Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Step 2: Labels

So we have seen in Step 1 that archaeologists are a little unclear about who they are and what they do. It is not surprising to find that this confusion extends to what they are called.

In Kenneth Aitchinson and Rachel Edwards' Archaeology Labour Market Intelligence: Profiling the Profession 2002-03 (2003) (available from IFA The Profession page), there is the sobering statement:

Details relating to 2348 archaeologists and support staff working in jobs with 428 different post titles were received. This represents one post title for every 5.5 individuals and indicates that there is little consistency in the use of post titles across the UK. This is a slight improvement on the situation reported for 1997/98, when there was one post title for every 4.7 individuals. (p. 38; emphasis added)


This situation has the important corollary that many archaeologists carrying out similar roles are called different things; it is resonable to suppose that many called the same thing are in fact fulfilling different roles. It is therefore hardly surprising that non-archaeologists are baffled by the hierarchy of personnel they encounter: it defies understanding. Can it really be the case that (on average) there are only five people in the UK who share the same role?

There are further difficulties which have arisen from changes in usage that have occurred outside archaeology. In the mid 90s, when the shift from 'field officer' post titles to 'project' titles was largely complete, there was a general agreement on the level of responsibility they implied:

* a project officer was, in archaeology, somewhere between a supervisor and field officer, in charge of a small team for fieldwork projects such as evaluations, writing the report

* a project manager was an office-based senior officer with overall responsibility for the project, among others, and costing and tracking the work

This is the situation outlined by my 1995 paper "Project management in a changing world: redesigning the pyramid", in M A Cooper, A Firth, J Carman and D Wheatley (eds.), 1995 Managing Archaeology (Routledge, London: EuroTAG series), 208-215, selections from which can be found on Google Scholar.

This arrangement was probably fairly comparable to project officers in other fields at the time, and is (as far as anyone can tell) still the basic distinction used in archaeology.

But in the outside world, the meaning of these terms have shifted. Project Officer these days is seen most frequently in the public and voluntary sectors, defining an entry-level post with limited freedom of action and no supervisory role; typical requirements will be a degree in something unrelated and generic office skills. Project Officers, as the name suggests, are hired and fired with their project lifecycle. It will be seen that this is some distance from the expectation of an archaeological Project Officer.

A parallel shift has occurred with Project Manager. While the term has always straddled the line between overseeing and undertaking projects, under systems like Prince2, the role of Project Manager has become fixed as the senior person involved in undertaking the work, reporting to the line manager (in Prince2 parlance the Project Director) from day to day and to the Project Board for strategy. Such project managers are brought into the project after it has been planned, costed and procured. These days project management has develoepd its own identity as a skill and in practice most PMs have little knowledge of the substance of the project they are responsible for. This is perhaps a point for archaeologists to ponder: would projects benefit if the administrative tasks were separated from the archaeological?

The demotion of Project Manager has left a gap for the senior role, the perosn with responsibility for devising and overseeing several projects and their managers. A term becoming common for this is Programme Manager.


Step 2: Review your current post titles.
Do they describe what the role is?
Do they give others the correct expectation of their seniority and experience?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Could it be that none are called archaeologists in the list that you have chosen because none are archaeologists? -re copyright

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