Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The vision thing

Te Papa has announced it is going to spend until the end of this year working on a new Vision and mission. When you read the current version it's not hard to see why.

Essentially a vision statement is big picture and describes an organisation's hopes for its future, usually with a big dollop of inspiration to motivate the troops. The mission is then the roadmap to get there. From a quick scan, museums are not big on visions. If they articulate a vision (and many do not), they tend to opt for statements about doing what they're doing but in a bigger building (Tate Modern) or going short and general (MCA Sydney 'Engaging with contemporary art and ideas') or long and general (National Gallery of Australia in Canberra 'the cultural enrichment of all Australians through access to their national art gallery, the quality of the national collection, the exceptional displays, exhibitions and programs, and the professionalism of Gallery staff).

Te Papa's current vision is obese, even by NGA standards. You can see why the new CEO and Chair are taking a knife to it.

Te Papa’s current vision is to be:
•   relevant to all New Zealanders through stories of our collections and scholarship, and through these engage with communities throughout New Zealand

•   a source of experiences for audiences to grow their understanding and respect for mātauranga Māori, and the different cultures of New Zealand

•   a means of access to the best collections from around the world

•   creative, collaborative, and outward looking

•   fun, challenging, and always enriching

An effective vision is supposed to show how an organisation's future will look different from its past and it needs to start with a realistic understanding of where it is now. Working that out it probably what's going to take the time. There are big questions for Te Papa to deal with. Take its incarnation as a mega-scale, very pricey children's museum (is that what we signed up for?), its inward focus (who'd know the rest of the world exists?), its ongoing struggle with art and its fundamental sustainability.

If you want to tell whether Te Papa's new Mission and Vision statements will create a positive difference, you only have to ask a couple of questions.
• Are they easy to understand and remember?
• Do they make sense to people outside the organisation?
• Are there sensible ways to find out whether they are on track?
When the new version hits the streets we’ll apply these three simple tests and see how they go.