This working group will identify the questions and challenges that have arisen during the conference about the infrastructure of national history museums and the natural history learning field that we need to address in order to be successful at learning research and innovation.

Rationales for reconsidering organizational structure

Content Integration

  • Noyce- strategic initiative about content integration across the whole museum, whether its the output from the web, exhibits, publishing, films etc.
  • How we decide what are priorities are, and how we work on focusing on them.
  • Trying to get ahead and not being disparate.

Working across the friction in those territories.

How things are understood now and in the past- senior leadership positions because of attrition brings opportunity to think about institutional agenda.

How do we work together to try new stuff and think about our research in different ways.

Opportunity: new structures as opposed to silos

  • Example: education, science, exhibits combined. Opportunities created. Two years ago..already fewer boundaries.Curator of Archaeology, keen to engage with public programming, example of chance created by organizational structure.
  • Role of Exhibits departments in bridging the gaps between silos. benefit of collaboration- what models are there? Where and why do they work? How can I take this back?
  • Context/concept development example- cross departmental team to work on each exhibit; marketing, membership, one scientific voice. Good process to be part of. Previously scientists would check the content or correct it. Timescale- 2/3 years. Agreement model works with this timescale, around 20 people on team
  • Opened up planning and meetings to all employees. Newsletters, town hall meetings.
  • Makes people feel valued, particularly if they have been there for a long time under changing leadership.
  • Awareness of the role people play in the institution
  • Lots of new people- learn what e.g. development does, what estates do, bring new people into the tradition of the museum by making introductions
  • Academy 101 example, every 3 months. All new hires spend the 1st week of meeting research, HR, in depth view of marketing and development
  • NHM example- update day every 6 months- sports and social organisations

Issue: high turnover
Opportunity created through new director.
How can I learn how best to make the most of this chance, through listening to others?

Opportunity: New building
  • chance to move from being a small state museum to a larger collection. How best to make the transition?
  • Buy in? Consensus?Methods or best practice.
  • Restructuring around new building
  • Rebranding around new building
  • Integrating new technology in new building
  • Increasing commitment to public with same workforce

Digital technology
  • deliverables
  • community participation and support

Degree of formality of organisation
  • Tradition and entrenchment
  • Interaction between formal and informal dynamics
  • Role of leaders in facilitating change
  • Opportunity to learn from others- and take examples from respected institutions back to organization?

Issue: declining workforce
  • Decreasing in size, dynamics changing
  • Science attrition cf exhibits intentional?
  • Collections still large
  • % greater damage to exhibits
  • 50% cut in curators, 18 to 9, 65 FTE
  • More work for less people

Varying Science identity throughout organization
  • Science and not science. Self defined.
  • How can that be promoted across institution
  • Strategic plan- teams working together, notion of silos disappeared as no physical separation in working space
  • Merging programmes and working groups

Internal advocacy
  • How to use insights from many organisations to change own institution
  • How best to learn from this opportunity

Bottom up organisational change model
  • Australia Museum, Sydney

Working across many sites

Changing culture towards education
  • education not an objective per se, it is a tool to achieve a conservation outcomes

How to achieve organisational change
  • "stubbornness of keeping things the same whilst wanting to achieve great change"
  • the ologies as opposed to 'curator of climate change/biodiversity/world cultures' for example

Clear leadership statement

  • Alignment of process despite different contents, makes change easier given common understanding of how change happens
  • Kirk example- clear statement: 'the role of the curatorial staff is to engage the public in science'
  • Mandate supports behaviours
  • Consequences of not following mandate? Relationship with university, external organisations influencing internal dynamics

Structure changes what you do and how you do it

Key themes

1. Attrition
2. Structure changes
3. Preparing for future context, gathering evidence in advance

Trend: 50% have new building

Unique issue: Duty for research collection preservation in natural history settings

  • How can that be maintained in organizational restructure? Example palaeobotany -> climate change?
  • Re framing science research topics, themes across departments

Motivation for organisational change?
  • Empire building?
  • Institutional issues
  • Practical- staff loss particularly for exhibits
  • Necessity - how do we function given the same amount of work with half as many people

AAM membership

Efficiency and synergy

  • How can we get exhibits, programs together to function better for education?

Project based collaboration
  • short term

  • People wanting to advance careers, drawing staff under in order to achieve that

Network system

  • cross divisional working as a matter of course, because short term collaboration wasnt working
  • Divisions within divisions causing tensions, now thinking of people as a network system.
  • Key question: How does it affect our visitors?
  • Museums starting to think in a more network way, opportunity for action at different nodes of network
  • Benefit: can speak to staff in different departments without having to go up and down hierarchy

Perceived competition/'better' models

  • Senior leadership influenced by what others are doing

  • rapid turnover- pace of change too fast with no chance to embed or reflect
  • Needs to be someone who gathers support and isn't autocratic
  • Communication (across organization)

Buy in

  • critical for restructure
  • Right timing

Levels of change
  • change can happen from within organization

Risk taking
  • Not being afraid to fail
  • Being comfortable with ambiguity
  • Someone who can shake things up
  • Trying things out
  • Learning together

Documenting learning
  • sharing
  • reflecting on progress
  • reflecting on position within change

Change in activity
  • Despite reduced workforce, change can make processes more efficient, but only with reflection

Financial driver for change
  • Funding streams as names for departments
  • Accountability in terms of science, but also learning science
  • financial context, taxpayers money being allocated to non arts and culture organisations
  • Going private as a solution

Infrastructure change

  • Management advisory council- needs or concerns of the staff are listened to
  • Open door policy
  • Professional support for employee audit
  • Example: evaluation parameters
  • Two aspects: teamwork and customer service, both external and internal

Pace of change
  • Speed of change can outpace inciters of change!

Some people will never be happy!

Psychology of change
  • How people prefer to be communicated with
  • Use preferred styles, more trust
  • Trusted working atmosphere, sets foundation for better public engagement
  • Staff attitude
  • Stereotypes- scientists in ivory towers, educators don't know as much
  • Break stereotypes by holding events across departments, go for drinks with people
  • Have a public space, eat lunch together
  • Personality typing e.g. Myers Briggs; change in approach to tensions based on recognition of preferred style


Issue: board composition and effectiveness
  • Context- state run- governor appointed board
  • Example: 4 professors on board. Director appointed by board
  • Unionized
  • Mission statement being redefined

Issue: taking on new projects whilst keeping hold of existing work streams

  • 20% different not 20%more
  • Personality of people who will take on more
  • Quality of programmes declines

Providing Continuing Professional Development to support change
  • new skills required

Skills based approach
  • 7 strands of work across departments
  • public value impact a factor in prioritising workstreams
  • Funnel analogy- focus

Strategic plan
  • What are we going to stop doing?
  • How do you get buy in?

Individual -> organizational change

  • Personal responsibility for mode of operation

What are you most passionate about?
  • Play to strengths, what is your area of expertise

Recognize that every landscape will be challenging, have to work out how best to navigate that

"what would be really good for this organization? -but it would never happen here"
  • A lot of institutional change can come from tangential activities within organization
  • How could it happen on a small scale
  • Under the radar example. Little, experimental things changed their managers' ways of thinking
  • Positive outcomes, not negative
  • Self censorship
  • Fear of senior leadership reaction
  • What small activities could you do that will help you to move closer to your objectives

Research question around self censorship, hierarchy; natural history museums are in a state of flux, less concrete structure that brings opportunity.

Internal Advocacy

  • Prioritized lists by staff, so that you can advocate to senior management on their behalf
  • Communicating openly about competing priorities and realistic timescales
  • Develops skills in planning and project management by delegating
  • Trusting junior members of staff

Distant sites
  • isolation from different sites
  • logistically it takes too long
  • Frame problems as scientific experiments- share with people
  • Individual problem solving?

  • visitors expect immersive, dynamic, personalized, customized (Irvine report) experiences
  • letting go control, allowing visitors to customize
  • Partnership (requires compromise in strategic approach) as a way of promoting synergy across organizations

We need to eat and drink together more! BBQ example, Don't email on a Friday

facilitate meaningful communication. Finding time to speak to someone when you don't want something, allows chance for lateral ideas, connections, not just vertical focus and being blinkered.

Opening communication barriers. Strengthening relationships with colleagues across organizational structure