Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Coherence Test at the Mattress Factory

For not-for-profit organizations, its competency – or that thing they do really well and competitors can’t compete – should be built from their mission. The mission provides coherence – or purpose – and therefore builds strategy.

I wanted to complete the Coherence Test on the Mattress Factory on the Northside to determine if they are coherent. Therefore, their mission will be used as the basis for each question. According to their website,
“The Mattress Factory is a research and development lab for artists. As a museum of contemporary art, it commissions new site-specific works, presents them to the widest possible audience and maintains selected individual installations in a growing - and distinctive - permanent collection. The Mattress Factory's physical and organizational environments have developed out of and responded to a central focus in the creative process.”

Can we sate it?
  • Are we clear about how we create value in the marketplace?
    • Yes. The MF is one of the only installation-focused museums in the world. It provides a testing ground for artists and a learning environment for the surrounding community. 
Do we live it?
  • Are we investing in the capabilities that really matter to our way of play?
    • For the most part, yes. MF administrators try not to limit the creative expression of artists by focusing on the artwork rather than the budget. The MF holds the mantra that they will figure a way to fund the project the artist wants to complete. The MF facilities may be somewhat limiting. The organization has chosen to expand organically and is housed in an old warehouse that has structural limitations. To act as a research resource for artists, they went through a website redesign that has placed all of their entire programming archive in a searchable, accessible format.

Can we state it?
  • Can we articulate the three to six capabilities we do uniquely better than anyone else?
    • Site-specific installation art
    • Educational programming to teach people to see rather than creating future artists
    • Artist residency progra
  • Have we defined how they work together in a system?
    • The administration supports the artists through the residency, whose outcome is the site-specific installation art presented to the public. Finally, the educational department interprets and distills the work so that it is consumable no matter the visitor’s age.
Do we live it?
  • Do all of our businesses draw on this superior capabilities system?
    • Our core programs do draw from this system, but they do have peripheral businesses including the café, gift shop, and facility rentals to help offset expenses. 
  • Do our organizational structure and operating model support and exploit it?
    • From the outside it appears that everything is run well. However, their financials show that they have difficulty bringing in revenue and have run a deficit over the past several years. Program services only brings in approximately 20% of total revenue, so the organization is heavily reliant on contributions and grants, which can have large fluctuations from year to year.
  • Does our performance management system reinforce it?
    • I do not know of their performance management system so cannot speak to it.


Can we state it?
  • Have we identified our product and service sweet spot?
    • Yes, providing a unique visitor experience to look and interact with site-specific installation art. 
  • Do we understand how to leverage the capabilities system in new or unexpected ways?
    • Maybe not. The organization has had the same leadership since its creation in 1977, so the vision is limited to their perspective and may not provide opportunities for new or unexpected practices.
Do we live it?
  • Do most of our products and services we sell fit with our capabilities system?
    • Most of the time. Once again, the gift shop, café, and rentals do not centrally align with their mission. 
  • Are new products and acquisitions evaluated on the basis of their fit with the way to play and capabilities system?
    • I cannot speak confidently, but I would assume the MF does some sort of evaluation process for their capabilities. 
Overall, the MF is a very focused organization who explores the limits of installation art within their limitations of space and finances. They could appear to be heading toward a relatively positive Coherence Score, but there is still plenty of room for improvement – within the limits of a not-for-profit structure.

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