Friday, November 30, 2012

What's a Mission Statement to Do?

As a writer, I work with words and their meanings everyday. Make no mistake, words have meaning, yes, indeed, and sometimes more than one.  It’s often wise to think before putting words out there into the world, and words can give clues to what their writer intends.  

Labor disputes often rise and fall on words.  Yes, they are mightier than the sword!  I’m keenly interested in the PR process in how words are used during labor disputes, and I’ve been following the Minnesota Orchestra’s especially closely. I understand that each side has hired a PR consultant to help them present their case to the public, but the PR writers must represent the client’s wishes accurately and receive the client’s approval.

I wonder: did the Minnesota Orchestral Association’s PR consultant write the new Mission Statement as it appears in the Strategic Plan for 2012-15 posted at the MOA’s website? Or was it someone in the Association’s executive management?

The new Mission Statement reads: “The Minnesota Orchestral Association inspires, educates and serves our community through internationally recognized performances of exceptional music delivered within a sustainable financial structure.”

My first thought upon reading it the first time was how corporate in tone and in its concision. My second thought was how the writer had put the “sustainable financial structure” last, in the powerful, take-away position. Clearly, money takes priority with the writer. My last thought, the one that shocked and appalled me, was that the MOA is the noun of action in this statement, i.e. the MOA “inspires, educates, and serves our community through internationally recognized performances of exceptional music delivered within a sustainable financial structure.” How? The MOA is not a performing entity of any kind. It is the organization that supports the Minnesota Orchestra so that the orchestra itself can do its job.  What’s missing from this Mission Statement is the Minnesota Orchestra.  Well, that sucks.

My conclusion from this Mission Statement: the MOA intends to no longer support the Minnesota Orchestra. The MOA intends to put on performances itself, and I take this to mean that they plan to become a concert presenter, hiring freelance musicians as needed for an orchestra.  They’ll use the renovated Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis as a venue for music presentations that could run the gamut from pops music with an orchestra to touring music acts, comedians, jazz acts, gosh, maybe even touring theatrical presentations.

Who wrote this Mission Statement and what was he or she thinking? Who approved it for publication and what were they thinking?

It appears that Minnesotans and classical music lovers who may travel here to attend concerts will not be enjoying Minnesota Orchestra concerts in the near future if the new Mission Statement is true. The MOA may be able to balance their financial books with their proposal to the musicians, but they will have earned notoriety as the people who decided to destroy one of Minnesota’s, and the nation’s, musical gems. 

I am certain that there is more than one way to solve the MOA’s financial problems that include the Minnesota Orchestra in the future. As a classical music lover myself, I urge the MOA to please, please do not proceed with this new Mission Statement. Reinstate the previous Mission Statement that puts the Minnesota Orchestra back where it belongs:

Our mission is to enrich and inspire our community as a symphony orchestra internationally recognized for its artistic excellence.

Our mission will be implemented by:
  • Enhancing the traditional core of concerts with innovative approaches to programming and format;
  • Providing the finest educational and outreach programs;
  • Representing and promoting the Minnesota Orchestra and the State of Minnesota to audiences across the state, across the country and around the world through tours and electronic media;
  • Maintaining an acoustically superior hall with a welcoming environment.”
Now, that's more like it.....

Credit: Greg Helgeson

And while we're at it, how about the MOA's list of its assets on page 5 of the Strategic Plan?  There's something missing from their list: the Minnesota Orchestra, which is THE most important asset the MOA has.  Here's the MOA's list of assets:

"The Minnesota Orchestral Association has many assets:

     •rich history of artistic excellence
     •strongly supportive local community, Board and management
     •established local, national & international artistic reputation "


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