Contemporary Art Case

The Midwestern Contemporary Museum is located in Chicago and is known as one of the largest facilities that pay the most attention to modern art. This is one of the major achievements of the facility, considering that most contemporary facilities focus on ancient works of art, often neglecting contemporary works. The store deals with contemporary jewelry, exhibition catalogues, gifts, toys, and mobiles. The museum is also involved with promotion of the local artists. This is done by selling their products and services, such as hand-painted jewelry, scarves, literature, and music, which are closely related to the current world.

According to information from the website (2010), the Midwestern Contemporary Museum opened its doors to the Great Lakes in 1967. The organization managed to get a three storied house ten years later. Later, in 1989, Keith Schmidt was appointed as the executive director of the company. Later in the same year, MCA management elected Peter Smith as the chairman of the Museum. This was after Schmidt served on the board for eight years, from 1981 to 1989.

After occupying their respective positions, the relationship between Keith Schmidt and Peter Smith was characterized by a lot of disagreements and misunderstandings. Their discussions have been full of endless debates caused by a lack of agreement on some issues concerning the organization (, 2010). The situation has led many board meetings to be ineffective in concluding critical matters.


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One of the main areas of misunderstanding between Keith Schmidt and Peter Smith concerns the rate of expansion of the organization—an idea that originated from Schmidt (, 2010). Schmidt wanted the changes to be more abrupt in order to get the desired form of the organization. On the other hand, Smith was very conservative and wanted the changes to be slower, contrary to Schmidt’s wishes. These repulsive views brought a lot of tension in the entire organization. The decision making process became slower obstructing various activities of the organization.

Following the perpetual disagreements between these two leaders, Peter Smith was forced to exit the board in 1991. He resigned and left the management of the museum to Keith Schmidt. Soon after his exit, the board led by Keith Schmidt decided to start a campaign that was expected to raise $55 million for the construction of the Midwestern Contemporary Museum’s new facility (, 2010). The board obtained about 68 percent of these funds through pledging.

In late 1991, the Smiths completely exited from the field of art. Unfortunately, they missed their payments on their $5 million pledge toward the construction of the new building (, 2010). After the construction of the new facility began in 1993, the company found itself in a big problem when it realized that the funding of the project significantly depended on Peter Smith’s pledge. This situation was worsened by the implementation of the new policy, which required non-profit organizations to record pledges as income. Through this policy, the Financial Accounting Board was to register pledges only after the money had been transferred.

Discussion part A

Is Peter Smith micromanaging Keith Schmidt? Please support and document your position.

The relationship between Peter Smith and Keith Schmidt

Through this policy, the Financial Accounting Board was to register pledges only after the money had been transferred. Smith seems to concentrate on every step that Schmidt is making on the matters concerning the museum. He is paying unnecessary attention even to the minor decisions made by Schmidt. In addition, Peter Smith is criticizing every decision made by Keith Schmidt—an indication that he is micromanaging him.

To start with, Peter Smith is determined to be involved in every decision made. He is also very determined to avoid any delegation of decisions. In his management, Smith displays strong characteristics of micromanagers.

For the museum to realize its goals, the members of the board should work as a team to achieve these goals. As Aucoin (2002) commented, those people who work well in high-performing teams are self-motivated towards the realization of the same visions (p. 302). Unfortunately, things are the opposite at the MCA museum. The chairman and the director of the organization are pursuing different visions. There is no feasibility between the goals being pursued. This is the reason why there is disagreement in every aspect.

When Keith Schmidt suggested that the new facility of the museum should be built within the shortest time possible, Peter Smith, who was very conservative, opposed the idea, proposing for slower changes. In this case, Smith is doubting Schmidt’s competence. However, Schmidt’s decision succeeded after the organization finally managed to put up the new facility a few years later.

Disadvantages of micro-management

Micromanagement is a practice that should be strongly discouraged in organizations. It is usually associated with negative outcomes in an organization. It is, therefore, advisable for every member of the board of management in any organization to avoid it.

Micromanagement portrays a professional mistrust of other members of the management. It is a way of undermining the professional capabilities of the other professionals as well as their judgments. By opposing Keith Schmidt’s idea of expanding the museum, Peter Smith was undermining the professional capabilities of Schmidt. Later, Keith Schmidt’s decision proved potent after the completion of the new building in June 1996 (Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago).

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What type of conflict are they experiencing? Describe in detail and explain.

Conflict between the chair of the board and the director

Peter Smith and Keith Schmidt are experiencing a type of conflict that is very common in many organizations. In organizations, Conflict is evident at a different level. Conflict can be at the individual or group level.

The conflict between these two leaders is technical conflict. When a difference in opinions between two people occurs, this kind of conflict is known as a technical conflict (The process of conflict, 2009). It can be fueled by the leadership processes in an organization. In most cases, this type of conflict is caused by differences in opinions pertaining to different tasks in an organization.

Role ambiguity is also a major contributing factor to this conflict between Smith and Schmidt. According to Rahim (2001), role ambiguity can lead to many problems in an organization, which in most cases are similar to those caused by role conflict. Rahim (2001) continued to argue that role ambiguity may influence the intent to drop from the job indirectly through job satisfaction or through organizational conflict. In this case, we have seen the role ambiguity in MCA museum management lead to Peter Smith’s resignation.

The conflict between the managers of an institution can be diminished through the maintenance of clarity in decisions (Rainey, 2009). By clarifying their goals and visions by the managers of an organization, unnecessary conflicts are reduced. It is also advisable for each participant to listen and reason before opposing the decisions of other members. For instance, Peter Smith did not have time to get clarification from Schmidt. Instead, he resigned from the board following their perpetual differences.

Following their endless conflicts with Schmidt, Smith decides to withdraw. He makes no effort to seek accommodation or concessions with his counterpart. As Rainey (2009) commented, this type of conflict can be solved by one of the conflicting parties seeking accommodation and trying to reduce their differences. It would have been advisable for these two parties to make compromise instead of leaving their roles. This process has been applied in many organizations, reducing conflicts and disagreements in these organizations.

What can an organization do structurally to reduce conflict resulting from role ambiguity?

Role ambiguity has greatly contributed to many types of conflicts occurring in various organizations. In most cases, the roles of different individuals holding specific positions come out unclearly, leading to conflicts between these parties.. However, these conflicts can be reduced in organizations by changing the structural layout of an organization.

In every organization, it is vital to have a clear job description for both the director and the board chair. The responsibilities of each leader, as well as expectations of each position, should be clearly described. As Carlson and Donohoe (2010) observed, this kind of description helps the chairman and the director of the board understand who does what in the management.

It is advisable for an executive director who is newly appointed to have a good start with the board chair. Carlson and Donohoe (2010) discussed that one way through which an executive director and the board chairman can lay a good foundation for a good relationship is having a conversation on what each expects from each other. Through such a conversation, the two leaders get to understand each other and then interact accordingly.

Conflicts in an organization can also be reduced by developing a social contract between the chairman of the board and the director of an organization. According to Carlson and Donohoe (2010), this can be achieved by having clear conversations between these two leaders. This involves a clear indication of the frequency of information sharing and getting advice from each other. Carlson and Donohoe (2010) continue to argue that such contract should also indicate how the board chairs and the director would like to communicate with each other. It is advisable to have this process undertaken in the organization whenever there are changes in the leadership of the organization.

The regular meeting between the chairman of the board and the director is also encouraged in the elimination of the conflicts. In such meetings, the two are able to discuss the current as well as the emerging issues on time to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings later. Through such meetings, the two leaders get a chance to update each other on the organization. Above all, the two leaders can just have a fun together as a way of strengthening their relationship (Carlson and Donohoe, 2010).

The structure of an organization should also be designed in such a way that no leader will be faced with decisions in surprise. Surprise can be one source of conflicts between the chairman of the board and the director. Decisions made abruptly are more likely to cause disagreement than the decisions preceded by notifications. Everyone should know everything that is going to affect the organization on time (Carlson and Donohoe, 2010). This includes the major issues that can present a challenge to the survival of an organization. For instance, Schmidt should have informed Smith, The chairman of the board on the need for a quick development earlier enough to prevent the conflicts that erupted later. This could have even initiated support from Smith. In other words, it is very necessary for any organization to initiate enough communication between the board chairman and the director.

Walonick (n.d) observed that the conflicts resulting from the role ambiguity can lead to stress in organization. An organization that is free from role ambiguity provides a favorable environment for every member of an organization.

According to (Walonick, n.d), an organization can overcome the problems related to the role ambiguity through clarification of the goals and decision criteria. In this case, an organization comes up with a clear outline on how the critical decisions concerning an organization are made. The goals of an organization are also clearly defined. With this clear structure, an organization will manage to reduce conflicts to a large extent.

Another method that can be used in solving the conflicts caused by the role ambiguity in an organization is through clarification of the responsibilities and the authority of different stakeholders. In this case, every individual will be certain of what he or she is supposed to do (Walonick, n.d). For instance, the conflicts in the MCA can be reduced by clarifying the responsibilities and authority of both the board chairman and the executive director. By doing so, the conflicts will be reduced since each person would be concentrating on their areas.

How should Peter Smith react when his advice is not followed by the board? Be specific.

Reducing misunderstandings in an organization

In every organization, it is advisable for the members of the board to make very wise actions when reacting to other member’s opinions.

In the case of the MCA, Peter Smith did not make the right decision of leaving his job after the disagreements. It would have been reasonable for him to seek a solution to the prevailing problem.

According to Mina (2009), there exist some board members who care only about specific topics paying little attention to others. Such kinds of members according to Mina are referred to as single-issue advocates. This kind of people pays attention only to the issues touching their areas of interest giving little attention to the other fields. These individuals are totally involved in the debates touching their areas of interest. In the case of the MCA, Schmidt Keith could be a single issue advocate. When Schmidt suggested for an abrupt expansion of the museum, he fully devoted to have his motion passed. It i, therefore, advisable for Peter Smith to understand Schmidt and then act accordingly.

In order to avoid the negative consequences of this situation, it would be advisable for Smith to Speak privately to the members with whom they have differences. In this case, Peter would have for instance advised Schmidt on the need to consider all the issues while making some critical decisions pertaining to an organization.

In addition, Smith should have clarified to the board the need to attend all the matters. For instance, a swift expansion of the organization required significant funding. This may affect other activities of the museum leading to inadequacies. A clear communication between the board members can work when such issues arise.

How are the roles of board chairman and an executive director different in an organization such as MCA?

The differences between the role of the board chairman and the director

The roles of the board chairman and the director of an organization, such as the MCA, have some slight differences. However, the roles of these two leaders are closely intertwined since they handle one line of resources.

The chairman of the board chairs the meetings of the board. He is the overall chair who keeps the board at the governance level of thinking in all the meetings and discussions held pertaining to the organization.

The chairman of the board is also obliged with the duty of ensuring that the board is in compliance with the laws. In case the organization deviates away from the legal framework, it is his or her authority to make corrections. These include the by-laws, state as well as the federal laws that govern the organization (Carlson and Donohoe, 2010).

However, some of the roles are intertwined. The board chair and the director should work together with the director of the board to achieve the mission of the organization. There is a need to have full commitment from these two parties in order to achieve organizational goals.

The director of the board assists the chairman in preparation of the agendas of the meetings. It is necessary to have the contribution of these two leaders in the process of preparation of the agendas to prevent conflicts during the meetings.

The importance of a good relationship between the board chairman and the executive director

A good relationship between the board chair and the executive is crucial in an organization. When these two have a problem dealing with each other, many activities of an organization are interfered with. This can finally lead to the downfall of the organization. According to Carlson and Donohoe (2010), if the chairman of the board and the executive director are not aligned, an organization is more likely to face a disaster. A good relationship between these two leaders is a major factor that contributes to progress and efficiency in an organization.

Discussion part B

What alternative approaches could Peggy Fischer use to collect the unfilled pledge?

In a non-profit organization like the MCA, the failure of pledges can lead to a very serious problem in the activities of an organization. It is, therefore, advisable to have clever ways of collecting unfilled pledges.

One way of doing this is through a letter. In this letter, Fischer should try to convince Smith to honor his previous pledges to the museum. In this way, the board may recover the funds and clear their debts.

In case this method proves futile, Fischer can take the next step of suing Smith in court. Fischer should explain to the court the fact that Smith’s pledge was accounted for in the plans of the building of new facility. In this case, it would not be justified for Smith to avoid the payment after resignation. The court may finally force him to pay the money.

Should Fischer involve the board in further discussions leading to a decision about whether or not to file a lawsuit? Or should she formulate a recommendation on her own for the board’s next meeting? Please support your answer and explain.

Depending on the prevailing situations and the history of the organization, Fischer should involve the board in further discussions to decide whether to file a lawsuit. I can discourage her to formulate the recommendations on her own.

The dangers of independent recommendations in the board

According to Kleinsasser (1995), a good board chair should describe what he or she plans to do to the board members before taking any action. A board chair should lead by example to other members about the importance of openness in the organization. By doing so, the board members are likely to provide support in the decisions since they learn that the board members want to avoid conflicts. It is advisable for Fischer to do the same thing. He should first communicate to the members of the board first on what he intends.

If Fischer opts to make recommendations on her own, she will surprise some of the board members. According to Carlson and Donohoe (2010), such a surprise will initiate a conflict within the board.

In case Fischer formulates a recommendation on her own, her decision is likely to face resistance. This is because the members are likely to feel that they are being excluded in making critical decisions of an organization. This act can therefore fuel conflicts in the organization.

There is a need to have a clear communication among the board members on every step taken that can affect the organization. Each member is therefore entitled to receive updates on different matters concerning the organization. Fischer’s decision to formulate her recommendations on her own for presentation in the following meeting will deny the other members the right to have updated information. Current as well as the emerging issues should be communicated to the board members on time.

In addition, a majority of the board members may be having views different from those from Fischer. When Fischer writes down her recommendations, he expects that what he suggests would be the best option and therefore would be accepted by all board members. In case he receives an opposition, he is likely to feel offended and this may destroy relationships within the organization.

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Do you think the museum should sue the Smiths? Why or why not? Please justify your decision and response.

Bearing in the prevailing circumstances, the museum should take a step of suing the Smiths. According to (2010), the funding of the new building depended significantly on the unfulfilled pledge from Smith. The unfulfillment of the pledge led the museum in financial crisis due to accumulation of the debts.

Since the funds from Smith’s pledge were included in the plan for the new building, the museum should, therefore, seek legal assistance to obtain a portion of Smith’s pledge.

Before being hired at the museum, Smith had agreed to adhere to the rules and regulations governing the museum. These involve the honor of the pledges made. The museum can use this as a basis for its charge against Smith.

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