Thursday, July 5, 2012

Four characteristics of successful cultural buildings projects

The University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center, in partnership with the Harris School of Public Policy and the research organization NORC recently undertook a study of building projects including museums, performing arts centers (PACs), and theaters.

One of their most amazing findings: "Eighty percent of the projects we studied ran over budget, some by as much as 200 percent." Watch this video for a bit more background on the study:

Helpfully for those undertaking this sort of large scale building project, the team generated a list of four characteristics that were associated with successful cultural buildings projects (emphasis ours):

1. The project’s motivation, driven by both the organization’s artistic mission and by organizational need, was the primary purpose for building.

2. Project leadership that was clear and consistent throughout the planning and building process improved the chance of positive outcomes.

3. Efficient project timelines and the effectiveness of the project leadership helped determine a project’s success in implementation.

4. Project outcomes were influenced by how flexible the organization was in generating revenue post-project completion, and how effective the project leaders were at controlling expenses.

View the study's "Quick Overview" document for a great feasibility matrix showing the relationship of these characteristics. These characteristics mirror many of the suggestions we see time and again at PW&WCBA: for example effective leadership, clear communication, the ability to change course in response to changing needs. What other takeaways can project leaders use from this study?

Visit the Set In Stone website to learn more.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA and the voice behind the @Project_World twitter. She may be reached at

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