Curtain up for Effective Quality Management

Theater Winterthur Sets Course for the Future

Public donors are increasingly concerned to ensure that contributions from public funds are put to good use. In order to satisfy the requirements of the public purse, and also to gain the confidence of private supporters, more and more universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations are introducing quality management systems. It is more than likely that in the medium term theaters will also face a higher level of scrutiny from their donors. As one of Switzerland’s five largest theaters, Theater Winterthur has decided to prepare for this challenge. Jointly with TQU Group Winterthur, which forms part of the Steinbeis Network, and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), the theater is developing a process and performance model for performance venues, theaters for guest performances by touring companies, and theaters staging their own productions: the Theater Quality Frame.

Swiss theater statistics for the period between 2007 and 2011 indicate that whereas the number of performances is on a steady increase audience numbers are stagnating, while expenses, taking inflation into account, have remained stable. These figures show that theaters need to work more efficiently if they want to hold on to their audience numbers. An increase in efficiency can be achieved by applying modern theater management methods. In fact, controlling, marketing, audits, and governance are no longer alien concepts in the theater world. With the development of modern theater management, the processes of creating theater are taking center stage. They are the cost drivers of a theater’s rehearsal, production, and performance operations. Careful planning and the standardization of processes help to permanently reduce staff costs and at the same time increase staff motivation by creating a transparent, secure working environment. What they need now is a comprehensive management system tailored to the needs of theaters and performance organizers to better coordinate all the processes and activities of a theater.

Theater Winterthur has decided to collaborate with TQU Group Winterthur and ZHAW to analyze and improve its processes and link them to form an integrated quality management system. The three project partners are implementing their pilot project in three steps. In a first step, all core processes, management processes, and support processes were described and enhanced using a Theater Quality Process Map. In a second step, all performance indicators were determined and visualized in a Theater Quality Monitor. In the final step, the theater will be accredited to ISO 9001:2008 standard. The project has been awarded state funding from the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI).

The results of the pilot project have already led to the development of initial model approaches: The new Theater Quality Process Model mainly brings together the three core processes of theaters: production, performance management, and program development/delivery. The Theater Quality Monitor was developed to reach and monitor the project targets. It visualizes their performance in six target dimensions: finances, artistic quality, dealing with different stakeholders, development and innovation, sustainability, and processes. A trial and further conceptual improvements will be conducted at other theaters in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria.

The development partnership enables the development of a circular model and thus constitutes an ideal climate for innovation. As an experienced business partner, TQU Group Winterthur will guarantee that the new system complies with internationally recognized quality standards and the standards of modern management. The Center for Cultural Management at the ZHAW School of Management and Law works closely with the partners in the areas of generalization and model development and ensures knowledge transfer to the expert and research communities. Theater Winterthur provides the practical field based on which a practically oriented, highly effective management model will be created.


Daniel Eiche
TQU Group (Winterthur)

Marc Baumann | Silvia Lorenz
Theater Winterthur

Diana Betzler | Sabrina Kabitz
Center of Arts Management (ZKM)

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