Not the most thrilling of topics on the surface, but delivered with no little panache by Caroline Copeman, who has done a lot of it with TSOs and has written at least one manual (Tools for Tomorrow) for the sector. What struck me was how poor we are at in the arts. Firstly, all but the largest organisations tend to produce their plans for others (for example The Arts Council) rather than for themselves. Secondly, we are quite good at several stages of the strategy cycle: environmental analysis (we know our competitors and how social, economic factors affect us); setting the direction (our mission, we’re usually pretty driven); planning (we often like plans); implementation (I think we’re a sector that usually over rather than under-delivers, when say you compare us with the welfare-to-work business); and evaluation (though we tend towards the anecdotal and here we do tend to over-claim). But where the arts are pretty rubbish is in the crucial stage of working up options and choices. Or as Caroline put it – What (what’s happening out there); So What (what does it mean for us – maybe nothing) and Now What (our response). Our belief in our ability to even imagine, let alone take, radical change in the face of analysis is very limited. Who would have thought that Apple would reinvent their entire business based on moving from selling computers to selling music? Waterstones are busy working out how to move from selling paper books in shops to selling computer files online. Virgin have moved from records to airline tickets to financial products. We tend to put our product – what we do – as a sacred cow squarely in the middle of our planning process. So the strategic planning exercise becomes an exercise in outlining new ways of selling tickets to a regional theatre. Arts charities usually have a vision which is rooted in something larger than a specific building or a touring pattern. But will we give up trying to devise shows to fill the main house – and go and do something else that fulfills our objectives? Will we heck.