Info You Can Use: Leveraging Transitions Well

So I really hadn’t intended to write too much more about my job change until I left my current job or took my next one. However, the assistant theatre manager who is chairing the search committee is using some activities which I think are really beneficial to my organization and the community.

Today she held a meeting with various stakeholders to discuss what they wanted from the person who would replace me. I wasn’t included, but I eavesdropped on the conversation rising to my office off and on for about 15 minutes.

The group was comprised of about 15 people, some of which who are members of the search committee. Among them were faculty from music, theatre, visual arts; chair of Arts and Humanities; Dean of our division; our theatre staff; community artists; representatives of three renting organizations; volunteers; and our development officer.

They started out writing down what things they valued about the theatre, focusing especially on what will be missing if the theatre didn’t continue operations. Then they took turns talking about what they had written and sticking the post-it notes up on the wall in themed groups so that they could see what values people gravitated toward.

Later they moved on to some group activities to generate suggestions.

I spoke to some people after the meeting and they seemed pleased with the process. They were especially happy that the assistant theatre manager kept things moving along.

What I thought was really great about this exercise was that it brought so many different constituencies together who never meet each other. Each one became aware of what the other did in the facility and why certain elements of the facility and the services offered were relevant to them.

More importantly, this was all done in front of college administrators and the development officer which helped them understand the wide range of activities that occurs in the facility and why its existence was important.

It sounds strange to say, but I think this process was successful because I am leaving.

If we had tried to gather a group of people to talk about why they loved the theatre, I am not sure as many people would have shown up or been as eager to participate.

I think the sense of immediacy and the opportunity to influence the type of person chosen as the new theatre manager garnered far more investment in the process.

While part of me craves melodramatic gnashing of teeth and wailing, “Oh what shall we do without you, Joe? You are our source of inspiration and have that musky, Victor Mature-like scent,” I am really happy to see the transition turning into such a constructive process.

Just offering it here as an example something other organizations might try.

Oh, and I forgot, they fed the group Valentine’s Day cupcakes. That probably helped, too.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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