1. One stakeholder in this conflict is Gelb, the manager of the Opera. Other stakeholders include the orchestra members, who have contracts up for renegotiation, and the Metropolitan board members, some of whom are put off by Gelb’s artistic vision. Gelb has his own idea of where he wants the opera to go, and of course he is not divided about it. The orchestra members, by contrast, may have varying ideas about Gelb’s ideas, as they obviously want to be well-paid but also want the opera to continue to succeed. The board members are the most divided, both about Gelb and about his ideas for the management of the opera: some of the members are strongly against Gelb and his artistic and financial ideas, whereas others have backed him in his adaptations and alterations of classics and have even suggested the financial reforms he proposes.
2. The balance of power is difficult to decide. Although Gelb is taking most of the actions in this conflict, he has perhaps the least power of any of the stakeholders described above. However, the stakeholders described above are fractured, with the exception of Gelb (because he is just one person). The board would certainly be able to bring Gelb to heel, but only if it were united in opposition to his plans. Similarly, the orchestra members would be able to mount a much more convincing and effective opposition to Gelb’s efforts if there were not some truth to his concerns, and if it were not necessary to make some cuts in order to prevent the Met from going bankrupt.

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As far as interdependence goes, there is clearly a high degree of interdependence among the stakeholders in this case study. Gelb, as the manager, is dependent upon the board and upon the orchestra members. Without the board, he will not have the funding necessary to carry out his plans or even to continue operation. Without the orchestra, Gelb has no opera. The orchestra is dependent on Gelb and on the board — the board, for the same reason that Gelb is dependent on the board, and Gelb, because they need a manager, and Gelb in particular is essential to the artistic vision the opera is currently operating under. The board is the least dependent of all, because there are other entities to which they could donate their money. However, there are relatively few truly top-class operas in the world, and the board members likely feel significant loyalty to this opera in particular, meaning that their independence is somewhat limited by the costs associated with taking their patronage elsewhere.

3. First, on the part of the orchestra and chorus: long-term union resistance to contractual renegotiation resulted in the necessity of coming to a suboptimal solution because of time pressures. There wasn’t any time to renegotiate work rules, for instance. So, if blame is to be assigned, at least part of the blame needs to be with the orchestra and choral union, who should have resisted change less severely. More, they should have understood that their continued high salaries were dependent on continued high performance, and that renegotiations would be necessary if sales dropped below a critical point. What the orchestra should have done is kept tabs on how things were going in terms of box office sales and taken the initiative on their own to approach Gelb and discuss how they could contribute to a solution to this problem.

I don’t mean to lay most of the blame at the feet of the union, though. They needed to take such proactive steps solely because Gelb failed to do so. His job, among other things, is to ensure the continuing profitability of the Met. He hasn’t been doing this, and responsibility should be laid at his feet for failing to do so. The statistics in other countries seem to indicate that Gelb should be able to keep attendance and sales high at the Met, and so he should have revised his approach to managing the opera when it became apparent that the current approach was not working. Moreover, he should have bargained aggressively from day one for contracts that would give him flexibility to renegotiate based on opera performance. For instance, a contractual clause triggering a mandatory renegotiation if sales fell below a certain threshold.

4. An InAccord suggestion for the opera would involve several steps, some begun during the contract negotiation process (ideally before any crisis like the current one arises) and some to be used whenever there is a conflict like this. Long before any conflict arises, all stakeholders should make it very clear what they expect, in general terms, from the other party. They should describe their priorities and what they are willing to negotiate on. So when a conflict does arise, as it did here, the stakeholders know what they can realistically ask for when they formulate their list of priorities for the mediation. Once that list of priorities is formed, each side should be given access to the priorities of the other stakeholder(s) in advance of mediation starting (as mediation is quite expensive). Once each stakeholder has had a chance to review the competing priorities at stake, a mediator should guide them through their conflict. Ideally, the mediator would begin by focusing on the shared values that each side has, like the continued artistic and financial success of the opera. But the mediator must be sure to do this in a neutral way, so as to avoid alienating either side.