Archive for the ‘ Management ’ Category

Gladwell’s History

I confess haven’t spent the requisite 10,000 hours reading his books and listening to his podcasts, but I like Malcom Gladwell’s work. His stories bring unrealized facts to light.

I have just finished listening to the first thirty minutes of the podcast entitled Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustmentan explanation of what the supreme court should have said in the Brown vs. Board decision. The Browns were not dissatisfied with the quality of the school their daughter was to attend, they simply wanted a school that was much closer to where they lived. It happened to be a school for white students.

The court framed their decision around the inferiority of the education that the black schools provided. In Topeka, where the Brown’s lived, that was not the case. And although I disagree with Gladwell’s characterization of racial prejudice as strictly a “Southern” philosophy (I seem to remember the integration of Northern schools was just as rancorous), I admit that the text of the decision seems to echo that bias.

By focusing on the race of the students and not the quality of the education provided, the court laid the groundwork for districts to close black schools to comply. In the wake of those closures almost all of the teachers and administrators in those schools were dismissed. And nearly 70 years after that decision, for a number of reasons, we still are not able to hire enough educators of color.

Why is that important?

Research says that black students that have at least one black teacher during their  education are more likely to succeed.

80/20

Everything that everybody knows is usually wrong.  – Peter Drucker

Everybody knows that to positively affect a change effort, you should concentrate on enlisting the 80% of the employees that are predisposed to the effort or are “on the fence” and forget about the 20% that are openly negative or unconvinced.

One successful turnaround expert says that she concentrates on convincing the naysayers. Why waste her time? Because, as she explained, these are the people that when convinced will be loyal to the cause. Whereas, those that are easily convinced, or are unaffiliated can become less enthusiastic about the change and even be attracted to the next popular cause.

Never thought of it that way!

Strategy?

owl

How many goals do you have?

Are they written in unambiguous language?

Does everyone in your organization know them by heart?

How are you going to measure success?

In its most basic form, this is what strategy is all about. No matter what process you have used to develop your goals, they should be less than five in number, simply stated, internalized by everyone in the organization, and measured using LEADING indicators.

Let me give you an illustration… Most educational institutions will spend three to six months writing a strategic plan. The plan has some worthwhile goals and may actually be fairly specific as to what the targets are. These goals are either set knowing what the measures will be (e.g. raising test scores) or not (e.g. student success). In either case leading indicators are tough to come by or nonexistent. When pressed, district administrators will provide you with the methodologies they are employing to accomplish the districts goals, but are generally at a loss to demonstrate the leading indicators that point to progress toward those goals.

Our formative testing is showing that our students are improving!

OK. Is there a long term correlation between those formatives and the summatives?

Our graduation rates are steadily increasing!

OK. Is there a long term correlation between graduation rates and student success?

My friends, there is a great deal of work to be done. Are you willing?

 

 

Where to Find a Consultant

Here is the dillemma:

You can hire a “consultant” for your school district who is a retired local administrator.

The advantage is that there is little or no learning curve and no travel expense. Since this consultant has worked in your district, they know the issues and the players and can begin to solve whatever issue you need help on immediately.

The disadvantage is that they are too familiar with the issue and may even have been trying to solve it while they were still an employee of the district.

Seth Godin has written recently about this dillemma. “If a problem is worth solving, it’s worth engaging with the right people to solve it with urgency, isn’t it?”

Peter Drucker often claimed that his lack of knowledge of a specific local issue was his greatest strength as a consultant. His perpective as an outsider allowed him the ability to ask the appropriate questions and discover the solution for which he was hired.

  • The cost of a consultant should be only one consideration in the selection of a consultant.
  • Diversity of experience should be another.
  • However, solving a similar problem may or may not be a criteria since some will seek to apply a square peg solution that has worked in the past to a round hole problem.

I have participated in many selection processes. I have made presentations. I have selected consultants. I have advised committee members on selections. I can’t recall a single presentation in which the consultant did not claim to listen to their prospective clients. Just as the written material usually boasts that the consultant is uniquely qualified.

The best advice is to choose a consultant that matches the issue.

  • If the problem is chronic, select an outsider.
  • If the issue is new, use an insider.
  • If you want plausible deniability for the proposed solution, hire an outsider. If you want confirmation of a solution you have developed internally, pick an insider with peerless credentials.
  • If you need an innovative solution because everyone familiar with the problem has tried and failed, call on an outsider.

As a planner and project manager, my preference has always been to hire a problem solver with a proven process, but not an answer. A thoughtful selection is the best path to a satisfying experience!

 

Curious

I have been reading Pasi Sahlberg’s book on the lessons to be learned from Finland’s successful education program. Dominant in the PISA assessments since their inception in 2000, this Scandinavian country which set out deliberately to improve its educational system in the 1970’s is used by reformers and politicians alike as the exemplar of high academic standards. And yet, we have largely failed to learn from their experience and methodologies. Increasing the competition among schools, assigning letter grades to schools based upon high stakes testing for a handful of subjects, and denigrating the profession as a group of inadequate part-timers is neither productive nor factual.

Ifinnish lessonsf we cannot learn from Finland’s success, then we should not use the PISA scores as evidence that our educational system is in need of reform. If you decry our mediocrity in international testing, then learn from the international leaders. Emphasize the importance of all subjects, not just those that are tested. Treat our teachers as professionals and compensate them accordingly. Do not hold back those students who have mastered the content. Apply special education as a resource to all students who have difficulty and apply it immediately. Personalize the delivery of learning to each student, not simply through software, but through empathetic personal connections to caring adults.

It’s time to offer practical help and solutions, not just criticism. Take Finland as an example. Take it to heart.

Useful or Old?

The date of manufacture is a pretty poor indicator of useable life. Many of the district staff I have met with recently are senior staff with significant experience. Like me, these professionals have seen a lot of action and created a lot of value for their organizations. If school districts treated their staff accomplishments like the military, the combat ribbons would fill the left side of the uniforms of their senior staff. More than anyone, you would expect that these individuals would realize that “old” doesn’t mean useless. In a recent article in Talent Management magazine seasoned professionals were called the “moneyball play” for human resource departments because their value to an organization far exceeds their cost.

So why is it then that when it comes to roofing materials, the same senior facility managers tend to discard and replace serviceable components based upon their date of manufacture, rather than their condition?  The collective wisdom seems to be that once a roof reaches a certain age, it is time to plan for its replacement. I guess part of the reason is that up until now, it took a substantial amount of time and money to accurately forecast the remaining life of a roof in place. It was much easier and less risky to discard useable material, than to restore an older roof. New technology and better roofing materials make that task much easier than it was in the past. For just a few cents a square foot a national asset management organization that I have found can not only predict a roof’s useable life, but can also pinpoint the areas of roof that require attention. This firm is not your typical roof consultant. In fact they don’t see the preparation of bid documents as a core business, preferring not to profit from their recommendations. Their work is state of the art and comprehensive – the moneyball play for roof asset management.

As you can imagine, the implications of this are huge. It means that for the cost of replacing just a few roofs every year and risking the failure of all of the others,  you can put your entire roof inventory under warranty and into an annual preventive maintenance program. This is a far more effective approach to a component of the building envelope that carries significant risk for facility managers.

You can’t fix what you don’t know about. It’s time to take your roof management program into the 21st century.