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The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations [Hardcover]

Michael M. Kaiser
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

30 Sep 2008
Many arts organizations today find themselves in financial difficulties because of economic constraints inherent in the industry. While other companies can improve productivity through the use of new technologies or better systems, these approaches are not available in the arts. Hamlet requires the same number of performers today as it did in Shakespeare's time. The New York Philharmonic requires the same number of musicians now as it did when Tchaikovsky conducted it over one hundred years ago. Costs go up, but the size of theaters and the price resistance of patrons limit what can be earned from ticket sales. Therefore, the performing arts industry faces a severe gap between earnings and expenses. Typical approaches to closing the gap-raising ticket prices or cutting artistic or marketing expenses-don't work. What, then, does it take to create and maintain a healthy arts organization? Michael M. Kaiser has revived four major arts organizations: the Kansas City Ballet, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, and London's Royal Opera House. In The Art of the Turnaround he shares with readers his ten basic rules for bringing financially distressed arts organizations back to life and keeping them strong. These rules cover the requirements for successful leadership, the pitfalls of cost cutting, the necessity of extending the programming calendar, the centrality of effective marketing and fund raising, and the importance of focusing on the present with a positive public message. In chapters organized chronologically, Kaiser brings his ten rules vividly to life in discussions of the four arts organizations he is credited with saving. The book concludes with a chapter on his experiences at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, an arts organization that needed an artistic turnaround when he became the president in 2001 and that today exemplifies in practice many of the ten rules he discusses throughout his book.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Brandeis University Press (30 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584657359
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584657354
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 463,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"There can be no one who has had the experience - the expertise - of Michael Kaiser in taking world class performing arts companies and reinventing them for the 21st century. This is a gold mine." - Harold Prince "Michael Kaiser is an engaging and inspiring impresario, who truly has made a difference in turning around arts organizations. He knows firsthand of what he speaks." - Renee Fleming"

About the Author

MICHAEL M. KAISER is President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Dubbed "the turnaround king" for his work at numerous institutions, Kaiser has earned international renown for his expertise in arts management. A Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. State Department, he advises performing arts organizations around the world, working with arts leaders in Mexico, Pakistan, China, Latin America, and the Arab nations. He has created an online education forum for arts administrators ( where professionals and students in the field can share experiences, seek employment, and post opportunities.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I hope it helps 29 July 2011
I believe the ideas that the author present are very interresting and might help anyone working in an arts organization. Unlike arts management books, the core in this one are the examples. Thus, intead of presenting a theoretical framework, the author talks much more about common sense and the everyday practice.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Practical. Very Inspiring. 20 Oct 2008
By Don Eitel - Published on
Michael Kaiser has a great reputation for being an arts administrator and for being an effective leader during troubling times. This book takes you through his process and philosophy for turning companies around. The points he makes and his ideas are very practical. I found myself writing down notes and ideas on how I could apply them to our own company. The meat of the book is his case studies, in which he takes you through five organizations he has worked for and what he did to turn the company around. This is the best book I have read on administration in the arts. Mainly because it isn't academic and gives you applicable ideas the moment you start reading.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Short on Turn, Long on Around 25 April 2009
By Lawrence D. Devoe - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a former arts organization executive officer and board member, I purchased this book based on its excellent reviews in several magazines and internet sites. I would agree that its anecdotal approach makes it quite readable. For those who are really interested in taking on the heavy lifting of sustaining or resurrecting performing arts companies, it lists most of the rudimentary issues that must be addressed. However, Mr. Kaiser offers more charming anecdotes than bedrock substance. Granted a standard text on the "how-to" of arts management is very dry reading (I already have a few of these). What would have made this book more valuable to more serious readers is at least one technical chapter (possibly as an appendix) that anatomizes the process of creating and supporting a successful arts company. Perhaps Mr. Kaiser will consider doing this in a second edition.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Art of the Turnaround by Michael M. Kaiser 26 Dec 2008
By Tess Samuel - Published on
The remarkable thing about this book - to one who ploughs through a few of them - is that it is readable! Most books on any aspect of fundraising are prescriptive, bulleted to death, and lend themselves readily to Power Point presentations. Can I be more abusive of the genre than that?

Mr. Kaiser's book makes none of these mistakes. Instead he gives you a superb distillation of his experience in a neat package - up front. Busy managers and other important folk need read no further. They would be idiots if they did not since the bulk of the book is a series of "cases" - tales - about the experiences that led Mr. Kaiser to his list of essentials of charity management.

He calls it "turnaround". And I'm sure the principles apply very well to any turnarounds you might be planning. But the real reason for persisting with this book is that its applications are much broader than that.

It's a great guide for any ED struggling with his or her board - and there are many insights that you can relate to those struggles and principles you can adhere to that will serve you well.

It's a brilliant training tool for anyone who wants to teach fundraising in most of its varied aspects - how do you present the organization to prospective or past donors as a viable entity they should be thrilled to support? ("invest in" if you want the current parlance.) How do you identify and know these donors? How do you sustain relations with these donors? And how in the long term do you turn these donors into the bedrock of your charity?

Working through Mr. Kaiser's cases with students, and even practised fundraisers, would be a stirring way to energize, or re-energize, your fundraising staff.

What is missing in the book is the "answers" to questions like those I have proposed for the fundraisers in your stable. Mr. Kaiser spins a great yarn, but is short on analysis. He fails to show how he distilled his 10 rules from his experience, and that would be a fascinating path to follow. But this can be a plus or a minus depending on how you use the book; and of course depending on how astute you are.

Whether or not you intend to use the work in an applied way or just enjoy it as the very good read it is, I highly recommend it. Mr. Kaiser reveals his disasters as well as his successes and this makes for a very human narrative. And - have I mentioned this yet? - he is a superb writer, so you will be laughing (and wincing) as you learn.

Tess Samuel, Senior Development Officer, SickKids Foundation
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good if you work for a famous and large organization 4 Oct 2009
By S. K. Hwang - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've been an arts administrator for 13 years and have a masters degree in the field. I felt the book was very readable, but lacked applicability to smaller arts organizations....ones that make up the majority of our arts community.

The over-arching message of, [programming and marketing are key, and should be the last thing cut in a financial crisis], is universal. But beyond that, the anecdotal approach to the book leaves the smaller organization needing more guidance. Where's the book for the organizations that will NEVER have access to the Jumbo Tron?

The author was more successful in a speaking engagement than in this book.

Not worth it in my humble opinion.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For More than the Arts 25 Dec 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Hearing Michael Kaiser in person is what prompted me to explore this very interesting book. Kaiser has had remarkable success in nurturing several professional arts organizations to good fiscal and organizational success.

I was part of a group of several hundred patrons and representatives of the arts to hear Mr. Kaiser interviewed by Maestro Michael Stern of the Kansas City Symphony. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. It quickly became apparent that Kaiser is very smart, has an abundance of common sense accompanied by great instincts, and provides leadership that keeps people focused on the mission. The bulk of the interview was his "off-the-cuff" review of ten principles that have guided him in turning around struggling organizations. Also obvious, was that these ten principles apply not just to the arts but to many organizations, especially NPO's that rely on donors for their existence.

Kaiser's principles are profoundly simple, yet powerful if diligently and faithfully applied. Immediately, I ordered copies of his book for key people on a number of NPO boards on which I serve. The principles are found right up front and the rest of the book illustrates them by recounting Kaiser's personal experiences of turnarounds. I highly recommend this book.
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