Barbara Nielsen  

Musician Involvement in the Governance of Symphony Orchestras: Will it Increase Organizational Effectiveness? Part III

Barbara Nielsen
May 6, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

In the conclusion of her analysis of musician involvement in orchestra governance, Barbara examines examples of worker involvement in governance from the for-profit world: Cleveland-based Lincoln Electric, UK chocolate manufacturer Cadbury, and the DaimlerChrysler/United Auto Workers (UAW) partnership.

Finally, Barbara presents some findings from Jim Collins seminal monograph "Good to Great and the Social Sector," detailing how the Cleveland Orchestra set and met its goals of excellence.

- Ann Drinan

Is Worker (Musician) Involvement Specific to the Orchestra Field?

The concept of worker involvement in governance is not a new managerial concept, although its implementation has been sporadic throughout the 20th century. In the early 1900s, Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) was a proponent of collective action in society, and through democratic governance, she believed that individuals can find fulfillment. Follett was born in Quincy MA and educated at Radcliffe College. Her expertise was in political science, human relations and management, and democracy; she was a speaker on labor- management relations. She influenced the development of organizational studies with her concepts of power, negotiation, and employee participation.

As outlined in a book review by Babcock (1), three of her most influential beliefs are:

  1. Cooperation and “cooperative competition” yield better results than cut-throat competition”

  2. Democratic procedures are the best means to achieve individual fulfillment within groups because only then will all participants feel both involved and responsible

  3. Concept of “power-with rather than power-over”— belief that an organization accomplishes its tasks more effectively by creating more power throughout the organization, not by limiting it to those who have nominal authority within a hierarchical structure.

After her death, Mary Parker Follett’s philosophies were basically forgotten in America, but her concepts retained popularity in Great Britain, and the Japanese established the Follett Association in the 1950s. It is interesting to note that it is uncertain whether her ideas were rejected in America because she was ahead of her time or because she was a woman.

Situations exist in the for-profit business sector that exemplify the idea that employee participation can work. A prominent example of a company that has practiced a variation of employee participation throughout most of its corporate life is Lincoln Electric, a non-union company based in Cleveland, OH and founded in 1895. Lincoln Electric,a global leader in the production of welding equipment, is known for its innovative employee incentive programs and advisory boards, which were established in the early 20th century. James F. Lincoln implemented the Incentive Performance System that resulted in a “pay-for-performance” system, one of the first such incentive programs in the country.

In 1914 the Employee Advisory Board was established – it includes elected representatives from every department and has been meeting every 2 weeks for nearly the last century. The goal of the Advisory Board is for direct and open communication between employees and senior management. Other landmark incentive initiatives that benefit the employee include the implementation of group life insurance in 1915, employee paid vacation in 1923, a stock ownership plan in 1925, and an Incentive Bonus Program in 1934. In addition, after 3 years all employees have guaranteed employment. (2)

The Lincoln Electric website states the following employee incentive goal: “Through this well-defined group of incentives, Lincoln encourages and compensates individual initiative and responsibility. Employees work together to reduce costs and improve quality. These individual and cooperative efforts create a more profitable company, the success of which each person shares according to his own contribution.”

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