Sunday, March 17, 2013

Our Education Systems must develop a Hive/Colony Mindset

When and where did our education system go astray? When I started school there was no pre-school, head start or pre-kindergarten. Graduating with a Bachelor degree was not yet a must after high school and a graduate degree was not in vogue.

With Computers, PDAs, Internet and social networks in a variety of modes I would expect most of our children to be college and career ready as never before in our nation’s history. Yet, according to national studies the opposite is true (75 Percent of Students “Not Ready” For College). What's going on?
In my humble opinion, there is no system in our schools (public, parochial, charter, community colleges, four-year colleges, vocational). All of our schools should have a common aim and must be interdependent upon each other using a “Hive/Colony Mindset (working toward the common good)” with cooperation and communication vital for success.

Unfortunately, our education system continues to be sub-optimized and chaos reigns with a “What’s In It For Me” attitude that runs rampant through each school. Schools are closing at a rapid pace and charter schools are popping up in laser fashion. My concern is by “What Method”? Are we to continue to force parents to send their children to poor producing schools?

A big problem that exists is the competition between our schools at every level from K-20 and the most dangerous is the competition between schools in our nation, states, dioceses and districts. Cooperation is what is needed so that our whole system succeeds, and then competition can take effect. Did you ever stop and think about all the so-called leaders involved in our educational system. Look at your own school. Is your school’s purpose “really” defined? How many leaders are involved (Superintendent, Principles, School Board, Unions, Parent Groups and State and Federal Government) in setting policy? Who is/are the true leader(s)? There has and always will be an on-going struggle between state and federal rights when it comes to education (among other things).

Why is there not a national effort to find the best run school systems and replicate them across the country with a well thought out designed plan for implementation? Why are there no national/local leaders with real authority?

The new Common-Core Standards are the latest attempt to fix the education problems. In concept I believe they are an excellent idea. However, I will tell you that Teachers while supportive of the common core standards have not been given the training or support to generate the enthusiasm or leadership to make it happen.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

The "Jesus Syndrome" is alive and well

During my years spent in the business world I never had a fondness for outside consultants. Most of them seemed to gather information from internal workers and then in a fancy fashion produce a glossy report that costs millions of dollars and gave it to the executive team for implementation with the offer to guide the working team through a change or transformation. It was just hard to understand why the company would spend so much money to an outside group when the answers were right under their noses.
Often the outside consultant’s suggestions were met with barrier ridden internal anguish that literally stopped any kind of process improvement efforts that might benefit the customers. I was an internal quality and process improvement consultant for years and my team also met roadblocks and anguish at every level of the organization when change was needed.

Dr. Deming said “Change comes from outside the system.”
What I learned the hard way was that it takes a systems thinking person/team that can see the end-to-end- process and how all the parts are interdependent upon each other to improve the overall process/system for the benefit of the customers. Just as important the finding from this type of analysis must be made in an unemotional manner where the outcomes benefit the system as a whole. This thinking cannot be met with internal people/workers who are blinded as to how the changes will affect them personally.

However, the actual work and changes that must be done requires the subject matter expertise of the internal workers since they know how best to do the job. The key is to mesh the outside analysis with internal expertise and to educate and partner with each other as to the benefits of the whole through the eyes of the customer. This takes a strong leader to make this happen and the work cannot be delegated by the executive team. They must lead the efforts for lasting change to take place. If they do not have the time to do this then the change is not required. What could be more important?
Dr. Shewhart said Changes that result in improvement come from application of knowledge.”

Over the years I called it the “Jesus Syndrome.” Luke 4:24, 28–29

24 And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.

28 And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,

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29 And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.
Our Education System in the United States is riddled with this kind of thinking both within a school and then with the school’s home district. Administrators, Counselors and Teachers are convinced they each have the answers and any kind of change will only result in failure. Perhaps as I have found it has to do more with additional work and comfort zone than it does with the change.

Note: When I mentor students about College and Career Readiness I often hear a parent say " See he is telling you the same thing I have been telling you." You see because I am from outside the system the student tends to believe me more than the Parent.
What the stakeholder’s folks need to understand the lasting change that must be done needs to be done in a systemic manner that requires a team effort that must be done in the summer where time is more readily available and then the probable changes/solutions need to be tested in the upcoming school year.
Another Bastion of resistance from any outside change or interference is in the Federal, State and Local Government. The best example of this type of inexcusable representation of leadership is what is going on in Washington with Budget Plans -
Look at the City of Detroit who for years and years will not take ownership of their problems and refuses to understand systems thinking and what it means to represent their customers.

Take a step back people and get over yourselves – you are not that important. There is more at stake than your insecurities and self-esteem.