Decision-making in British Symphony Orchestras

Maitlis, Sally (1997) Decision-making in British Symphony Orchestras. Harmony, 4. pp. 45-56.

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How are key decisions made in British symphony orchestras? What formal and informal decision-making systems exist? How do they vary between orchestras? In particular, what is the role of musicians in important artistic and commercial matters and how satisfied are they with the decision- making processes in their organizations?

These are the questions underlying a study of decision making and change in symphony orchestras which I am conducting at the Institute of Work Psychology at the University of Sheffield, England. Organizational research on orchestras, in particular British orchestras, is relatively rare. One notable exception is the major comparative study of 78 United States, United Kingdom, and German symphony orchestras which was carried out by J. Richard Hackman, Jutta Allmendinger, and Erin Lehman.1 In an interview published in the April 1996 issue of Harmony, Hackman identified such factors as adequate financial resources and good leadership as critical to an orchestra’s effectiveness, both as to its artistic performance and in terms of member job satisfaction.2 However, little research exists which examines, in depth and over time, the day-to-day functioning of such organizations, especially considering the parts played by musicians when they are not on the stage.

My research involves a study of the decision-making and related organizational change processes of three British symphony orchestras. To date, I have followed these orchestras over the period of a year. The study is ongoing and since detailed data analysis is currently in progress, this report presents only an overview of preliminary findings. The report describes the three different types of symphony orchestras which exist in Great Britain and, outlining the research methods adopted to study them, examines the decision-making systems in place in one orchestra from each category. I anticipate that the results of my completed research will be available later this year and will be published by the Symphony Orchestra Institute.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: orchestras, decision making, organizational change
Subject(s): Organisational behaviour
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2016 14:52
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2018 10:28
Funders: n/a

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