

3

Dec 26, 2015

An interesting and quick read of case studies. While I chafe at the author's ego and the presumption of capitalist values, the case studies and mechanisms for making a functional non-profit organization provides food for thought. Of course, in my view, there shouldn't be a need for 1) non profits as such to exist 2) that all goods, including cultural goods, would be valued as part and parcel to democracy and would be funded through socialist mechanisms.
3

Jul 06, 2012

This book had some good ideas and gave me plenty to think about. One quibble is that the case-studies are all solely civic based - for organizations that have a home base. Not much help for international organizations like TwtrSymphony.
4

Aug 21, 2019

This central work of Michael Kaiser which deals with his work in turning around organizations facing financial and artistic peril is mostly successful. I will say, if you have read other works of his you have heard many of these stories before. Also, I would love for him to have been more technical especially in terms of his "Day One" implementations rather than the more extended anecdotal tone that is used throughout, however, that is a minor criticism.

He begins the work with ten rules and This central work of Michael Kaiser which deals with his work in turning around organizations facing financial and artistic peril is mostly successful. I will say, if you have read other works of his you have heard many of these stories before. Also, I would love for him to have been more technical especially in terms of his "Day One" implementations rather than the more extended anecdotal tone that is used throughout, however, that is a minor criticism.

He begins the work with ten rules and these all merit deep understanding and discussion. Overall, he does well in presenting how these came in to play gradually in his career in arts management and why they should be universally applicable. Though they might not have the import to smaller organizations as they would the kind of mammoth groups he is used to leading, the values are sound and expressed clearly.

He then moves on to very personal and vivid vignettes pertaining to his work at the Kansas City Ballet (perhaps the most informative since that was his first big position), Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Royal Opera House, and the Kennedy Center. The progression of issues he faced and his evolution of solving these issues makes for engrossing reading. I would have loved the same level of detail he put into the chapter on the Royal Opera to have been applied to each section as it seems he is at his most specific and frank in this section. Of course, in any business there are things that cannot be mentioned or discussed for a variety of reasons but given the title of this work, I was perhaps hoping for more of a treatise on just how to become a, "Turnaround King," like the author.

Anyway, this central work of Kaiser's is a great addition to the literature on the subject and is required reading in the field. ...more
4

Mar 01, 2019

If you don’t read all the name drops Kaiser writes, the book goes by a lot faster and is much easier to engage with.

Kaiser isn’t perfect, but his experiences are chock full of learning opportunities. This is a great book with a lot to learn from.
3

Sep 30, 2018

Kasier has done an amazing job turning around arts-organizations. This book is more storytelling than it is a guide to creating a thoughtful arts organization yourself. The major insight I got from the book was not to cut programming, no matter how much a governing board wants to do so.
3

Apr 07, 2012

In the book The Art of the Turnaround, the author Michael M. Kaiser gives advice to his fellow arts administrators on how to help struggling non-profit arts organizations come back from the brink of closure. He does this through a series of real-world examples in which he plays the central role of “Turnaround King”. From his humble beginnings at the Kansas City Ballet to his final installment at The Kennedy Center, Kaiser expounds on his many adventures as non-profit arts administrator. He talks In the book The Art of the Turnaround, the author Michael M. Kaiser gives advice to his fellow arts administrators on how to help struggling non-profit arts organizations come back from the brink of closure. He does this through a series of real-world examples in which he plays the central role of “Turnaround King”. From his humble beginnings at the Kansas City Ballet to his final installment at The Kennedy Center, Kaiser expounds on his many adventures as non-profit arts administrator. He talks about how he started knowing very little about how to affect change in troubled organizations. He admits he made mistakes, but he also learned from those mistakes very quickly. He says you cannot afford to make mistakes in these types of situations because the organization is already low on funds and a lot must be done with very little. In addition, he claims most financial troubles do not stem from excessive spending but from not having enough funding in the first place. Furthermore, Kaiser states that organizations in crisis usually have problems with leadership structure. His formula for creating change in these situations essentially boils down to implementing a strategic plan which emphasizes effective marketing strategies for “good art”. Kaiser makes his job sound rather simple at first. However, as progress is made through the book it can be inferred that making a 180 degree turn with any arts organization can be a rather cumbersome process. ...more
4

Jun 12, 2009

This is a really easy-to-read, helpful and clear book that discusses how to turn around struggling arts organizations. Michael Kaiser, currently the president of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, has led several organizations back from the brink and is recognized as the "Turnaround King".

The book outlines 10 rules for creating and maintaining healthy organizations and then launches into five case studies. Each case study tells the story of an organization that Kaiser has This is a really easy-to-read, helpful and clear book that discusses how to turn around struggling arts organizations. Michael Kaiser, currently the president of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, has led several organizations back from the brink and is recognized as the "Turnaround King".

The book outlines 10 rules for creating and maintaining healthy organizations and then launches into five case studies. Each case study tells the story of an organization that Kaiser has led...Kansas City Ballet, Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre Foundation, American Ballet Theatre, Royal Opera House, and the Kennedy Center.

It's an interesting look at leadership, especially in terms of arts organizations. Having studied life cycles of organizations as well as leadership styles while in business school, it was really interesting to learn about his work. I would recommend this book to both leaders of arts organizations as well as business school students and those pursuing a master's in nonprofit management or public administration as a means of studying strong leadership, effective management and reinvention of a struggling organization. ...more
4

Jun 24, 2014

Serving on the board of an arts organization, this book came up several times and has proved helpful to give another perspective on what to do when challenges arise. By far the call for more innovative programming and clear marketing rang true, and I greatly enjoyed that the cases involved stepped up in size, budget and visibility to show how Kaiser (who is very clear he began with no formal training and made plenty of mistakes) approached each new challenge. The honest appraisal of what worked Serving on the board of an arts organization, this book came up several times and has proved helpful to give another perspective on what to do when challenges arise. By far the call for more innovative programming and clear marketing rang true, and I greatly enjoyed that the cases involved stepped up in size, budget and visibility to show how Kaiser (who is very clear he began with no formal training and made plenty of mistakes) approached each new challenge. The honest appraisal of what worked and what failed was also refreshing and helpful.

I intend to read his other books- one of the points he makes that hits home is limit of arts managers available and the need for deeper, richer, more robust training for them to ensure the arts can continue to compete in difficult climates. ...more
4

Jan 21, 2011

As an aspiring arts administrator, I think this is a wonderful resource for aspiring, upcoming and future arts administrators. It definitely shows that there's a lot to putting together a production and that not only should the artistic director be involved in the future of the performing arts organization but all have to be involved from the Board Members to the staff of the performing arts organization. Tough decisions must be made but there must be a clear focus and destination for the As an aspiring arts administrator, I think this is a wonderful resource for aspiring, upcoming and future arts administrators. It definitely shows that there's a lot to putting together a production and that not only should the artistic director be involved in the future of the performing arts organization but all have to be involved from the Board Members to the staff of the performing arts organization. Tough decisions must be made but there must be a clear focus and destination for the preforming arts organization. Mr. Kaiser clearly illustrates this through sharing his experiences turning around these performing arts organizations represented in the book. ...more
4

Jun 20, 2013

The #1 priority for arts organizations is to produce the absolute best product they possible can and market the shit out of it. Just like every other consumable product in the world. That’s how Kaiser was able to save 4 deeply troubled arts organizations. (The Kennedy Center not included; they had a different goal.) That and stay nearly ridiculously positive about the health of the organization even as you’re unscrewing every other lightbulb in the building to save energy. Show confidence by The #1 priority for arts organizations is to produce the absolute best product they possible can and market the shit out of it. Just like every other consumable product in the world. That’s how Kaiser was able to save 4 deeply troubled arts organizations. (The Kennedy Center not included; they had a different goal.) That and stay nearly ridiculously positive about the health of the organization even as you’re unscrewing every other lightbulb in the building to save energy. Show confidence by making long term plans and be creative. This is a great book that all administrators and board members should read even if you think your organization is healthy. ...more
4

Oct 28, 2016

This was an interesting foray into the arts administration world. I haven't really given thought to arts administration in the "traditional" sense: run an orchestra, ballet, theatre, or opera. But given how organized you have to be? I might be incredibly good at it. The book was lovely though in providing case studies of some of the issues an arts organization can run into when it has massive debt, little to no marketing, etc. Michael aiser does an excellent job at explaining his motives, what This was an interesting foray into the arts administration world. I haven't really given thought to arts administration in the "traditional" sense: run an orchestra, ballet, theatre, or opera. But given how organized you have to be? I might be incredibly good at it. The book was lovely though in providing case studies of some of the issues an arts organization can run into when it has massive debt, little to no marketing, etc. Michael aiser does an excellent job at explaining his motives, what he did, and how he left each case study. The book was written in 2008, but I am looking forward to reading his newer book at the end of this class. ...more
5

Jul 22, 2012

If you are wondering what to do "after" the Great Recession with what remains of your 501c3...read this book. I did a workshop with Michael Kaiser and zipped through the first read cheerfully thinking, "It's nice how nice this book is. Good information." My second read came after the storm of the Great Recession blew a hole through my lifes work.I went slowly...painfully understanding at each turn what happened... and why...and what to do now. Thanking God for this book and the information it If you are wondering what to do "after" the Great Recession with what remains of your 501c3...read this book. I did a workshop with Michael Kaiser and zipped through the first read cheerfully thinking, "It's nice how nice this book is. Good information." My second read came after the storm of the Great Recession blew a hole through my lifes work.I went slowly...painfully understanding at each turn what happened... and why...and what to do now. Thanking God for this book and the information it brings to the dance world. ...more
4

Aug 18, 2015

Really, there isn't anything in my life that doesn't at least sometimes need a "turnaround", so I found this book to be inspirational on levels professional and personal. My reasons for reading it, however, were professional, and I learned a great deal about truly serving the arts.

This is the second of four books I am reading on this subject.
5

Jan 17, 2009

This is a GREAT book for anyone in leadership in the non-profit arts industry. In a nutshell: Kaiser's mantra - good art, well marketed - is important, true. Don't cut programming budgets, don't cut marketing budgets. Ensure the freedom to cultivate artistic integrity in everything you do and... have a plan.

3

Feb 04, 2015

Great first chapter with lots of good practical advice. The succeeding chapters provide examples of how the author developed and employed his own methods with various organizations, which bolster the case for his credibility but add little in terms of insight or wisdom.
3

Jul 10, 2012

This guy works some serious magic, and I believe the principles he suggests are truly sound...and yet, one wonders, why he is so lucky? There are few specifics about implementation, and his real gift seems to be charming Board members. But he is clearly a genius.
4

Jun 05, 2009

outlines what it takes to run an art organization facing difficult decisions pretty concisely - in Kaiser's opinion promotion and programming are key.
0

Mar 18, 2009

I saw this guy speak - amazing. I look forward to reading this book.
0

Apr 08, 2010

Michael Kaiser is AMAZING. I am only just starting this book, but highly recommend it!
4

Jan 09, 2009

Very interesting book about turning around ailing arts organizations. The core lessons of the book are in the first chapter. His history at various arts organizations is a fun read.
4

Sep 30, 2010

Excellent very readable primer for working in arts field. Filled with real stories and people. Slightly over the top and self congratulating but hey he has done much to change the field.
4

Aug 26, 2012

Includes great case studies, but Kaiser has a tendency to pat himself on the back a few too many times.

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