04 Dec The next bailout: Here comes public education
Chicago, Ill. – Public schools will be the next institutions to want more money to fix crumbling buildings, patch bloated budgets, buy more buses, and perpetuate stagnated objectives but in reality they need to re-invent education to take wholesale advantage of proven technologies from sophisticated software and broadband connectivity to distance learning and interactive video capabilities.
For the most part, public schools are an anachronism. They were designed in the Industrial Age to assimilate an agrarian society into a workforce for the Industrial Age. The Industrial Age surged into the Information Age a good forty years ago and we did not do much to change the framework of education. If anything, we bloated it with multiple assistant superintendents, curriculum advisors, crisis counselors, and a dozen more positions that were unheard of twenty years ago.
We are now well past the Information Age and are in what some would call a Mobile Internet Age. We need to embrace a whole new set of educational concepts and discard those that include teaching obsolete skills, protecting deadwood teachers and adhering to schedules that reflect the harvesting of crops.
The three Rs
The three Rs that you grew up with in public schools weren’t reading, writing and arithmetic. They were rote (memorization), repetition, and routine. After twelve years, they added up to regimentation. This framework developed a workforce that could assimilate into Industrial Age jobs. Too bad we advanced from the Industrial Age.
Most organizations are tied to procedures and policies that reflect routine. For no other reason, it is because that’s what most people are comfortable with. Unfortunately, most jobs require being flexible, adaptable and creative within the current global economy. They also require a solid set of adaptive technology skills.
New initiatives or management styles are met with obstacles in the workplace. Classic early technology examples include organizations that went from keyboard to mouse applications or DOS to Windows-based applications. Remember how some people could not use a mouse? Something that we look back at now as being such a nominal change or such a natural progression was a huge impact to the routines of what people used “back in the day”.
Did you know there are still some people that use DOS applications in some financial applications? They still cannot get into a WINDOWS-based environment due to technical resistance as well as financial resistance of not wanting to spend the money to upgrade into new technology. Funny, these are the people that are making financial decisions for some large institutions and pensions.
Just as someone older would frown upon a stock broker trying to figure out return rates using a slide rule, someone younger would go into shock if their financial portfolio was being monitored by someone using a DOS-based application.
Routine and regimentation build up resistance
No matter what organization you go to, you will find some resistance to change. With most organizations looking to improve services, the need to overcome resistance is critical. Resistance is always present whether you are in manufacturing, finance or education, so you must plan for it.
There are several types of resistance to change: political resistance, technical resistance, financial resistance, individual resistance and combinations of them. And this is not just an “older worker” syndrome. Many times, younger workers fall into the “routine trap” as well. Don’t forget, they went to that same public school of “rote, repetition and routine.”
There are structured methodologies to apply to get organizations to improve and focus on quality initiatives but no matter which one they select, it is only as good as the level of acceptance the organization attains.
No matter which quality methodology they select (Six Sigma, TQM, Kaizen), chances are the first step is to perform an assessment of the current environment. Before any improvement can occur, you should set a baseline to where you are starting. (The current environment to measure progress from.)
What should organizations assess? Most focus on people, procedures, policies, and the current state of assets and liabilities. More progressive organizations also focus on the culture of the organization to determine what other influences are present that would impact change.
Before more bailout money is spent in the wrong direction for any institution or industry, a complete assessment should be done to understand what is worth funding and what should be discarded. There should be performance objectives as well as other restrictions tied to any bailout package no matter what industry it is going to fund.
Global positioning demands change
If we are to be globally competitive, we cannot perpetuate corporate or institutional frameworks that were built to work within an earlier era. Breaking old routines are difficult, but that is what is needed in many areas.
CARLINI-ISM: Agents of change are not well liked. They disrupt routine.
This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
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