Book review- The Art of the Turnaround


The Art of the Turnaround, Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organisations by Michael Kaiser

I’ve just finished this book by the man who’s been dubbed the ‘turnaround King’ – previously CEO at the Royal Opera House. It’s part arts management handbook, part career memoir, as Kaiser relives his experiences of working at once failing and now leading US dance organisations Kansas City Ballet, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, and American Ballet Theatre, before coming to the UK to sort out the reopening of the Royal Opera House and then on to his current post at The John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts back in Washington DC.

Kaiser’s philosophy for mantra for success is simply: ‘good art marketed well’. Indeed most of his advice is pretty straightforward, but it’s good to see a simple recipe for success being implemented in a number of organisations, and illustrated with practical examples throughout.

Kaiser’s 10 rules for turning round a failing arts organisation, and indeed making a good one better are:

 1. Someone must lead
2. The leader must have a plan
3. You cannot save your way to health
4. Focus on today and tomorrow, not yesterday
5. Extend your programming planning calendar
6. Marketing is more than brochures and advertisements
7. There must be only one spokesman and the message must be positive
8. Fundraising must focus on the larger donor, but don’t aim too high
9. The board must allow itself to be restructured
10. The organisation must have the discipline to follow each of these rules

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