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New Bedford Whaling Museum

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Case Analysis: New Bedford Whaling Museum

Petar Torneff,

Organisational design and Management, Dr. McGuire

June 1, 2019

Problem statement

The fundamental question that needs to be addressed is did Anne Brengle do enough during her eleven years of managing the New Bedford Whaling Museum to achieve a long term sustainable growth and financial stability by transforming the museum which was believed to be a stuffy, elitist and inward looking organisation in the past.


Based on the provided information it is evident that during the past eleven years a lot has changed in New Bedford starting from the renovated buildings, markets filled with customers, and children marching to see the skeleton of the rare blue whale suspended from the museum lobby ceiling and all due to Anne Brengle, Executive Director and later CEO of the New Bedford Whaling Museum who was very focused and committed to the set mission and thrived to achieve the best for the museum during all this time.  

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Given the provided information it is evident that Anne Brengle took the re-orientational approach as per the Nadler & Tushman to reinvent the museum, improve organisational effectiveness  and differentiate it from other museums by initiating a plan to change the culture, she wanted more can do attitude and entrepreneurial spirit, restructure the operations and the management layers, restore the financial health and focus more on educational programs.

This is also inline with the McGuire’s levers of Organisational Change that states that a sustainable, organisational wide change requires that at least three of the following levers of change be pulled simultaneously: mission/strategies, culture, people, leadership, policies, structure, work, and tools. Even though culture and people are considered to be of the most difficult to change yet with highest impact on the organisation Anne put a lot of focus on those two as well as the financing of the organisation.

Anne embarked on changing the people and the culture based on her high emotional intelligence and can-do attitude, and the desire the museum to become more entrepreneurial. She started by bringing new people with key hires in education and fund raising and introducing changes in the management layer albeit it looked like she hired and appointed people that she liked and always followed her without really questioning her decisions. This puts into to table if some of the people had the necessary management skills and were really fit for the needed positions.

The lack of proper management skills is even more evident during the  process of cost-cutting exercise due to the significant revenue fall of $158,000. Anne comes to realise that there is a serious problem in the middle level management such as lack of proactivity, financial literacy, zero delegating activities not to mention the understanding of entrepreneurship. It is striking that the management decided to keep maintaining programs that do not generate profit even though the revenue was down.  

What strikes me the most is that Anne constantly improved herself and went to different management programs but only after the crises came she realises that she needs to start investing in her management. Is that a good leader?

We could also argue that not justified financial decisions were taken such as the acquiring of the Kendal extraordinary collection of 70,000 objects related to national history and art during 2001 as it caused considerable strain on the museum’s operational budget. At the same time the unfortunate events of 9/11 have caused a huge drop in visits in the museum and donations dried up overnight. Despite all that the board approved a new expansion strategy.



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