Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Creating a High School Dream Mentor Culture

Based on my Change Matrix for Educational Change (See Label for Education) the following needs to be understood about the need for Change in order for Dreams to become a reality.

Determining how to change the school once all involved understand and accept the why and the what. This final stage involves:

• How to create a strategic, collaborative plan
• How to manage change

Unfortunately, like business many schools begin their improvement efforts in the reverse order — by first deciding how to do things differently. That is, they find a "solution" without defining the need or problem/opportunity statement. Plus, if Administrators, Teachers, Parents and Support Staff do not believe the school must change or understand what needs to change, the suggestion for how to change is likely to be unsuccessful or rejected, because it is, in effect, an answer to a problem that has not been acknowledged or one that has always been around and it is a fact of education life.

I. WHY We Need to Change

Public and Private School changes will require the desire and passions to come from leadership and at least an enthusiasm of others to be led — to change what currently exists. We as leaders administration and staff must accept change as a team and challenging rather than intimidating and threatening to those who look to us for guidance and leadership.

As I traveled back and forth across the country when I worked for a major corporation I wanted to know if it was a local problem or more systemic across the country. Talking with peers in different regions of the country I found them all to have the same problems as we faced in the central region (MI, OH, Il, IA, Wisc). In fact I did a study based on what I saw in North Carolina and determined that our reading and writing level was at the 8th grade level for many of our employees (including some that attended college).

While on the road I often attended local high school board meetings in different states to listen to what was going on in their schools, looking for ways they were preparing their students for the future. I found some good ideas for the times but mostly the common thread that most had in common were the problems they faced. For example these were the most prevalent between 2000 and 2004:

Lack of funds
Overcrowded classrooms
Discipline problems
Federal ; State Laws and Regulations (NCLB)
Lack of synergy between teachers, grade levels and schools
Rapid changes in the digital world
No synergy between parents, teachers and administrators
Our Educational System is falling behind the rest of the world

Now that I have been working in the Public & Private School System for the past five years I would still say the problems I found eight years ago still exist today with the exception of the last one because we are now behind many nations of the world in our educational policies.

I have been known for many years as a Systems Thinker who challenges "Conventional Wisdom", the "Status Quo" and the "Balance" within a system. I ask many questions.

We educators have to understand that what exists in schools today needs to be updated to keep pace with the local, state, national and global societies. We need to recognize that students, admin and teachers must continually learn new things and that some of the skills we teach and use today will soon be as outdated as the technological and social skills continue to change for our students to be successful citizens and life long learners.

Changing the Paradigm
I have often stated that our schools follow an agricultural calendar and was designed for the industrial age of the mid 1800s that has created a poor match with preparing students for the technological digital age. In many districts, schools are not designed to deal with today’s technology, the global and media-driven world we live in, or the equity issues facing education.
The rules and regulations under which these schools operate are held over from a time that has passed.

II. Determining WHAT Changes Need to be Made

Creating the Dream
A Dream Mentor awareness presentation needs to be presented and shared with all involved in within a School System. The awareness must explain the educational, economic and social reasons why education programs must change, the schools must use that knowledge to develop a student-focused dream (vision) and common focus that helps to identify what changes will be needed (data collection techniques to be developed). The dream helps create a mutual spirit among school and parish communities. The purpose of the school has to be clearly defined. Priorities will begin to appear and roadmap action plans will guide the changes for the school.

Today, there is common agreement about four roles of education:
1. Fostering academic (thinking) development
2. Preparing students to be informed, caring, and productive citizens of society
3. Preparing students for higher education
4. Preparing students for the world of work.

Nice words and found in many schools vision and mission statements. However, what does not exist is the means of how to bring these words alive, to make them real, to internalize them into the day-to-day learning’s of the school. It cannot be done without "active" leadership and the plans with associated measures to monitor progress.

III. Determining HOW to Change

Schools that have first gone through a process of discovering why they must change followed by an analysis of data which identifies what they must change are far better positioned to determine how they need to change.

Creating a DREAM MENTOR CULTURE in which educators at every level and students feel safe in questioning current practices and procedures is an important component in the processes that the successful schools use to stay on a path of continuous improvement.

I have found in my work and studies that found that change leaders look at the process of how to change quite differently from many other leaders. These leaders are willing to take risks as necessary because they believe there is no choice but to change (Dr. Deming – "No one has to change, Survival is optional"). They understand that playing it safe is more dangerous than taking a risk and that there is no protection from the wave of changes facing our students today and tomorrow. Consequently, they take control and lead example with humility and confidence, rather than simply trying to hang around.

Dream Mentor Whiteboard in my office:

Click Pic to Enlarge

Creating the PlanMy experience in Change and Creating Action Plans for transformation in business and education comes with the realization that leaders in the high-performing (Baldridge Results) schools and businesses seem to recognize that if they wait to get everyone on board and fully accepting of all requirements of a school improvement plan, they will never move forward. So instead, many accept the concept that one-third of the faculty and staff will be excited about a new plan, one-third will be watchful but somewhat open-minded, and one-third will say, in effect, "any changes will be made over my dead body."

One approach I have found through painful experiences is that everyone needs to understand through open and honest communication (i.e., Dream Mentor awareness package ) that any plan laid out is not perfect and that, moreover, there is no perfect model or plan. Any plan will need evaluation and adjustment constantly. The admission up front that the plan will need to be personalized as the school moves forward is critical to bringing the mindset of nay Sayers and those who like to sit on the fence and fall which ever way the wind is blowing.

Another hurdle that many schools and businesses I have worked with and for are the problems of dollars and time. Funding will always be an issue; but one must ask what is the cost of not doing changes, can we put a price tag on making sure our students are prepared for the environment they face after high school?

The biggest single deficit schools face is lack of time, how do we fit another project or effort into an already crowded workday. Everyone has their own priorities as to how things should be done; everyone protects "What’s in it for me," instead of "What’s in it for the good of the whole school."
We must envision our dream as a completed product and build from backwards from there. There are tools to help us (SIPOC + CCCC) see this ending and the priorities that are required to make it happen.

Managing Change - While managing change is difficult in all organizations, I am reminded back 20 years that it is especially problematic in institutions with long and rich traditions, like the Catholic Church. I also found this to be true in 1980 when I was part of the massive change of the Breakup of the AT and T phone monopoly. We used to use the analogies of taking a bite out of the elephant one mouthful at a time and trying to turn a battleship on a dime. We must realize that traditions, and the rules and regulations that surround them, become anchors that are difficult to pull up so that the "ship" can be redirected.

By nature, many of us are not risk takers. Therefore, we want to make sure that any change being contemplated is well thought out, carefully planned, and clearly better than what currently exists. In effect, we will not change unless the pain of not changing is worse than the pain of a new change (like losing a job).

If we don’t, as a team believe that the present system can be changed for the better it will be a long haul. However, I believe the haul can be fun and it can be exciting to lay the groundwork and build what others are afraid to do. I have found since I retired when I look back and see what was, it makes me feel old. However, the way to feel young and invigorated is to look forward and to "Dream" for a better future through hard work and a passion for educational excellence.

To manage change in a school system with entrenched traditions and well-known fear of change requires a team of special and charismatic leaders. We as leaders need to recognize that avoiding dreams, passions and risks actually puts our school and students in greater risk of not succeeding than not attempting change at all.

A Transformation is required and we can no longer wait for someone or the government to come up with the ultimate plan. In order to compete, and bring balance to our academic successes along with our athletic successes, we must Dream and build a plan for today and tomorrow.

"No one has to change. Survival is optional."
For more on Mentoring in schools please visit www.dreammentorprogram.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Teachers & Administrators - you have it all backwards - "Time To Change"

Warning/Danger to educational administrators and teachers at all levels

It is best you start to understand that you serve the student and his/her parents. They pay for your salaries. You will not survive if you continue to resist change (i.e., special education, hours of operation, my way is the best way,etc…). You are not just an administrator, or just a math teacher or an English teacher you are part of the whole system within your school.

Regardless of what you think you are in the service industry. Unfortunately you were trained and brought up in an antiquated educational system that is rapidly changing. Get on board or get out of the way. That means you too Will Robinson!

The following diagram is used quite often in Business for explaining change. I have "Changed" it to reflect "Change" in Education.

Click on Picture To Enlarge:

WIIFM = What's in it for Me -->

Is wrong! It should be

WIIFTS = What's in it for the students/school.

I am currently working with a group of Administrators that are wonderful and great team players. I have learned much from them this year and I look forward to next year as well.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dr. Deming we need you to lead us "Out of the Crisis"


If there ever was a time for American Management to wake up and “transform” their organizations it is now. Fixing the complex and idiotic management style of short-term, bottom line thinking must go along with the decision makers who continue to manage and lead this way.

Dr. Deming in his books and teachings told us time and time again of these type of dangers in our American Style of Management but his words continue to be overlooked because it takes a strong leadership style that is willing to make the tough decisions that may not prove fruitful in the leaders term but nerveless needs to be made for the long-term success of the organization.

Companies in America are falling like dominoes and are our middle class way of life is diluting just as quickly.

General Motors and Chrysler are going in and out of bankruptcy in record speed because of the governmental controls in play. We are in such desperation we go in to this type of mode with believing the government is the way to success. Oh My! We are in trouble!

When they get bailed out, and when our economies improve, we will go right back to where they are now, unless a Transformation happens now!

Management thought has been shaped over a period of centuries by three major sets of forces. These forces are social, economic, and political in nature. They continue to affect management theory today.

Social Forces

Social forces are the norms and values that characterize the people of any particular culture. The social contract between workers and the businesses they work for has changed dramatically over the years. Years ago workers were treated with disdain and arrogance, thus causing the rise of organized labor to take root. Yesterdays workers made great strides that took decades and now they are dissolved in months. Workers were protected by a variety of federal laws, contracts, and even by organizations themselves who where sensitive to the needs and values of workers; but now choose to go the short term way of MBA thinking leaders who many never knew what it is like to be a front-line worker that had to suffer in their type managing of their systems. Social forces have played a major role in shaping areas as motivation, leadership, and human resource management. I now ask what are motivation, leadership and human resources in today’s American Management System?

Economic Forces

Economic forces are associated with economic systems and general economic conditions and trends. The United States has a market economy based on the principles of private ownership of property, economic freedom, competitive markets, and a limited role for government. Within our economy, the availability of resources, the ease in acquiring those resources, and the kinds of goods and services wanted by consumers all play a role in dictating what management can do. More over, general trends and the nature of a firm's competition also greatly affect organizations. In recent years, it's been the increased competition from other countries that have made the greatest impact. Economic forces affect thinking in the areas of environmental analysis, strategic planning, and organizational design. American Leaders took the easy way out of managing by outsourcing and going to unskilled cheaper labor that has now come back to take a big bite out of our Ass.

Political Forces

Political forces are governing institutions and governmental policies and attitudes towards business. For example, general government policies toward the regulation of business play a significant role in how organizations choose to manage themselves. Highly regulated industries like the airline industry are treated much differently than a company such as Verizon. Political forces affect thinking in the areas of planning, organizing, employee rights, and control. At no time in our history is government involvement and control as prevalent as it is today. This is not good.

These negative forces persists in spite of warnings by Dr. W. Edwards Deming that internal competition, selfishness and a lack of cooperation between management workers, suppliers and customers are the very behaviors that must be avoided if system optimization is to be achieved and long-term survival can be achieved.

Certainly every organization wants better results. The question is, by what methods? Is Management by Objectives (MBO) as practiced by most organizations, even those who are so called self committed to quality management, the best method for achieving better results?
Dr. Deming certainly did not think so. He believed that MBO put the focus on outcomes, usually expressed as some arbitrary numerical goal or target. He saw the way to better results as a focus on the system that was causing the results. More important, he believed that a goal beyond the capability of a system would lead to frustration, discouragement, and a loss of pride and joy in work, as employees were held accountable for what was clearly beyond their control.

I ask who is in Control? It certainly is just not the workers today.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Dr. Deming’s book “Out Of The Crisis" and
"The New Economics."