Posted by: knightbird | July 1, 2011

Where does inspiration come from?

Listening to good talk radio (not the ranters and ravers) gives me lots of information to think about. This morning, I listened to a therapist trainee speak about the over nurturing parent and the unhappy 20 something generation the parented. When these over parented children encounter the real world, they discover that they are not as special as mommy and daddy made them out to be. And this bothers them enough to seek therapy. The therapist then said that parents need to give their children more guidance and micromanage their life less. I also listened to Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education. He made a statement about the U.S. needing to find ways to do more with less. Both statements resonated with me. Parents and teachers need to learn lean thinking.

What do I mean by this last statement?

Life is a series of lots of standard work. Brushing our teeth, tying our shoes, bathing, driving a vehicle, teaching a child and writing a memo and much more. We encounter new tasks to learn every day, as well as mistakes, errors and defective work. In the work place, we frequently have managers who micromanage. But the problem is that they micromanage only what they are aware of. And the people they manage work very hard to keep information away from the manager because they know that information the manager knows about leads to interference and micromanaging. And with parents, since they believe they know how things should be done, and have the skills to protect their children from even minor frustrations, they micromanage their kids lives and never let them make the mistakes or experience the encounters they need in order to learn and grow. Teachers are told to teach to a standardized test and punished when the children they teach don’t achieve what the Feds say they should achieve. Micromanaging.

Extraordinary achievement cannot be micromanaged. Everyone has to be involved in extraordinary achievement. Our workplace needs to be organized. We need to have the proper tools to achieve results. The best methods for accomplishing the work need to be discovered. All employees must be fully and properly trained. And most of all, we must know where we are going—we have to have agreement on the goals we are trying to achieve. Not in a minute goals, then objectives, then tasks and assignments. If we say we want to increase our college graduation rate, then we need to say so. That is our future state. Then we analyze what makes our children successful and allows them to go to college. We do this as a team.

What Congress did with No Child Left Behind is what we often do in our workplace. We say: “You need to achieve X, and if you don’t, you are a failure.” We are going to measure you, and evaluate you, and compare you to your co-worker. And we don’t care if your co-worker has 30 years of experience and you have 3, you are equally blamable in our eyes. And if you fail under our standards, we will announce your failures to the world as we consider firing you and tainting you for life. With children, we do the opposite. We tell them how wonderful they are, and that they are our future. We pass them from grade to grade without their learning what is needed to achieve because we judge all of them to be equal, even though they have enormous differences in their learning environment. We provide inadequate amounts of the materials they need to achieve—ancient textbooks, overcrowded classrooms, too many administrators and not enough teachers.

Lean thinking involves giving guidance. We give our employees the tools they need. We find the most effective ways to produce defect free work. We work in teams and teach all of our people what it takes to be successful. We teach problem solving and the scientific method of PDCA (or PDSA) and don’t require perfection, only a will to continuously improve. And we don’t blame or shame our people. We take them as they are, and help them to develop into a valuable member of our team.

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