The Lean Museum

As they say, change is the only constant, true even in a cultural institution where its vision might span centuries. These digital times require constant commitment to innovation and improvement for the museum to remain relevant, push boundaries and do more with less.

One way of tackling this challenge has emerged with the concept of the Lean Museum, leveraging the Lean Sigma management framework for continuous innovation and improvement. Born from management thinking seeded back in the industrial revolution through to the latest start up techniques, the Lean Museum provides a structure and toolbox for metrics based management in the cultural institutions.

Lean Sigma is a blended approach combining the idea of reducing waste, using lean techniques; with traditional six sigma, reducing defects. While Lean Sigma often suffers criticism at the lack of focus on research and development in its pursuit of quality management, the Lean Museum works on the principle that a process might be not just be improved, but totally disrupted, incorporating the Lean Startup method coined by Eric Ries, repurposing the concept of reducing waste as a way to think about rapid development of new ideas, or ‘failing fast’. Innovation and improvement with efficiency and quality: at the heart of all three is the establishment of a data driven culture.

Applications at cultural institutions show the power of this style of structured thinking. This might be dealing with bringing efficiency to a traditional process such as making an acquisition by removing non value add activities. Or, it could be focusing on improving the ticketing experience by reducing negative visitor outcomes. Alternatively, the Lean Museum might turn its hand to a green fields project such as the launch of a new exhibition or digital platform.

There are three core components to the Lean Museum. The first is a data driven transformation approach known as DMAIC: an acronym for the phases Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. The second is a structure for exploring ideas known as a Canvas (download our version here), for setting out the Museum’s vision for an innovation, identifying leap of faith assumptions, adopting of innovation accounting and establishing minimum viable product tests. Across both sits a thinking cycle: Learn, Create and Analyze – the discipline that a hypothesis should be proven out through tested evidence.

Ultimately, these components provide a toolbox for encouraging analytical thinking amongst museum teams to deliver better visitor experiences and preservation outcomes, that can be pragmatically adopted in the pursuit of a data driven culture.

Dexibit’s approach for the Lean Museum is incorporated in its Data Concierge service. Angie Judge, CEO at Dexibit will be presenting on the Lean Museum together with Mark McKay, Director of Digital, Art Gallery of Ontario at the upcoming Museum Computer Network conference in New Orleans November 2016. Attendees will earn a white belt certification in Lean Sigma. Workshop places are limited, bookings essential.