Case Study: Strategic Planning

Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama

Running any organization is hard. Running a great arts organization within a major university and a distinguished College requires monitoring the pulse of community needs and staying ahead of emerging industry trends. 

The Challenge

The Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) School of Drama approached AMS amid a leadership transition, the COVID-19 pandemic, and calls from students to engage in greater DEI efforts. The CMU School of Drama leadership needed to understand the critical issues facing school leadership and which structure would best serve its next evolution as a premier educator of performers, designers, technologists, and creators. 

Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama

Running any organization is hard. Running a great arts organization within a major university and a distinguished College requires monitoring the pulse of community needs and staying ahead of emerging industry trends. 

Problem

The Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) School of Drama approached AMS amid a leadership transition, the COVID-19 pandemic, and calls from students to engage in greater DEI efforts. The CMU School of Drama leadership needed to understand the critical issues facing school leadership and which structure would best serve its next evolution as a premier educator of performers, designers, technologists, and creators. 

Our Approach

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Interviews conducted across the School of Drama faculty and staff

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Respondents to a digital survey for key stakeholders

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Workshops facilitated with the leadership team

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Not-for-profit theatre leadership structures analyzed

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Interviews conducted across the School of Drama faculty and staff

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Respondents to a digital survey for key stakeholders

0

Workshops facilitated with the leadership team

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Not-for-profit theatre leadership structures analyzed

AMS examined CMU’s leadership structure, policies, and practices, engaged in community listening to understand diverse stakeholder perspectives, and leveraged industry knowledge and provided a future-ready leadership model that transformed the school and paved the way for co-leadership models at other performing arts facilities.

On Stage script read 2

Engage Diverse Perspectives

  • Listened to faculty, staff, and key stakeholders via confidential interviews.

  • Conducted 17 interviews across the School of Drama faculty and staff.

  • Managed a digital survey for key stakeholders with 65 respondents.

  • Facilitated three workshops with the leadership team.

Engage Diverse Perspectives

  • Listened to faculty, staff, and key stakeholders via confidential interviews.

  • Conducted 17 interviews across the School of Drama faculty and staff.

  • Managed a digital survey for key stakeholders with 65 respondents.

  • Facilitated three workshops with the leadership team.

Understand the Industry

  • Analyzed 400+ not-for-profit theaters’ leadership structures and discovered that the traditional model for arts leadership required an innovative approach to keep up with the changing industry.

  • Researched and developed our original research paper examining the drivers and implications of co-leadership as an alternative to the hierarchical leadership model.

  • Leveraged findings from AMS’s theater industry roundtable, a regular discussion group of leaders from 10 of the largest-producing theaters in the US, and added insights on EDIA commitments, the evolution of management styles, and changing workplace norms.

Understand the Industry

  • Analyzed 400+ not-for-profit theaters’ leadership structures and discovered that the traditional model for arts leadership required an innovative approach to keep up with the changing industry.

  • Researched and developed our original research paper examining the drivers and implications of co-leadership as an alternative to the hierarchical leadership model.

  • Leveraged findings from AMS’s theater industry roundtable, a regular discussion group of leaders from 10 of the largest-producing theaters in the US, and added insights on EDIA commitments, the evolution of management styles, and changing workplace norms.

We encourage every arts organization to consider a change in leadership as an opportunity to advance on all fronts. Take advantage of every leadership change effectively, and your organization will not only outlast the transition but will thrive under the right leadership moving forward.” 

Bill Blake

AMS Principal

Our Solution

AMS developed a menu of leadership structures to guide incoming School of Drama Chair

Three leadership scenarios to enable invention and positive change

Research revealed that faculty and staff preferred a shared leadership structure, reducing the burden of a single leader to accept direct reports while maximizing support for a complex educational unit

AMS developed a menu of leadership structures to guide incoming School of Drama Chair

Three leadership scenarios to enable invention and positive change

Research revealed that faculty and staff preferred a shared leadership structure, reducing the burden of a single leader to accept direct reports while maximizing support for a complex educational unit

What is the leadership model at your organization? More importantly, what should it be? Or are you beginning to search for your organization’s next leader? It is important to look at your structure, future goals, purpose and determine what needs to change going forward. 

Contact the AMS team to learn how our knowledge base and the team can help you get on the right path to answer these critical questions. 

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