Sunday, 14 November 2010

Five things archaeologists can learn from Lean Management

Lean management  was defined as a concept in the 1990s by Daniel T. Jones, focused on assembly line industrial processes, but has since developed into a mini-discipline and has been extended into service industries and the public sector: lean management workshop at OGC.  At heart the approach is based on mapping your business processes, identifying waste, delays  and bottlenecks, and re-designing your workflow to aim for perfection, building quality in rather than adding it on.

1. Define value in customer terms

Archaeologists have two customers: the one that pays the bills, their clients, and the one they are answerable to for their conduct, future researchers.   Activities that benefit neither should be dropped. 

2. Follow the value stream

Where do we do work that leads to customer value?  Mostly at the report stage.  Where don't we? At the data collection stage, creating multiply-redundant images and over-detailed records of deposits of little or no significance.  Every recording activity carries a cost in creation and subsequent processing - we whould be bold enough to tailor our records to the needs of the resource (as we routinely do for watching briefs and test pits).

3. Reduce waste and failure demand

The culture of quality audting leads to the erosion of personal responsibility: there's no need for me to check the text because the manager will anyway.  And does the manager spend their time trying to reinterpret the site or rewrite the description when they should be auditing the process?  Yes.  They shouldn't: they should trust and empower the staff who have direct contact with the data.

4. Reduce inventory

For most projects. the site is excavated and reported fairly quickly as a burst of activity, and then there follows a half-life while specialist reports are commissioned, written, and collated, and eventually tidied up for archive deposition and publication. As a result, archaeological contractors live surrounded by large numbers of nearly-complete projects along with their current work, which isn't good for anybody.   Get stuff off the shelves and into museums.

5. Reduce time

The long timescale also means that cash-flow can be problematic, since there will be fees outstanding until it's all wrapped up.  In which case, wrap them up.

Buy 10 simple steps: the book and the e-book

Transform your business with a 10 simple steps workshop.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Five things archaeologists can learn from PRINCE2

I've written about PRINCE2 before.  The choice to use the PRINCE2 project management methodology has to be made at corporate level; it is rarely used in archaeology because the nature of its activities and problems do not play to PRINCE2's strengths.  Nevertheless, the methodology is based on common sense and experience of project management, so there should be some elements which can be applied.

All projects involve risk
-and if this is true of something like decorating an office,  how much more true of projects where the nature and complexity of the archaeological resource is unknown, and the work is subject to weather conditions and logistical complications.  So how can we manage the risk?  We can minimise it, by ensuring that we exploit all available information, but we cannot eliminate it.   If we expect the unexpected, our best strategy is to empower those on the spot with the authority and resources to respond to the emerging situation, while being ready to provide support when needed.

Manage by stages

Every project in MAP2 and the IFA Standards starts with a big meeting of all the specialists who may be involved, from palaeo and flint expert to illustrator and archivist.  Luckily, in reality these meetings do not take place, because otherwise people would get even less done, without having any effect on the 90% of projects which do not in fact produce material requiring special consideration.  There are planning horizons beyond which the imponderables become so great that time spent planning is not just wasted, it's actually harmfdul, since it distracts from what can be planned for. 

Product-led planning

The end results of a project are the archive and reports.  Activities which do not contribute to either may well be pointless. Activities which do not lead to report content may also be pointless.  

Continuing business justification

Commercial archaeology is a business.  Projects which have ceased to contribute positively to the business (especially financially) should be closed down.  Projects which have achieved their objectives should be closed down.  It is easy to allow projects to run on to their allotted end-date, but doing so is wasting time and money.  Your time and money.

Learn from experience

Archaeological businesses live and die on the quality of their estimation.  Yet very few employ a formal process to review projects after the event to see whether the estimation was accurate.  It is notorious that some types of project (eg desk-top studies and watching briefs) are very difficult to complete to a professional  standard within the level of funding usually available. After a few have gone over-budget, maybe the lesson is that prices must rise or that this type of project should be avoided.  Was it not Santana who said that those who don't remember the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them?  (No it wasn't, it was George Santayana).

Buy 10 simple steps: the book
Transform your business with a 10 simple steps workshop.