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AAAE 2021 Virtual Conference...
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Thursday, May 27 • 12:00pm - 1:00pm
12 PM ET: Life in the fast lane for arts managers – what does the field need that we are not teaching?

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As the notion of stability that underpins traditional and still dominant models of management and organisation are increasingly challenged, so alternative perspectives on management and organisation are attracting attention from academics and practitioners. This is nowhere more relevant than to creative and cultural (cc) nonprofit organisations which are, by the very nature of their activity and economy, characteristically unstable (especially but not exclusively smaller sized cc organisations). The normal reality is that cc organisations often need to rapidly react to disruption (internal / external); and anticipating (let alone managing) risk is less than realistic a prospect in organisations operating in fast paced environments. Creative and cultural specific strategic management literature (Kolb 2021; Gander 2017; Saintilan 2017; Byrnes 2015; Varbanova 2013; Bilton and Cummings 2010) typically carries inherent assumptions about stability and planning – the prevailing worldview here is (still) one of rationality (means-ends) and control. By a similar token, Mintzberg and Walters (1985) and Mintzberg et al (2003) have explored emergent strategies and strategy-as-practice – also Bilton and Cummings (2010) in a cc organisational context – though these studies mostly examined the discursive and socio-material sides of strategy. Critically, such views eschew the messiness and randomness of the real-world, of which the Covid pandemic and its consequences (negative and positive) for cc organisations and sector remain a persistent and powerful reminder.

Looking at strategy as a process, however, offers a different angle, one tha is sensitive to the random side of the life/work worlds we operate in. In this view, the process of ‘making’ strategy or ‘strategizing’ is concerned with the stream of actions (actors’ actions) by which strategy unfolds, including the formation and implementation of strategic issues (Pettigrew 1997, Barzelay, 2003; Kingdon 1995). Moreover, as a process unfolding over time (long / short), actor strategizing necessarily reflects the diverse layers of institutional (Barzelay 2003, Smith 2004), organisational and, crucially, creative (Bilton and Cummings 2010) context shaping such processes and their outcomes. Given the mix of rationalities framing decisions in nonprofit cc organisations, attention to the creative agenda/s that shape these dynamics is paramount here. Understanding strategy ‘making’ therefore implies not only consideration of a wider range of factors and practices than those addressed in the strategic management literature but also a reassessment of the role of people’s agency in this process.

In this paper I look below the ‘tip of the (strategizing) iceberg’. In contrast with strategic management literatures in our field which by and large reflect classical theory perspectives, my aim is to identify and examine alternative epistemologies and the less travelled literature ‘roads’ that illuminate the process of strategizing in nonprofit cc organisations, especially in contexts of disruption and dramatic change - what are the kinds of knowledge, understanding, and skills necessary to operate in this environment? Especially relevant at a time when cc organisations have to navigate uncharted waters and cope with fast change, this exploratory literature review charts concepts and theoretical frameworks that explain (successful) strategic behaviours in cc organisations, hoping to open new avenues for explanation/research to students in our discipline.

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Thursday May 27, 2021 12:00pm - 1:00pm EDT
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