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Sea City Museum making improvements, saving time and money with Lean Systems Thinking

Museum Name

Sea City Museum, part of Southampton City Council Arts and Heritage

Museum Contact

Steve Newell, Customer Services Manager, Southampton City Council Arts and Heritage

The Project

Improve your museum, save time and money with Lean Systems Thinking


March - June 2015

What were the Project aims?

Customer service staff were workshadowed while carrying out their day-to-day tasks

Following a Lean Systems Thinking awareness training session in early March, Southampton City Council bid for one day of consultancy support. It was the organisation’s desire to further promote the Lean methodology within the wider Arts & Heritage Team. The management team chose to split the consultancy day in to two; utilising the morning for an objective and impartial review of the Front of House service; leading to a feedback and training session in the afternoon. Overall their aim was to ‘gain an understanding of where there may be opportunities for improvement at the point of delivery within public venues; whilst challenging the thinking and working methods of the team.’

What is the impact of the Project?

The feedback session in the afternoon was particularly insightful for the management team who learnt via real customer experiences and staff questionnaire responses (that had been observed and requested that very morning) that there are inefficiencies and inconsistencies in some processes that have a negative impact on quality. These led to key lessons being learnt about the need for improved communication, co-ordination, organisation and standardisation. Particular Lean tools were highlighted and promoted which would help the service tackle these issues. An action plan detailing the observed concern, the perceived root cause and a potential solution was also produced for circulation and ownership. The Customer Service Assistant in the session pitched for permission to trial the concept of Communication Cells and daily briefings; the idea was supported and will now be taken forward.

What went well?

Although being workshadowed can on occasion be quite intimidating, the CSAs actually enjoyed the experience and felt that there was value in their voice being heard by the management team. This value was further emphasised with the presence of a CSA at the afternoon’s training session, and ensured that the feedback loop was completed. Overall the day created a ‘safe’ environment for individuals to express their views, and challenge the processes they work with. The training session in the afternoon was clear, focussed and structured – the use of observations from the morning session ensured that the content remained relevant and engaging.

What didn't go well?

The Customer Service Assistants pitched to trial the concept of a Communication Cell

The consultancy day specifically concentrated on the Front of House aspect of the business which may have meant that the content may not have been as relevant for some as for others. If more time had been available there would have been significant benefit in reviewing the wider Arts and Heritage department in order to gain a more rounded view of the service and gain alternative perspectives.

Top Tips

“A real benefit to Middle and Senior Managers, who can become ‘out of touch’ with what is going on at the point of entry for our customers, listen to the people at the ‘coalface’!  They often understand customers better than Managers” Lisa Shepherd

“I found the Lean training session useful and enlightening. It highlighted the issues facing our FOH team that I believe at times have been overlooked. It is a useful way of looking at our company and the individuals to see how we can work efficiently. I would like for the future that the communication between all departments to be clear and constructive so that all parties can proactively work together.” Daniel Cook

Plans for the future

The museum is looking to take forward the suggested Lean tools – 5S (workplace organisation) and Communication Cells. Rather than SeaCity running with this independently, there is a desire to understand if other venues and wider teams from Arts & Heritage are experiencing similar problems and therefore would also benefit from the roll out of these tools. The solution can then take a more strategic approach. The 3C Document produced following the session, which details concerns, causes and countermeasures will be monitored and managed by DMT going forward.