Monthly Archives: August 2016

NEED-Youth Suicide Petition –Belay that Thought! 9-16-16

9-16-16 UPDATE: after some very good discussions on Ripple Power (FB closed group) the plan is to scuttle the plan…no value in petitioning to take action on bullying-induced youth suicides. Not going heartless-just a reality. The issues are complex.


Comment with your input, I will organize into the main document as best I can. This is posted to gather input from Ripple Power members, but if you’re not part of that closed group and you stumble across it, please add your input. We need action!

HELP! Need input. I want to do a petition (oh no, not another!) to elevate the youth suicide. It’s a mental health issue in part, which needs serious attention on a whole ‘nother level. But we need to specifically address bully-induced suicides. This is an international tragedy – stand in line, right? And there are tons of different things out there—groups, approaches, too many experts and disjointed efforts …and too many kids writing a final end to their personal tragedy. PLEASE lend a hand. NEEDS:

  • Research youth suicide rates and causes,
  • Input on how to REALLY grab peoples’ attention to sign the petition….AND to get involved
  • Specific actions to recommend,
  • Find the right vehicle / outlet for a petition.

PROBLEM DESCRIPTION: Zero tolerance policies are spotty and ineffectively enforced. Awareness and prevention programs are not enough and are not taken seriously (FIRSTHAND observation from my local school system). Social-emotional learning is not a priority, and when it is part of a school’s curriculum is not supported but tolerated. Children cannot be the extent of the focus because they are just the end result of the bigger problem: a society that accepts, allows tolerates bullying behavior.

ROOT CAUSES (partial list!) Domestic violence includes physical and verbal abuse, and it is a leading contributor to making bullying behavior “acceptable” and normal. Women have been speaking out since forever and dying.

Media is to blame: what gets attention? Murder, any outrageous violence. Kids are powerless and when they need help what will get attention? What they see so … “I am hurting. I will hurt someone and someone will see me.”

ACTION PLAN: Don’t just be saddened for an appropriate amount of time, then go about your regular business until the next one is reported! The problem must be addressed from all angles, by all stakeholders: education, parents / families, private sector, community leaders–civic groups, religious communities and government….

Get organizational support from various existing groups…Edutopia, Greater Good Science Center, Area education agencies, school boards etc. TROUBLE SPOT: many of these are country clubby, closed doors, protective of their turf, not open to outsider meddling. But outsider engagement is exactly what they need!

DRAFT WORDING…research other similar-topic petitions for structure! This petition is to call attention to the need for immediate and definitive action to address the frequency of suicides by young people, defined as ages nn to nn. While this is a sub-set of mental health, specific issues related to bullying behavior in schools and social media are the target of this petition. There are currently no legal or civil controls in place, no effective initiative used on a broad scale to address the root causes of bullying that may lead to self-harm by young people.

DISTRIBUTION of COMPLETED PETITION for SIGNATURES. Need high visibility, high exposure. Need viral distribution, some way to circle back to those who signed the petition, as they are the beginning of the grass roots organization of masses that are needed to support this!

  • Social media groups—Facebook, LinkedIn, others
  • Community, friends-local media, church groups



Where is Education Improvement Headed? It’s Academic

Education Reform Now is the nonprofit arm of Democrats for Education Reform:

We are progressives leading a non-partisan non-profit organization that cultivates and supports leaders who champion America’s public schoolchildren….

Mission Americans of all ages – from cradle to grave – deserve full and fair access to quality education opportunities. 

The education innovation and reform movement has reached an inflection point. There are high-flying charter schools and management organizations, but their impact on public education overall is limited. Because of hard-edged accountability policies, low-income and minority students saw significant achievement gains in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But academic gains have slowed. Those who continue to the postsecondary level complete at appallingly low rates and with questionable knowledge and skill levels. And yet, the education policy discussion has devolved into a near exclusive debate about common core standards, testing, and access to higher education when so much more needs to be considered.

ERN, thank you for this nearly dead-on problem statement. But achievement and accessibility to higher education are not the real issues. Current state:

  • School guidance counselors and parents obsess over prepping students for college-or-bust.
  • Too many high school graduates aren’t ready for college or are unable to attend. College is not appropriate for some and simply out of reach for many, financially or academically.
  • The relevance of higher education is under fire, the workplace market value of over-priced degrees is being challenged.
  • Degree or not, employers are consistently getting unprepared workers. The talent pool is incredibly shallow and murky.
  • The skills gap is partially self-inflicted by employers who unnecessarily inflate academic requirements for positions.

Some positions do not require a four-year degree as much as they do specific job skills training. Yet, college students chase after “just-in-case” degrees then look for a job they might be qualified for, artificially increasing college debt. Education still mass-produces graduates, and grads still assume half a lifetime of debt only to get a job they may be miserable with…if they find one. And employers still get unprepared candidates. Economy suffers, people suffer.

The Education Reform Now blog ran a piece this summer, Not Ready For College by Michael Dannenberg. Bolded excerpts follow (with Craig’s notes)

To the extent issues actually are debated this election year, we can expect the candidates to spend time on college affordability.  It polls as a top-tier, middle class issue. Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton, will call for massive increases in student financial aid (but pouring more funding into an ineffective system without addressing the real issues).  We can expect Republicans led by Donald Trump to call for an expanded number of higher education providers to increase supply and drive down price (education is not a good candidate for mass-production. Diminishing returns, aka overkill. How would providers be regulated? And…how the heck do you start up all these additional institutions? We’ll be overrun with Diplomas ‘r’ Us academic factories issuing plenty of sheepskins, but what value will they hold? ) Both are needed, but going forward what the candidates should pay special attention to is high school academic preparation because it’s inextricably linked to college affordability. (true, but this just drives inefficiencies deeper into the system. The wrong product is being produced and provided because we’re focused on the wrong expectations and requirements)

Today, the typical bachelor’s degree graduate takes more than five years to complete a degree instead of four. One in four rising college freshmen, including a high percentage from middle class families, need to take and pay for remedial courses that regularly don’t apply toward a college degree. Worst of all, nearly one in two postsecondary students overall will drop out.  They’ll be left with debt and no degree. (an unacceptable level of academic attrition, even more damaging to young people and to the economy than it is to productivity and profit margins of companies that suffer from high attrition)

Imagine how much cheaper and better an investment college could be if students were prepared for college-level coursework on Day 1 and graduated in four years instead of five. It can happen on a widespread basis, but it requires commitment and improvement in both high schools and institutions of higher education. (ability to do the work is one thing, but what if it’s the wrong kind of work? Of what real value is a degree?  The real measure of value: does it increase graduates’ ability to be successful and happy in their working career, and in their lives?)

Some Solutions Proposed by Dannenberg (with Craig’s notes):  

High schools need to be more academically rigorous and colleges need to change the way they teach students who come in behind. And both need to be held accountable for results (need root cause analysis: WHY do students come in behind if high schools increase academic rigor, and if colleges tighten up on their entry requirements?)

Almost all high school students should get a rigorous course of study – whether based on Common Core standards or not – aligned with requirements to enroll in credit-bearing, entry level college classes. (“almost all high school students” implies that college prep and going to college may not be appropriate for all students. Truth! College may not even be necessary in some cases for a successful working careers and fulfilling life. As tough as it may be, we need to abandon the mindset that college for all is right. And still, the major concern: what if the right stuff isn’t being offered?)


Dannenberg paints a grim picture of the magnitude and impact of poor college preparedness. High schools aren’t ensuring that graduates have the necessary academic chops to handle a college-level curriculum. Colleges accept too many under-prepared students. The need for remedial classes is too frequent, they are costly and ineffective in helping strugglers graduate. Students take five not four years to graduate, and the college dropout rate is unacceptably high.

It’s crazy to point at education’s “failure” alone. The private sector has a big hand: employers’ expectation that graduates should hit the workplace ready to excel in any organizational environment, mastering any organization’s specific stuff regardless of position and tasks is just not possible. We need realistic and clear skills requirements and behavioral expectations defined. WHAT do employers NEED in new hires, so they are ready and able for an employer to take over and do their job—providing skills training and on-the-job experience?

Fundamental Change?

Proposed: the real purpose of education should be to prepare learners for life after their academic career, not just to prepare them to meet their next academic challenge. Colleges, therefore the K-12 pipeline, should be driven by real-world not just academic requirements and expectations. “Real world” includes the work world, society and community. And don’t ignore the most critical job for each of us…plotting and navigating the course toward a successful and satisfying life where we feel we’re making a meaningful difference. Only when we know where we want to go should we fret about how we’re going to get there.

What determines a successful life is driven by each person’s definition of “success” which is a function of their personal values / belief system. A successful, fulfilling career is essential to a successful life, so private sector expectations and civic and social expectations also are a factor. What kind of academic topics currently prepare learners to meet these broad expectations…their own, their future employers, their community, society?

Preparation is way more than academic. The Arts and College Preparatory Academy (ACPA), a public charter school in Columbus, Ohio is just one shining example. (Between Dallas and Orlando, Schools Can Play a Crucial Role in Improving Tolerance and Respect. By Marianne Lombardo July 14th, 2016)

What makes ACPA work? Maximum inclusion, focus on human values and social development. The whole academic community is totally engaged in and committed to the success and ideals behind ACPA. Remember the “e” word for a moment, please…..

“The stakes are clear. And these stakes are high: At the end of the day, what kind of society do we want to have? What kind of country do we want to be? It’s not enough to celebrate the ideals that we’re built on — liberty for all, and justice for all and equality for all. Those can’t just be words on paper. The work of every generation is to make those ideals mean something concrete in the lives of our children — all of our children.”

President Barack Obama.

Not to mess with the words of one of our greatest orators ever, but it’s more than ‘the lives of our children’. We need those ideals to be meaningful in the lives of all Americans.

Current State of Education Improvement: no common goals, shared focus or synergy. Fragmented efforts, inconsistent results. States, communities, districts, buildings set different goals, grasp at different straws. A conference may share great best practices, but participants slice and dice to make it “our own”. This is not the right time for cowboy culture individualism.

ONE COMPELLING MODEL. If someone builds it, will they come? A successful model must be balanced between ready-for-implementation with support, and ease of adaptation to unique situations. A high priority action is to design awareness sessions tailored to each stakeholder group’s WIIFM. Transform interest into commitment when buy-in is sufficient. Basic coalition-building is tricky as stakeholders may have differences in needs and goals: must have a strong narrative.

Chicken or egg? To ensure buy-in and ownership, potential coalition members must provide input up-front to the narrative: what do we want to accomplish? How far will we go?

(SIDE NOTE: Complexity Guaranteed. I set out ten years ago exploring a truly systemic model and how to develop the coalition necessary to drive it. What seems like a book and a half later into the most current version, it’s still mutating and definitely still growing. Terminal scope creep)

Go Large on “Engagement”. Before it was cool I got deeply involved in employee engagement when my employer dove into Gallup Management’s Q-12 process in the mid-90’s. I served as master implementation facilitator. Q-12 became the backbone of the engagement industry’s early efforts. Gallup branched out into studying the impacts of student engagement, partnering with America’s Promise. That triggered my interest in education. Along the way I got to swap ideas with the UK’s government-sanctioned Engage for Success movement in the early days. Kind of an interesting mix of engagement engagements.

It’s not a silver bullet and there’s too much to dive into here, so see the engagement link at the end. This much we know: a handful of attributes encourage people to more fully engage. When they do, performance level increases dramatically: satisfying basic human needs and values significantly impact employees’ productivity, students’ academics. I’m a believer and you will be too.

Against All Odds

This is scary….I’ve chosen to go up against a formidable coalition of adversaries:

  1. The Gates Foundation plans on back-pedaling on their education improvement efforts, but still focused on mechanics and methods. There is so much more to do (see Philanthropists—Butt Out).
  2. Education Reform Now is a PAC with a Purpose, a non-partisan think tank, although the policy recommendations may be shaded toward the blue side. ERN’s stated scope: new methods of content delivery and tools of influence on teaching and learning. The goals have an exclusively academic focus, and to me the GF and ERN are both missing the mark.
  3. Both major parties and their respective candidates have platforms for improving higher ed accessibility and achievement levels. Missing the mark.
  4. The well-entrenched, highly protective…and overwhelmed…education establishment is buried in STEM curriculum, common core, standard test performance…things, things, things, missing the mark (see Re-thinking Purpose and Roles in Education).

Now here I come in all my blazing nobodyness. These players are way out of my ballpark. But they are essential, and potential champions. But who will recruit them? Who will be the catalyst for the coalition that’s necessary? So far with the minor leaguers I’ve pitched, it’s been a lot like rainfall. They all agree we need it badly, but no one wants to get wet…I don’t stand a chance.

Systemic change starts with well-crafted policy and a strong narrative that stakeholders readily buy into. Policy won’t make it off the paper on its own, regardless of how compelling the narrative may be. Aligned implementation is a real trick without a central direction that has teeth. And there’s a powerful camp of proponents in favor of decentralized education policy. If anyone out there has the Silver Bullet, I’d love to hear about it!




Environment Drives Performance, Results, Success

Trace the private sector’s evolution from the early days of total quality, quality circles and employee involvement to just-in-time, SPC, lean, six sigma…to the present where we’re shifting gears with employee engagement and emotional intelligence. One fundamental truth has been taking shape the whole time: attending to human needs and issues is the gateway to performance excellence. People before process.

Here we’ll look at an article recently published by the Greater Good Science Center, Kids Need More Than Just Brains to Succeed in which Jill Suttie talked with science journalist Paul Tough about his book Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why. While Tough’s focus is children living in poverty conditions, here we’ll look at broader applications.

Decades of private sector studies have identified core human needs and validated their impacts in the workplace. More recent research suggests that the same needs and impacts are in play in education and even in society. The emerging universal truth: the greater a person’s social-emotional well-being, the higher their level of engagement and contribution to the environment around them. People before process.

We could stand to get a better grip on a few critical causal relationships:

  1. Social-emotional well-being (SEWB) is based on the same attributes as engagement theory.
  2. SEWB and engagement are not directly actionable goals. They are both outcomes of an environment that is right for people to choose to be more engaged, resulting in a greater feeling of well-being.
  3. The same universal human needs and values move people, whether young or old.

Education is locked in on cognitive skills development. Tough’s proposal in Helping Children Succeed is that social-emotional related environmental factors greatly influence learners’ ability to fully learn the how-to-do-stuff, cognitive skills. Maximum learning potential is not realized without social-emotional environmental support.

Tough’s academic investigation findings mirror what I’ve observed in the private sector so regularly that it’s become one of my personal core beliefs: people before process.

Tough observes that non-cognitive attributes like grit, perseverance, self-regulation, optimism are not learned and cannot be taught. These attributes and more govern a person’s ability to learn cognitive skills. They evolve given the right supportive and engaging environment. And….

People Before Process is Relevant Across-the-Board…In Education, Workplace, Community

What specific things can we do to provide the right environment? Tough offers actionable examples for two different environments and phases of development. First in the home, early childhood: “…neuroscientific research tells us that when kids are in early environments that are responsive, interactive, and warm and stable, and involve what psychologists sometimes call “serve and return” parenting, which involves face-to-face, back-and-forth interactions between parents and their babies, that creates secure attachment—a real sense of security that kids have with parents or other caregivers.”

Second, the school environment where consistently providing the right narrative is critical: “…create environments in the classroom that change students’ mindsets by implicitly and explicitly giving them messages around belonging and possibility. When kids are given the message that they belong in the academic community, it has a profound effect on their motivation and on their ability to persevere and to stick with projects and problems for long periods of time. And if you’re in a school where you’re given the message that failure is part of the process of learning and that people change, and that you can improve your abilities, and that challenge is part of that process, those are the kids who are much more motivated to persevere, and work hard, and take on more challenges.”

Two Education Environment Building Blocks

Tough singles out two practices as particularly successful in nurturing non-cognitive attributes:

(ONE) Teacher-leaders stay with one group of students called “crews” for several years. Leader and crew meet for a half hour each day, giving the kids “…a sense of connection, of belonging and relatedness, and all of the psychological research suggests that those are incredibly powerful motivators to persevere at school.”

(TWO) Project-based learning: “…really challenging academic work-rigorous, long-term projects that students take on where they can’t help but learn in a deeper way. In addition to the academic skills that kids are learning…they’re also experiencing a psychological message: I can learn from my mistakes; I can get better at things. I can take on challenges that seem impossible; I can get the right kind of help; and I can solve them.”

You Get What You Measure. So Measure What’s Important

SEL is viewed through the same lens used to assess achievement in cognitive skills development and educators have struggled with accepting SEL as important. What does it do, what are the results? How do you measure it?

SEL’s effectiveness and engagement levels are not directly actionable or measurable objectives.  But there are wildly important outcomes impacted by (1) social-emotional development, (2) designing a supportive environment, and (3) using known engagement levers to encourage people to fully engage. There are known, fully actionable factors for all three. It’s a logical progression:

SE development / environmental engineering -> supportive environment ->

Social-emotional well-being and greater engagement ->

Maximum performance -> achievement, success.

Teacher Assessments

Tough observes “A lot of people feel that test scores alone are not a full measure of what kids are learning or how successful they’re going to be. And yet the problem with trying to put numbers on non-cognitive qualities is that we don’t have measures for grit or self-control that are as reliable as the standardized tests are for cognitive skills.”

Northwestern economist Kirabo’s work on assessing teachers is based on value added to students, using four common measures: attendance, behavior, grade point average, and grade progression. Kirabo found these to be reliable indicators of students who are more motivated and engaged, and that certain teachers consistently had students who performed better in the four measurement areas. Tough explains: If you were a student in one of these teachers’ classes, you were more likely to show up every day, more likely to work hard, and less likely to get in trouble. And that’s an incredible skill for a teacher to have. Using the tools of economics, he showed that those teachers are having a bigger effect on students’ long-term outcomes—including high school graduation, and college matriculation and graduation—than the teachers who were particularly good at raising students’ test scores.”

Tough concluded that There’s something about the classroom environment certain teachers are creating that makes students feel more of a sense of belonging and motivation and the desire to take on challenges.” And their performance shows it. We need more attention here-and that’s not a plea to indulge in endless navel-gazing!

The Engagement Factor

Employee engagement has had peaks and valleys of attention for decades, and engagement in the academic environment is gaining traction. Engagement and social-emotional development are closely related, with many common attributes. That common ground is examined in Supercharging Engagement. Note in particular the detailed description of eight Universal Attributes — basic human values, needs, motivators. Cliff Notes version follows.

  1. Relationships Built on Caring and Trust.  We all need to be nurtured no matter our age. Humans thrive when someone truly cares, not about what we do or how much we do or how well we do it, but when someone actually cares about US.
  2. Clear Expectations and Feedback. We want to make a meaningful contribution…and we need to know we’re doing the right things and how we’re doing along the way.
  3. Sense of Community.  Humans have been social creatures since first banding together in tribes for safety and companionship. More than strength in numbers or birds-of-a-feather, we have a basic human need to be part of a group;
  4. Connected to Community Vision. Connecting to vision can be simple as providing the “why” behind “what”, providing a line of sight from everyday tasks to compelling community or group goals.
  5. Sense of Personal Purpose. We all want and need to leave a legacy. What I am involved in that matters long-term; how can I make a difference in the grand scheme of things?
  6. Values-centered. We’re at ease when our values are aligned with the environment, we’re uncomfortable when our values are stifled or contradicted. Even if we’re not aware of our values, when there’s a conflict we still know something’s not right and we don’t like it. We just don’t know what’s wrong or why we feel bad.
  7. Opportunity to Shine: when people do what they do best and truly enjoy doing, they produce exceptional results. Well-being skyrockets with accomplishment, leading to even more impressive performance.
  8. Opportunity to Grow. The Army has it right. We all want to be all that we can be. We have strengths (#7) but that’s not enough. We want to be more, we want to do more.

BEST PRACTICES! Benchmark the studies and findings from the employee engagement experts. We know it works in the workplace for those attentive to their environment. Similar high levels of improved performance are attainable in education.

The Brass Ring Is In Reach

Tough concludes with the observation that research is still new, but slowly picking up steam over the past three years: “In the K-12 realm, the idea that teachers can be coached to provide a different kind of environment for students and that those environments make a big difference is not mainstream thinking right now in education. As with anything, when you’re trying to change people’s fundamental understanding of the work they’re doing, it takes time.”

Teachers make a difference in the education environment. Doing so improves performance, possibly more than teaching to the test to improve standard test scores. In the face of growing evidence and general acknowledgement of an overwhelming need to improve, what’s the holdup? Let’s get serious about understanding engagement and social and emotional well-being, about understanding what we need to do to create environments where people–young learners, workers, everyday citizens of all ages–not only survive but thrive. Then, let’s roll up our sleeves together and build a system that taps into the abundant common ground among the sectors. We are, after all, talking about universal human values and basic human needs.

The stakes are incredibly high, with minimal risk and maximum reward–no significant monetary investment needed. It doesn’t take Einsteins, it takes involvement and effort from an army of John and Mary Everymans.


If you made it all the way through to the end, you must be interested! Below: a few other relevant articles, on LinkedIn Pulse and here on Ripples.

Environment Drives Performance > Results > Success  (you are here!) review of interview with Paul Tough published at the Greater Good Science Center

Where is Education Improvement Headed? It’s Academic A review of a recent article posted by Education Reform Now.

Supercharging Engagement. We know it works in the workplace and in school. So let’s get serious about it!

Kids’ Epiphany—For Brielle. I am deeply committed to making a difference in young peoples’ lives, for good reason.

Process is Process—Education Too.  Leaning on my manufacturing roots, education could use a little process management discipline.

Philanthropists–Butt Out. A recent game-changing revelation on its education improvement efforts by the Gates Foundation.

We’re All On (or Off!) the Same Bus Universal truths relevant in education, community, private sector.

Re-thinking Purpose and Roles in Education>Training>Development>Skills

(by the way, the Greater Good Science Center is an incredible resource for educators and regular folks who just want to get informed and be involved!)

Process is Process-Education Too

I grew up in manufacturing— making stuff, delivering on customer expectations, process control, hitting the numbers. Time to go back to my roots for some common-sense introductory process management. For those in the education business, this applies to you too.

How Things Work: Three-minute New Hire Orientation

Each process step adds value to incoming material (inputs) by transforming the product in some way. Process specifications are based on customer needs and requirements. The customer may be the next step in the overall process or the end user. Minor defects may be repaired, but if a product is too far out-of-spec it becomes unusable. Too many unusable units from one step can bring the entire process to a grinding halt. If the production schedule is missed, heads will roll.

Internal or external customers do not appreciate having to cover a supplier’s mistakes by reworking substandard units to make the product fit for use. Repairs are costly and repaired units are not as functional as those made right the first time. If product is too far out of spec it is scrapped, a huge bottom line drain and productivity killer. And resources are diverted to make up for lost units. If a supplier cannot resolve its process issues and consistently meet requirements for both quantity and quality, the customer may have no choice but to find another supplier.

Common reasons for missed requirements are simple to resolve: unclear, poorly communicated or ignored customer specs. Business is pretty simple too: customers reward suppliers who meet needs and punish those who do not. In a market-driven world, if you keep the customer happy you stay in business. Don’t and you’ll have trouble keeping the doors open.

perpertual gitRdone2small

Process is Process, Customers are Customers…Usually. Education is the sole supplier of human resources to the employer and community markets. Education is an out-of-control process. Don’t hate on me yet, my academic friends. There’s a valid reason and it’s not all your fault for a change!

Education is not market-driven and finding another supplier is not an option when the vendor is the education system. Employers and communities are captive customers, they are co-designers of their prison. They have not been actively involved, have not helped education set goals and develop curriculum based on customer needs and expectations, have not provided performance feedback, have not helped the supplier meet those expectations.

Wait, you say…”what makes you think Education even wants our outsider help? They’ll only snub us if we meddle in their affairs.” Is that a valid assumption? Think about the eight ball Education is behind with the demand to deliver more with fewer resources. Sounds like your world, doesn’t it Mr. Operations Manager? Maybe you should challenge those assumptions and feather your own nest while you’re at it.

Problem Analysis

Current State: the education process transforms raw material called students. The output of the education process enters the workforce and community. Both customers are impacted by an under-developed talent pool and poorly prepared future citizens. Productivity is falling, social issues are rising, grads do not have a purpose or clear path forward. Outputs can be customers too.

Problem Statement:  customers’ needs and expectations have not been clearly communicated to the supplier. Traditional driving metrics are cost per unit, capacity utilization and velocity of product through the system. The new standard is first-time quality: make it right the first time with “rightness” determined by how fully requirements are met. Conflicting goals among performance measures are common in the private sector among the Holy Trinity of cost, capacity, throughput. And then along comes quality. Education faces the same conflicts.

Can you really achieve low cost, rapid production with full asset utilization and high quality at the same time?  Traditional management thinking says there is give and take. But years ago W. Edwards Deming identified variation as Public Enemy Number One. The more a process is in-control, the more consistently high quality the outputs are as the process is more capable of hitting spec dead-on, not just within broad upper and lower spec limits. And Phil Crosby proposed decades ago that “Quality is Free”. Poor quality eats your lunch–rework, scrap, lost production, missed deliveries, poor attitudes.

Marginally out-of-spec outputs can often be reworked. But repair is expensive, it doesn’t add new value, it consumes time, it can never make something as good as an original produced right the first time. The supplier falls behind, and is producing sub-par goods for the customer.

When the process cannot consistently provide in-spec product (students), it’s time to invest in upgrading the process. Universal Truth: the cost of limping along on old, incapable equipment far outweighs the cost of re-tooling an entire production facility. Evolve or die.

Education determines crystal clear academic requirements for students. But there is little input from customers, just after-the-fact complaints. Because customer needs are not being met Education is labeled an unreliable supplier with out of control processes. Impact: the private sector and society have significant problems. Education is in the middle-both impacted by, and part of, the issues.

All Things Considered….

Root Cause: if requirements are not accurate up-front, no amount of downstream fine-tuning can make up for it. And there are no customer requirements in the education process.

Resolution: a customer/supplier partnership to set requirements early in the academic life cycle. Use requirements to develop curriculum, learning objectives and outcomes. Then, set controls in place to ensure those requirements are consistently met throughout the entire education process.

The Spec That Matters Most comes from the customer. Learning objectives must be driven throughout the education cycle by customer needs. Collaboration ensures that needs and expectations are realistic, truly critical to output quality, and clearly communicated.

The Learner Goal That Matters Most is to make sure learners have a vested interest in their education, that they are hopeful for what’s ahead, and they can see that education will help them get to a promising, desirable future.

The Education Process Output That Matters Most is highly engaged young people who are ready to take on the world, regardless of what comes at them.

The US is market-driven, we’re used to it. Process management and customer requirements in a market-driven system are common sense and necessary. We’ve dropped the ball here with education because we’re not very good at Big Picture thinking. Here’s the key:

Until we consider education, society and the private sector as part of one big system we’ll continue down the same path and get the same results.

Those results have been unacceptable.