Alliance Theatre: Leading Through Change

Alliance Theatre: Leading Through Change

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It was 2006, and the Alliance Theatre was feeling its age. Artistically, the theatre was in great shape (indeed, it was soon to win the 2007 Tony® award for Best Regional Theatre). But the difficulties associated with rapid growth and prosperity had begun to wear on the theatre’s administration. These difficulties manifested themselves particularly in interdepartmental friction between the Alliance’s marketing and development departments. Managing Director Tom Pechar had noticed.

Almost a year ago, he and the leadership of the Alliance’s board of trustees had first conceived of reorganizing the theatre’s marketing and development divisions into one, streamlined department. It seemed like the right choice for the right set of circumstances. The Alliance had grown tremendously over its 39-year existence to become one of the largest nonprofit theatres in the United States, and Tom certainly deserved some of the credit. With that growth came the attendant complexities of communicating effectively with audiences, donors, corporate sponsors, foundations and other constituencies. While not a silver bullet, the planned reorganization promised a solution to many of the problems that plagued marketing and development interdepartmentally and externally, at least on paper. When the current development director took an out-of-state job opportunity in mid-2006, Tom decided the time had come to act: if the reorganization was going to happen, it had to happen now.

The new, aptly-named Development and Marketing department was announced, with erstwhile marketing director Virginia Vann at its head. Virginia and Tom hired two new associate directors, and promoted two from within. The board of trustees was unanimously positive. Audience members began to reap the benefits of better communication. Corporations and foundations found that they were better served when the department with which they were working was able to present the full array of services that the Alliance offered, from group sales to sponsorships.

Simultaneously, the resignations started to trickle in, particularly from former development-only staff. Of course the attrition could not be completely attributed to the reorganization; some former staff were explicit that it was not their main reason for leaving. But others let Virginia and Tom know that they could not work within the new department. It was a big change, and Tom knew it; he could understand staff resistance, even an inability to adapt. He had been conscious that there would be opposition from before the launch; in the necessarily brief period of time it had taken to effect the reorganization, he and Virginia had done their best to “over-communicate,” assuage fears and work with staff to make sure they felt needed within the new structure. But now there were only three staff remaining from the original development-only department of eleven.

Tom Pechar had led the theatre into eight months of significant change, with more to come, and now he had to wonder: was it worth the cost?

Publication Date: 2008-05-01

Suggested Citation: Michael Barker, "Alliance Theatre: Leading Through Change," Yale Theater Management Knowledge Base Case Study #07-03, May 1, 2008

Keywords: Atlanta, Development, Marketing, Growth, Leadership Transition, Organizational Culture

Teaching Notes: Yes (contact yaletmknowledgebase@yale.edu

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