Report Finds SAG Lacking Clear Mission

e Screen Actors Guild is a "schizophrenic organization" that lacks a "clear mission and strategic direction," according to a confidential report conducted for SAG by the Towers Perrin management consulting firm.The report obtained by The Hollywood Reporter paints a bleak picture of the actors union and makes sweeping recommendations to overhaul the guild's operations and to create a "new structure."The report, submitted to SAG's board of directors in May-shortly after SAG launched a six-month strike against the advertising industry-portrays SAG as a union whose elected officials are often at odds with the guild's staff on a wide range of key issues. "SAG lacks a clear, shared mission and strategy, which is the foundation of an effective organization," the report says. "There is no consensus regarding SAG's mission, which is essential for establishing a shared consensus about SAG's goals."The report also found that "SAG has no formal strategic plan," leading to organizational "confusion" because SAG lacks "a road map for staff, officers, and the board to follow."A strategic plan is important because "it is the basis for annual business plans-which SAG does not have" and because "it provides consistency in the transition between elected administrators," the report says. "Compounding the confusion, each new SAG president typically has his/her own strategic agenda for SAG. These agendas may conflict with existing agendas and priorities. There is little continuity from one president's agenda to the next. In addition, influential committee chairpersons and members alter SAG's direction and strategies with their own agendas. And influential SAG staff members have their own views of SAG's mission, strategy, and priorities."The report also found that infighting between staff and elected officials has spawned several problems for the guild."Staff members report that clear direction has been lacking for many years and that its absence has resulted in much frustration and low morale," the report says. "SAG officers and the board are frustrated by the perception that the staff does not seem to always share their agenda. The staff is frustrated that the officers and board do not share their agendas. Staff members are confronted with changing and/or conflicting priorities, vague lines of authority, management inability to focus [and] confusion over roles and responsibilities. As a result, the staff may be in a "survival mentality.'"The Towers Perrin report had its origins in last year's decision by the board to ask the guild's members to approve a dues increase. Board members felt that if they were going to ask the members to approve a dues increase, they should make sure the guild was spending the money as efficiently as possible.What the report found was that SAG was not being run efficiently-or effectively. "The board asked for a review of guild operations at the time the dues increase was passed in the fall of 1999," said SAG spokesman Greg Krizman. "So, like any organization that puts itself under a microscope, both strengths and weaknesses are revealed. The board and the staff have been discussing and reviewing the Towers Perrin findings and will no doubt take them into account in order to give members the best possible value for their dues dollars."The report found that the guild's organizational structure "is not effective or efficient enough to meet SAG's requirements. Organization roles and responsibilities are unclear. Regional and national roles are mixed. There are significant redundancies and overlaps in processes and between departments and individuals."All this has led to "confusion about what is most important, reduced organizational effectiveness and efficiency [and] a disconnect between officers/board, managers, employees, and members," the report says.One of SAG's biggest problems is the inability of its senior staff and elected officers to work together effectively, according to the report. A survey of SAG's top executives, conducted in March and April, found that the guild's "senior staff is extremely critical of elected leadership." According to the survey, "no one in senior management" agrees with the following statements:"The officers have a clear vision and goals for SAG."The officers are effective at leading SAG."The officers' behaviors and decisions are consistently member focused."Senior staff, the officers, and the board interact effectively."Many staffers have quit the guild during the past year, and more are leaving. Last week, longtime SAG national executive director Ken Orsatti said he will retire after the first of the year, and associate national executive director John McGuire said he is looking for a new, less demanding job within SAG that will give him more free time.Towers Perrin also surveyed the guild's board of directors and the guild's employees in April and found that neither group "is complimentary of leadership's performance." The report says: "Just 15 percent of employees and 7 percent of the board say that "senior staff, the officers, and the board interact effectively. Fewer than 30 percent of employees and board members say that the board and the officers are "effective at leading SAG.'"The report also found that "perhaps the most dramatic findings in the employee and board surveys concern questions about communication, openness, and trust. Just 32 percent of employees and 14 percent of the board feels, that the SAG work environment "fosters teamwork and cohesiveness.'"The survey also found that only 24 percent of employees and 14 percent of the board believe "it's safe to say what you think around here," and only 23 percent of employees and 12 percent of the board believe that "communication at SAG is open and candid." Only 4 percent of the board members believe that "at SAG, we manage disagreements and conflicts constructively."To address the several problems outlined in the report, Towers Perrin has recommended a major overhaul of the guild's organizational structure-from top to bottom.The report makes several broad suggestions to improve the guild's operations. The report says SAG should "unite the board and senior staff behind a common set of priorities; improve trust, collaboration, and communication among all internal constituents; improve the business acumen of the board of directors, officers, senior staff, managers, and administrative staff; improve SAG's operations, [and] strengthen SAG's financial position through rigorous and fiscally prudent financial practices."Specifically, the report recommends the creation of an executive office to "replace the current national executive director position" and the establishment of an operations structure to oversee the day-to-day management of guild affairs.The creation of an executive office, which the report describes as a "break from tradition," would make the guild's senior staff responsible for "strategy and stewardship: prospectively evaluating the entertainment industry environment, recommending strategies and policies to keep SAG relevant, promoting SAG's interests externally, and judiciously allocating and caring for SAG's resources."The proposed operations structure would be a whole new structure to which many of the guild's existing departments-including legal, residuals, member services, and contract enforcement-would report. The report says this would allow SAG "to execute the strategic and business plans on behalf of members."The report also calls for:-The creation of an external affairs function "to enhance SAG's capabilities, roles, and responsibilities for communications, public and media relations, government relations, and industry relations";-The creation of a strategy and research function "to enhance SAG's capabilities, roles, and responsibilities for conducting research, synthesizing the results, creating strategy and policy recommendations, facilitating the strategy and business planning process, providing on-demand information, and creating a knowledge management process";-The elevation of the guild's human resources function "to enhance SAG's human capital capabilities, roles, and responsibilities and to help lead cultural change";-The creation of six regional offices and the closure of many of SAG's outlying branches.The report also recommends that SAG "resolve jurisdictional issues with (the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists); resolve agent franchise issues with the Association of Talent Agents; increase SAG's understanding of emerging technologies and their impact on performers' wages, working conditions and employment opportunities; [and] pursue a legislative agenda that targets the retention of domestic production."But the report also raises questions about whether SAG's leadership has the will to adopt its sweeping recommendations to create a "new structure" at SAG."Inertia and reliance on the "old way of doing things' might inhibit change and cause some staff members to balk at the new structure," the report say