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An Analytic Tool for Evaluating Potential Arts Executives

It is important for the board to develop as many quantitative measurements as possible for evaluating a potential director so that it can make an informed choice, based on a “quantitative screen” as well as chemistry and personality. But how does one develop such a quantitative screen?

If the museum has been engaged in a strategic planning process, it will be clear about its mission and program. The mission and program are then translated into a “position charter” for any candidate to react to and be judged against. For example, one client, a prestigious general museum, had recently completed a five year strategic plan that confirmed its mission as a museum dedicated to “art, science and education.” The plan described eight objectives that, if accomplished, would assure that the museum would realize its mission. Furthermore, upon investigation of how the museum applied its resources, it was clear that its plans and actions were in harmony. The most effective director to lead this institution would be one who, no matter what his or her background and expertise, could show allegiance to all three planks of the mission. This position would require a director who could continue the museum on its tripartite mission.

A museum’s strategic plan will also describe the challenges of the institution and, since the director will have ultimate operating responsibility for meeting those challenges, a description of the ideal, effective director will be revealed. A museum about to embark on a fund raising and new-construction venture would benefit from a director who has been through such a project successfully. A strategic direction to enhance the profile of the institution in the community points to a director with exceptional communication and public-oriented skills; a direction toward building the contemporary European collection may point toward the curator/scholar who has proven ability to work with collectors and who possesses that extraordinarily developed “eye.” The position charter describes the challenges of the institution and, thus, the requirements for the directorship.

James Abruzzo, Consultant, Consulting, Executive Search, Nonprofit Compensation, Expert Witness, Evaluating Potential

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