Would Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear for Performance Management?

April 3, 2009
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This week I presented seminars in Amsterdam and took some time to visit the Van Gogh Museum. It is a magnificent art museum exhibiting the largest collection of Van Gogh’s work in the world. I observed a parallel between Van Gogh and performance management.

As background, art historians know that Van Gogh did not begin painting art until his mid-20s after failing at other jobs due to his mental instability. His good fortune was his younger brother Theo financially supported him with his new career as an artist. Van Gogh’s initial years produced only sketches, and not one of his pictures was sold until many years later. However Theo collected many of them; and we are all fortunate Theo did.

Van Gogh was a voracious reader, and he was particularly fascinated with cycles of time and nature, such as daily sunrises and the annual seasons. (I suspect he would be intrigued by our current economic cycle we are now in.) This explains his multiple paintings with variations of the same scene, like wheat fields. It also explains, of course, one of his most noted paintings, A Starry Night, considered a masterpiece in the art world.

So, what is Van Gogh’s connection to performance management?
Van


This week I presented seminars in Amsterdam and took some time to visit the Van Gogh Museum. It is a magnificent art museum exhibiting the largest collection of Van Gogh’s work in the world. I observed a parallel between Van Gogh and performance management.

As background, art historians know that Van Gogh did not begin painting art until his mid-20s after failing at other jobs due to his mental instability. His good fortune was his younger brother Theo financially supported him with his new career as an artist. Van Gogh’s initial years produced only sketches, and not one of his pictures was sold until many years later. However Theo collected many of them; and we are all fortunate Theo did.

Van Gogh was a voracious reader, and he was particularly fascinated with cycles of time and nature, such as daily sunrises and the annual seasons. (I suspect he would be intrigued by our current economic cycle we are now in.) This explains his multiple paintings with variations of the same scene, like wheat fields. It also explains, of course, one of his most noted paintings, A Starry Night, considered a masterpiece in the art world.

So, what is Van Gogh’s connection to performance management?
Van Gogh was torn between being a traditional artist of the time and an innovator. After he began painting with oils he moved from the hectic urban life of Paris to the peaceful French villages of Arles and Saint-Remy. It was then that he blazed a new trail of art painting with his distinguished brush strokes.

So why my blog title and earlier reference to Van Gogh and performance management? Van Gogh cut off his ear in reaction to a rejection from something that he felt passionate about – in this case a lover. If Van Gogh lived today as a business analyst champion promoting performance management initiatives (like many of you), would he cut off his ear if senior management rebuffed his proposals to implement performance management solutions? We will never know.

However, in my work with SAS I meet many performance management champions who are also innovators like Van Gogh. They are so passionate to help improve their organization’s success, I assure you that they are continuously scheming to get buy-in of co-workers and win the hearts and minds of their executive team to convince them that adopting performance management solutions is critical to sustaining their organization’s long-term superior performance. None of them would cut off their ear. They just keep trying knowing that perseverance will eventually lead to success.

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