Management Class: Made Relevant to Museum Studies!

I just finished my homework for this week’s Operations and Production Management class.  I’m pretty excited because this week’s assignment was essays instead of math problems, so I felt pretty comfortable with it.  I was also pretty thrilled to be able to relate the questions to my work in museums!  Check them out, and I hope you will take the questions and answer them in relation to your own work, life, or organization!

*Disclaimer* These essays were written for a professor who is not a museum professional, so they are a little bit different than work I have done for museum studies courses.

1.      How do customers in your business define “good quality?”  What are the important features/attributes?

At the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa in Memphis, customers expect services found at a high quality museum where they will learn about Native American cultures and archaeological methods.  The “good quality” they expect may relate to exhibits, activities, educational programming, tour guide effectiveness, level of learning, or gift shop item selections.

Aesthetics at the museum have been recently improved from their previous state.    The appearance of the museum is somewhat problematic, as it was built in the 1960’s as, what appears to be, a Cold War-era bunker.  This is something that has been improved through the use of flower beds and colorful mosaic on the outer wall of the museum.  The museum itself previously contained several exhibits which have not been updated since the museum opened in the 1960s.  However, the current staff and director are undertaking several projects to make these exhibits more interesting, accurate, and updated.  Another aesthetic, which is problematic and out of the control of museum management, is smell.  Unfortunately, the museum is located across the river from a water treatment plant which sometimes affects the outside portion of the educational tour.

The perceived quality of the museum has also presented struggles for the new staff of the museum.  The museum itself is located in what some consider a less than desirable part of Memphis, and until the relatively recent past, the quality of the entire museum was not perceived as overly awesome.  This has resulted in a reputation the museum is working very hard to move past.  Through community activities and engagement as well as several updates and advertising campaigns, the museum is overcoming that reputation within the Memphis community.   One of the main ways of improving quality at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa in which I was involved is through valuable and curriculum-based educational programming.  By offering programs to local teachers that are valuable to their students and related to the state standards of education, educators are more likely to choose the museum as a destination for field trips.   This can be perceived as serviceability because by attending the programming offered, students learn important lessons and information that will be later used on the standardized tests that are so highly recognized in education.  Special features of these programs include hands-on opportunities for students.  Rather than attending a “regular” museum where students may look but not even think of touching objects, at Chucalissa students are encouraged to handle actual artifacts from American Paleolithic archaeological sites.

2.  Identify one of the Process Improvement Tools discussed and describe how you could use it to improve a process you are involved with.  The process can be work related or from your personal life.

The DMAIC approach to process improvement is a basic, valuable tool for any processes in life or business.  I find the tool especially useful in my life, where I tend to over-react and stress out over small things which could easily be fixed.  DMAIC stands for: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control.  These five actions seem to be common sense, but many time people forget to use these simple tools.

In my own life, I am currently beginning dissertation research and analysis.  By using DMAIC for the preparation as well as the research, my life will probably be made a bit easier.  For example, my first step in this process should be to define the problem.  The problem I will seek to define is the effectiveness and efficiency of the educational programming I have produced in the museum.

Once that problem is defined, I will move on to measurement.   For this process, I will research different tools used for measurement and evaluation of the current programs.  Once I have determined the best ways to measure effectiveness of the programs (i.e. teacher evaluations, evaluation of test scores, effectiveness of pre and post testing), I will move on to analyze the data I collected.

As I analyze the data I have collected, I will be able to see what does and does not work with the programming.  The data should reveal if the approaches used, such as lecture followed by question and answer sessions versus the use of hands-on learning and experimentation, are effective.  Once the effectiveness has been analyzed, I will be able to determine that can be done to improve the process of delivering and developing educational programming at the museum.

Once improvements are made and implemented at the museum, the staff and director will maintain control of the process through periodical evaluations of the staff delivering the programs as well as changes within curriculum at the state schools.

** How have you used similar process (possibly without knowing you were using a business model!) in your personal life or organization?   What are some ways you could use them in the future to improve processes of your own??

2 thoughts on “Management Class: Made Relevant to Museum Studies!

  1. I enjoy reading the interdisciplinary approaches as you have laid them out in your first essay. For example, Seth Godin’s blog has become one of my favorites – he is a marketing advertising guru type, but says lots of things that are good to think in Museum Studies as well. Sounds like you are finding similar experiences. Very cool.

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