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Story 11: Learning to Lead

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Sidebar: Climate Surveys (1971 & 1973)

Written by Mike Spock

For all of the museum's very public successes, everyone—board, management, and staff—knew we were in trouble, but finding the way out was not obvious. Perhaps the most powerful and objective diagnostic instrument that we used with consultants from McBer and Company, Inc. were survey questionnaires that assessed the staff climate (work environment) of the museum.

The questionnaire consisted of thirty-three questions initially under the probing category of What the Climate Is to which staff could respond that they: 1) definitely disagree, 2) are inclined to disagree, 3) are inclined to agree, or 4) definitely agree. Sample questions included the following:

  1. The assignments in this organization are clearly defined.
  2. Our management isn't so concerned about formal organization and authority, but concentrates instead on getting the necessary people together to do the job.
  3. In this organization we set very high standards for performance.

Next, staff was immediately asked to repeat the questionnaire, except questions probed a new category: What the Climate Should Be. Sample questions included the following:

  1. The assignments in this organization should be more clearly defined.
  2. Our management should not be concerned about formal organization and authority, but should concentrate instead on getting the necessary people together to do the job.
  3. In this organization we should set much higher standards for performance.

Both questionnaires were scored for each staff member on six dimensions—conformity, responsibility, standards, rewards, clarity, and team spirit—and displayed in a graph that showed what the perceived climate was versus what they thought it should be. The spread scored on each dimension demonstrated a significant disparity between the two.

This first survey was conducted in 1971 when McBer did the original museum climate assessment; it was repeated two years later to see what changes had occurred between the original assessment and the turnaround. By 1973, progress: the "actual" and "should be" chart lines were much more clearly aligned.

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