LECTURE 2. “Understanding the cultural landscape”
Strategy making starts with gap analysis – where are we now, where do we want to be, and how to get there.

Good strategy rests on internal strengths, providing solutions to its internal weaknesses, taking advantage of external opportunities and turning external threats into advantages. Often SWOT analysis is used to assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. While SWOT is good tool to present the results, it does not provide sufficiently detailed method to analyse the current situation influencing cultural sectors and organisations.

When looking at external trends that might impact the cultural strategy either positively or negatively, you can use PESTLE analyse model:

  • Political trends
  • Economic trends
  • Socio-cultural trends
  • Technological trends
  • Legal trends
  • Environmental trends

It is never enough to simply list strengths or weaknesses, opportunities or threats. There needs to be clear connection to core strategy, it needs to show how we address the challenges by using our strengths. No trend itself is entirely positive or negative, it depends on how can we react to it and use it for our benefit.

One of the most efficient analysing tools for strategy making both on government and on organisation level is Problem Tree Method. The main weakness with listing problems is mixing causes and effects. For example – museum might say its biggest problem is lack of visitors, but actually, lack of visitors could be rather a result of real problems – maybe the communication is weak, exhibitions are boring, or opening hours are inflexible.

Problem Tree Method allows us to collect all problems and put them into cause and effect relationship. As a result, we will see a sort of a tree with root problems that are not under our direct control, and the core problems, which in turn cause all the other problems. If you tackle the 3-4 core problems, you will automatically deal with all other effects as well.  

Cultural strategy making involves stakeholder analysis – who is the strategy addressed to? Who is my audience? Which of those target groups are more important for my core strategy and which are less? How should I communicate with each of the target groups?

Strategy must present clear mission (reason for existence) and vision (desired future state). A good mission is specific and unique. A good vision is ambitious and articulated. This is often overlooked, they are treated as sentences with little impact, but this is the starting point for entire process. A way to think about it is to ask a provocative question – what if my institution wouldn’t exist? What would change (and let’s hope the answer is not – nothing would change, because then you have a real problem).

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