Archive for the ‘ Management ’ Category

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.