Category Archives: Systems Thinking and Education

Take Away the Incentive to Eliminate School Cheating

Burnt toastW. Edwards Deming often spoke about American Toast.

“You burn and I’ll scrape.”

This fits the picture that is being painted in the American Education system.

A WallStreet Journal article titled, For School Tests, Measures to Detect Cheating Proliferate outlines how school systems are hiring a company called Caveon Test Security to help prevent and detect cheating on tests.  This represents the epitome of the making of  American Toast.

I don’t fault Caveon for taking advantage of a bad system – after all, it is the American way.  Making money off of other people’s ignorance and stupidity will always have a home here.

It should not be difficult to recognize that the US education system has fallen into the trap that impairs business – namely incentives.  Incentives will always get people to do something you may desire.

The incessant testing of students has paved a path to score or grade teachers and schools.  The incentives come in the form of more money for schools with high test scores.  If, however, you are at the other end of the spectrum you may just want to save your job.

Testing schemes — like finances in business — are just keeping score.  The methods of teaching are what will make the figures better.  Focus on method and not result seems to be something that our education folks can’t get their head around – which is scary.

The unintended consequences of incentives have played out in DC, Philadelphia, and Atlanta in high profile cases.  Yet there has been many less publicized incidents of cheating.  Remove the incentive to cheat and companies like Caveon will wilt like a weed — it will cut off the source that makes it grow.

Instead spend the money on teaching methods — and why you are at it get rid of the expensive tests.

Take a look at your organization as your customers see it – our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.” You will understand the customer view of your organization and take inventory of the assumptions, beliefs and perspectives that drive performance. Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organizational futurist. His company helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer. The 95 Method designs organizations to improve the comprehensive customer experience while improving culture and management effectiveness. Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for PEX and CallCenterIQ. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Indiana Education School Scoring – A Predictable End

State Seal of Indiana.

State Seal of Indiana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hate to say I told you so . . . but I told you so. The DeHaan school flap over changing grades for one school and not another has led to former Indiana State Education Superintendent Tony Bennett to resign his position in Florida. You can see all previous posts on Indiana Education at this link.

This isn’t a Tony Bennett issue, it is a perspective issue.  The complexity of the US education system has grown since the advent of the US Education Department during the Carter Administration in the late 1970s.  Increased complexity means more costs.  Think about it . . . more money to management types rather than money for classrooms, the advent of standardized test scores and grading teachers and schools all cost more money.  The lawsuits and time wasted are unknown and unknowable.

The State of Indiana with its super majority has the opportunity to be Republicans and shut down the Indiana State Department of Education.  This would seem unpopular politically, but would reduce complexity and move the control back to the local arenas.

For Democrats, get rid of this silly grading system which you have already identified as damaging.  Work to make Teachers (the value workers in this system) the locus of control.  The money needs to be spent on the classroom and not all these extracurricular grading activities.

Reducing complexity means spending less and getting more.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance and use workers to build and refine your service.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.Enhanced by Zemanta
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Atlanta Cheating Scandal – A Messy and Predictable Result

Let’s be clear.  A good person working in a bad system will lead to poor results.  The whole Atlanta School system– and education systems like them – have created environments where the system is dictating performance . . . and survival in that system.  The Atlanta education system created the environment for administrators and educators to cheat.

These systems designed in this fashion need to be eliminated in education systems, government and private industry.

The US has created a culture of cheating by the way we have contrived and managed systems.  Lance Armstrong, the recent KPMG scandal of insider training, an assortment of jailed CEOs and manipulation of every day measures to survive or get ahead are results of these poorly contrived and managed systems.  Our short-term thinking for immediate gain is like a boat anchor hanging around our societal necks.

Pay for performance or any derivation of pay for performance like:, administrator and educator rewards tied to test scores, school funding tied to test scores, school takeovers tied to test scores and graduation rates,  etc. will lead to cheating and/or manipulation – if not for personal gain, for survival.  I wrote about this back in 2009  (see A Step Back: Pay for Performance in Schools).  We are making our own bed and we have to continue to sleep in it.  We are better than this.

The current education system is expensive to boot.  The added attorney costs and inspection costs to avoid cheating and manipulation make this design inefficient and not just ineffective.  Now, we may have more expenses to jail “cheaters.”

To improve education, we need to  change our perspective and contrive better educational systems.  The culture of cheating and manipulation comes from our current culture.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Indiana Education – Raising Standards Can’t Replace Better Method

No one I know takes standardize tests for a living

No one I know takes standardize tests for a living (Photo credit: Ken Whytock)

It is a predictable solution for the uniformed . . .  raise standards and education will improve.  Education a man-made crisis and the solution is to leave more children behind.  If your learning isn’t up to snuff, you get “extra help” in No Child Let Behind and this program has led to more “problem” children.  In Indiana we are basing teachers effectiveness on test scores to standardized testing.  Winners and losers and, of course, more funding.

The US population are collective suckers for wasting away tax dollars.

Standardized testing and raising standards misses the mark and costs billions.  Seriously, what to either of these have to do with learning.  Children memorize information, but this is not learning.  Learning requires discovery and enthusiasm . . . how many kids in today’s schools can’t wait to go back tomorrow?  The exciting part is reserved for sporting events, not education.  The barriers are standardized tests and standards.  Little emphasis on learning, just memorization.

The characteristics of memorizing information does not translate  to what we need in the US job market.  Critical thinking requires a different type of learning missing from our hand-tied education systems . . . and the children suffer.

Better thinking and methods is required in education, not “raising standards.”

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.Enhanced by Zemanta
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The 67 Year Thinking Problem

If it wasn’t bad enough that SPC charts disappeared from the Hawthorne Plant after WWII as management adopted a mass-production mindset, 67 years after Japan kicked our collective behinds we still think the same about management.  Worse, we have even fallen deeper into insignificance in the US.  Short-term thinking driven by the financial markets and management with an attention span of the TV generation struggle to compete and innovate.

Buying and selling companies for profit and mergers for economy of scale.  Except profit comes from satisfying customers in new and different ways  . . . and mergers have not achieved the scale needed to increase profit as this comes from economies of flow.  The scale fantasy continues to drive the wrong behavior.

With great embarrassment, the US still tries to copy Japan.  How do you catch a competitor by copying?  It always keeps you behind.  Finding out what matters to customers leads to innovation that is emergent from what you learn.

Instead of thinking for ourselves, we embrace “gurus” that study Japan and have never actually applied the hypothesis.  Because if they had they would discover the truth through application.

The clock is still ticking . . .

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Question for Deficit Panel – By What Method?

The call for a “plan” to deal with issues like taxes, immigration, budget deficits, social security, medicaid and other weighty issues is staple to the political season.  The real deficit is not the plans, but the knowledge that they lack.

By November 23rd, a select group of Republicans and Democrats must come up with a Deficit Reduction Plan or automatic cuts go into effect.  The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction needs to come up with legislation without knowledge.

I am absolutely for reducing the deficit, the question becomes, “By what method?”

Legislators putting together plans or legislation to reduce spending without first understanding the what and why of current performance stand to increase costs.  Across the board cuts is bad enough, but recommendations from a panel without intimate knowledge of what they are doing is even worse.  It is the reason that legislators should stay out of government management.

Whether you are in the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street you are on the same continuum of dissatisfaction of the way things are going.  Some say government should disappear and others say government should do everything.  Each are extremes of a polarized political system.

Political ideology needs to be replaced with evidence that comes from knowledge.  Too many expensive solutions are being implemented that don’t deliver anything but more costs.

Compromise is not going to happen with the extremes of the political parties. But even if it did, we would get a negotiated solution rather than one that makes sense.

We do not need a plan or another committee of “bipartisan participants.”  This is a waste of time and resources.  We need to get knowledge, redesign government services and design out non-value adding agencies like the Department of Education.

It all starts with one question, “By what method?”

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Pay and Performance – Two Separate Things

As the political season heats up, so does the call for “pay for performance.”  The assumption here is that it works . . . and yes, to some degree it does.  Unfortunately, it works in a manner that actually diminishes and destroys service.

Performance is dictated by the system in which you work.  This is true for front-line workers and executives.

I have often quoted W. Edwards Deming and written about the 95/5 Rule.  95% of the performance of any organization is dependent upon how well your system is set-up, and only 5% is down to the individual/  The system is comprised of processes, work design, management thinking, measures, roles and any other element that exists.

It is true that pay drives individual performance.  However, this takes away from the focus on the customer.  Organizations that are functionally separated try to give managers individual pieces of the organization to optimize which results in sub-optimization.  Sub-optimization is the enemy of synthesizing the whole – creating waste and inefficiency.

Individual pay for performance creates competition between workers where cooperation needs to exist to improve any system.  Further, individuals learn to manipulate the system to survive or gain reward.  What this boils down to is that the system loses when pay is tied to performance.

I have seen organizations go out of business while everyone is still getting bonuses for performance.  How can this be?  Some claim it is just the wrong measures and miss the point.  The problem is that pay is tied to performance in the first place.

Improving performance requires redesigning our organizations be they governments or private companies.  Working on the 5% is just dumb and wastes what little time we have already.  This requires a shift in Western mindsets about how we think about work.  It wouldn’t hurt to have governments start to learn this with teachers, police officers and other government jobs.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Shut Down the Department of Education Federal AND State

I still consider myself neutral because the on-going war between Democrats and Republicans is counter-productive.  Although, I am happy to report that many of the Republican presidential candidates have proposed that they would shut down the US Department of Education.

Why stop at the stop at the Federal level?

I first proposed last summer that the Indiana Department of Education should shut down.

It only makes sense to start putting our investment in those that can create value (teachers) and less spend on those that shovel costly policies and programs into the schools.  Less management and more teaching is a wonderful formula for hiring more teachers and reducing the burgeoning deficit.

Democrats should like this too.  So long as we hire more teachers and not waste more money on non-sense that is needed in the classroom.  We spend $77.4 billion dollars on the US Department of Education.  Think about that $1.5 billion for every State.

But wait a minute . . .

We can save even more by shutting down every State Department of Education and have more money to spend in the classroom.  We could save and improve education and send the bureaucrats packing to either teach or find a value creating  job.  Pay teachers more and reduce the deficit – something for everyone . . . Democrat or Republican.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Management Infatuation . . . The Large Project

What is it about large projects that is so attractive?

Is it the ability to put a large project on a resume?  Or the feeling of power to have introduced massive change?  It is hard to figure out the answer to this management paradox.  Maybe there isn’t one.

Service organizations and governments love the large project.  A lot of them involve information technology, but these projects certainly aren’t just IT.  IT just seems a good way to fund it.  No one will argue with large projects that are the future.

However, large projects seem to fail at unbelievable rates.  In fact, I am yet to see a successful one.  All have begun with great pomp and circumstance.  Executive speeches given, resources allocate, Gantt charts populated on hundreds of pages and the master plan is unveiled.

Two months later and the ADD management has usually already lost interest.  Funding for other things is poured into the financials of the projects.  Large projects do represent a great way to hide costs.  Our software developers put in 500 hours last month into your project . . . and you got one line of code – if you are lucky.

These days I remain amused by those that promote their company or themselves as large-scale project managers with years of working on large projects.  All that experience that has delivered so very little in tangible improvement.

The problem is really quite simple, the need was never really there to do a large project.  Egos and assumptions play a larger role in these decisions than need.  The truth is that most of the time value can be created by small changes on the front-line.  It just isn’t as glamorous.

Before the next big project kicks off, take a couple of deep breadths and do the following:

  1. Get knowledge – leave the egos and assumptions behind
  2. Improve the work and pull IT

There are more to these steps, but if you are reflective on this you will discover a much better way than big projects.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Atlanta, Dallas, D.C. – A Predictable Result When Using Incentives in Education

The cheating continues for those with incentive programs to get higher scores when testing students.  I hate to say I told you so . . . but I told you so.  Tying test scores to performance opens the door to cheating, people will do what they need to survive in  a bad system.  Administrators and teachers alike are doing the best they can in these poorly conceived systems of education.

My home state, Indiana, just pushed through education (without knowledge) to tie teachers pay and performance to test scores.  Governor Daniels and State Superintendent Tony Bennett, here is the predictable result that you have set up by the system you just put in place.  Political ideology over knowledge creates bad systems.  With great irony . . . ignorance reigns over education.

The response of government will be more oversight to find the criminals, and therefore, more cost to implement these programs.  Here is why we have overspending in government.  A cycle of damaging legislation without knowledge and then costly oversight to find cheaters.  While the “high ethic” Governors can wash their hands of responsibility believing that just a few bad apples are the problem.  NO!  The problem is the ridiculous system you just put in place.

Performance doesn’t come down to the individual, it comes down to the system they work in.  This is true for teachers, workers, management, administrators and yes . . . even a Governor.  If we are going to stamp out costs and balance the budget at the state, federal or local level there needs to be less ignorance and more knowledge about what drives performance.

We have started this country down a worse path in education because of wrong theories.  Education will be the only way out, but we need theories that work.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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