What’s Your Culture?

When I assumed my current position, I had hoped that I had escaped the need to complete long annual reports. I was leaving a region whose higher ed accrediting body has the reputation for being the toughest. So I thought, if I did end up having to do an annual report, it wouldn’t be too onerous.

Well, I was wrong. Under the guise of a lunch invitation to meet the rest of the university leadership, I discovered that I would indeed need to do an annual report. And it seems to be more extensive than the one I used to have to do.

In addition, the reporting protocol this year seems to be entirely new, giving rise to thoughts that this is a conspiracy against me by a universe that just won’t let me escape doing annual reports!!!!

While I am not looking forward to the task, one section of the report that I must admit met my approval inquired by department culture:

3. Please answer the questions below addressing departmental culture. As you answer the questions, please include examples from the past year illustrating your points.

a. Describe your department culture?
b. What influences your culture?
c. What theories or practices inform your culture?
d. How do you assess if your departmental culture is impacting the continuous improvement of your department and the institution as a whole?

 

I think reflection on organizational and departmental culture in this way can be important. Even within a performing arts organization, the culture of the tech, marketing, front of house and artistic areas are distinct from each other.

Discerning what influences your culture and how your departmental culture contributes to the organization as a whole can be contribute toward bolstering the positive and making a constructive effort to repair the negative.

It can help recognize the truth of dysfunctional dynamics if a department realizes a prime influence on their culture is acting as a buffer between two other departments to prevent them from throttling each other.

Yeah, acting as a peacemaker is a positive thing, but if the result is to delay or deflect conflict rather than effect a continuous improvement, it isn’t ultimately a constructive contribution.

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 (artshacker.com) 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. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the 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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