Ingredients for Making a Difference

Robert Jacobs Posted by Robert Jacobs.

Robert “Jake” Jacobs is a principle in the global consulting firm, Winds of Change Group. He has authored or co-authored six books, including Real Time Strategic Change: How to Involve an Entire Organization in Fast and Far-Reaching Change.


Ingredients for Making a Difference

Serguei S. Dukachev, Creative Commons 3.0

Federal, state, and local funding cuts make for tough times for arts organizations. Downturns in the economic cycle mean decreased contributions. Arts organizations become luxuries. They are forced to make do with increasingly smaller budgets and staff. This is the challenging environment where Joh Broughton positively made a difference.

When she joined The Performance Network in Ann Arbor, Michigan, fifteen years ago, it was home to a number of different people and theatre groups. Each had its own interests. The organization, in Joh’s words, “was run so each of these people could do their own thing.” One wanted political theater. Another was obsessed with Beckett and experimentation of form.

“One of the best things about The Network when I joined was that they’d let you try anything,” she explained. “It was a place where I could learn from knowledgeable and wacky people. The problem was that the organization could not survive this way financially. It held the possibility of making a great contribution to the community. But it was only a possibility because in those days, it wasn’t clear that The Network would survive at all.”

At the time, the theatre produced a variety of plays on minimal budgets. Amateur actors made do operating out of a cramped warehouse with a pole in the middle of the seating area. The theatre’s debts were mounting. The programs were facing cutbacks. Day-to-day survival was the norm. Growth was not even a word in the vocabulary of those who worked at The Performance Network.

One day the board and staff of the theatre decided it was time to think big. They put together a ten-year strategic plan to transform the theatre. During the next decade, Joh spearheaded this effort supported by scores of others. She kept the vision in front of people. She connected the theatre’s creative roots and this powerful vision. Her energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to creating a lasting institution inspired others to join the cause. Some made financial contributions. Others volunteered their time. Slowly the shared vision began to unfold.

Today The Performance Network has become the only professional theatre in Ann Arbor. Housed in a beautiful new play space, the company has won many regional awards for the quality of its productions, even earning national acclaim from playwrights and critics.

Tips

These tips were used by Joh to make a difference in her world.

They can easily be applied to make a difference in your world too.

  • Invite others to join you.
  • Dream big.
  • Connect your vision of the future to the organization’s past.
  • Keep that vision front and center over time.
  • Let your energy, enthusiasm, and commitment inspire others.

Robert W. “Jake” Jacobs is founder and president of Robert W. Jacobs Consulting, a firm specializing in accelerated, sustainable change. He is the author/contributor to four books including Real Time Strategic Change (Berrett-Koehler, 1994) and You Don’t Have to Do It Alone: How to Involve Others to Get Things Done (Berrett-Koehler, 2004). You can visit Jake on the web at www.rwjacobs.com .