Story 06: The Big Move

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Sidebar - The Project Committee: What Made It Work

Written by John Bok, Anne Butterfield, Ben Schore, Duncan Smith, Mike Spock, John Stebbins

John Bok, a very public-spirited lawyer who had been involved with many other pro bono civic projects including the startup of the Metropolitan Cultural Alliance, chaired the committee that was trying to get Museum Wharf off the ground. We met weekly at his office—very early in the morning—for more than three years. Staff, board, architects, and managers remember the Project Committee as one of the reasons that Museum Wharf actually happened. Several participants described the workings of those meetings in later interviews:

...the meetings [included] key people at The Children's Museum, the Museum of Transportation, the lawyers, the architects and eventually the project managers and sometimes others. There were maybe fifteen or twenty of us in the room. I was there first as the campaign assistant to get up to speed. Chaired by John Bok, these complicated meetings began at 7:00 a.m. every Thursday morning....I took good notes and it was really useful for me in understanding how to work on the [fundraising] campaign itself.... (Anne Butterfield)

...It was a chance for all the principal actors to come together and solve problems, straighten out schedules, and anticipate future issues that had to be dealt with in a timely way. The meetings were over in an hour.

...Everyone was heard. Problems were aired. I don't recall any time in that meeting process where people's personal agendas colored their behavior in the meeting or the process by which the group came to a consensus. And it was consensus-driven. People would pretty well agree what needs to be done and whatever the mechanism was to accomplish it. (Duncan Smith)

...the Project Committee was very important in allowing both museums to feel as though they had a say in the process....

...John Bok had a very clear series of objectives. He was very analytical. Once he zeroed in on an issue or subject he would bring it to closure, which doesn't happen many times. You need that type of leadership in a nonprofit, but it has to be even-handed. (John Stebbins)

...It was brilliant. The meetings were conducted without fanfare, and everybody showed [up] that needed to show. Nine times out of ten those meetings were done quickly, effectively, and efficiently and set the tone for the week. If you're doing a real estate project, you need to have a rhythm to your process so that people get a sense that on every [Thursday] morning [they're] going to come and do whatever [needs to be done that day]. I'd been in enough projects where that was a problem. We worked quite hard at making sure that the people who were interested in the project and wanted to do something got a chance to be heard and talk to each other....(Ben Schore)

7:00 a.m. on Thursdays. We joked that since we never missed a Thursday meeting, and since we met so early in the morning, perhaps we could even meet on Thanksgiving Day and be back home in time for completing last minute preparations for Thanksgiving dinner.

...The thing that happened—and always happens if you've got good people who like each other—they talk to each other and they have a good time. We made that happen. We were very lucky. (John Bok)

Next: Sidebar - Museum Wharf in the News