Your vision in practice
Once your vision is in place, how do you start to use it to shape your work? You may want to begin by shaking things up by discussing what you should start or stop doing, and then follow that up with some pilot projects. These allow you to check that you are on the right track before going all in with a new approach.
Piloting (and some positives from the pandemic)
Heritage organisations can be relatively risk averse, but many were compelled by the pandemic to try new things they had not previously got around to, or dared to try -approaches that looked too risky, or even outlandish, compared to the norms of the sector. Although a time of huge anxiety, the pandemic liberated some organisations to experiment and find new audiences. Its lasting message is that you don’t have to be completely prepared, in order to test something out.
Above all, don’t be reluctant to tell people that you are trying out a pilot scheme. Using the word ‘try’ creates a willingness to engage.
Some useful rules for piloting:
• Never try anything without knowing what you want to test.
• Know your target audience – you might try out an idea on a small cohort initially, rather than everyone who visits your venue.
• Be open, not shy about your new experiments, and create a buzz. People like to know you’re evolving.
• Measure and review. Remember not to steer people too much, so they say what you want to hear out of politeness – open and honest feedback is what you are seeking. Remember too that a freeness of format is more enlightening – in general, a chat is better than a tick sheet.
• Once you’ve run a pilot, do it again. Make an element of experiment part of your culture.
No pilot is 100% successful the first time around – but through tweaking, tinkering and re-trying, you will improve. Using this method, fear is replaced by the expectation of an outcome, with failure being fine as one potential result.
Shaking things up and staying relevant
Armed with an honest, well-thought through vision and some new real world pilot experiments, you are in a strong position to steer your organisation with confidence. No vision is ever complete, but it gives a basis to keep asking yourself:
• What should we stop doing?
• What should we start doing?
• What are we doing that we want to do more of?
This will make you resilient to the changes around you and give you confidence to deal with whatever circumstances bring. In a related piece, we can see how building a strong vision and mission was critical for the team creating a new civic museum from scratch in Barnsley.