Organisations need to be efficient and innovative but, in today’s social and economic conditions, they also need to be able to respond creatively to external challenges while staying true to their core purpose. This report looks at one organisation’s journey towards achieving this.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s story is an example of an organisation in turnaround. Over the past few years it has embarked on an ambitious transformation of its famous Stratford-upon-Avon home. At the same time it has transformed its entire way of working by recovering its foundational principle of ‘ensemble’ — using this as a creative and ethical principle, and as a management tool — and extending it from the rehearsal room to the organisation as a whole. This change in internal relationships is changing the RSC’s relationship with its audiences and the wider public.

This report tells the story of how this was done. It is based on a three-year observation and suggests what other organisations in the cultural sector and beyond might take from the story. It documents the approaches taken and the difficulties encountered. It also focuses on aspects of organisational development that is often ignored: the importance of emotional engagement, humility and openness. As well as a story of change, it is a story of collective ambition: how it is created, shared and brought to fruition.