This section begins with a brief history of the Total Quality process that is used in the facilitation of this paper. The background will help to clarify how the four step process is used and will bring credibility to its efficacy.
In the late 1970’s and 1980’s the United States was losing the manufacturing battle to Japan, primarily because the Japanese had superior quality. This was particularly true with automobiles. A Japanese car could be purchased without the seemingly inevitable two or three return trips to the dealer to finally get everything working properly. US industry finally awakened to the role that quality played in the buying decision for many items. In the process there was demonstrable evidence that high quality paid for itself.
Like most progressive companies, the author’s company, Eli Lilly, Inc., decided to embark upon a total quality journey. Overall, the relatively simple process paid big dividends in many areas of the company. It was very easy to employ in administrative areas as well as manufacturing. One of its lasting benefits adheres to a Japanese concept and term, “Kaizan” that stands for “never ending improvement”.
The Four Steps
Below are the four steps used by many companies. They will be used in this research in order to identify and improve education at the target school:
1. If you want to understand and improve a job, ask the people who do the job.
2. Speak with data
3. Look for root cause
4. Steal ideas without shame
Step 1 proved to be very important at Eli Lilly. Employee teams were established and asked to improve their jobs. They were given “team time” to allow them to work together to make recommendations to management. What proved to be critical with this first point is summed up in this often heard comment by employees, “We no longer need to check in our brains when we come to work.” This first step yielded millions of dollars in improvements over several years as the employees were now able to be a part of the management process.
Step 2 proved to be of vital importance in getting the ideas submitted as step 1 was applied. The teams collected data to either prove or disprove process improvements they proposed to their management. Data is impersonal, not political, and if done correctly, not biased. Having good data available “closed the case” on many improvement suggestions.
Step 3 is another vital step in process improvement. In order to “get to the bottom of things” a relentless series of questions are asked that almost always start with the word WHY. For example, here is how it might work at Federal Express when a package is not delivered properly: Why wasn’t the package delivered on time? Answer, it was not on the truck. Why wasn’t it on the truck? It was never delivered to the loading dock. Why wasn’t it delivered to the loading dock? It never got onto the plane. This continues on and on until there are no more “why” questions to be asked. Once the root cause is isolated, a process/process change is put in place to keep the problem from occurring again.
Acceptance of Step 4 is a sign of a mature organization. In many organizations the “not invented here” could never result in a good outcome. All good ideas must come from within in order to make them acceptable to the company’s culture. Now, however, the primary driving force is to make improvements and not be concerned with where the ideas come from.
How The Process Was Applied in this Paper
As we began to meet as a working group, it was quite clear that the teachers relished the opportunity to describe their job and its associated frustrations. It was apparent with this group that though the higher administration often spoke for the teachers, it seldom spoke to them. Once we began this stage, the emotions were clearly deep and troubled. The teachers were not upset about teaching, they were upset because of their inability to teach. The author, as the facilitator, would listen to the discussions, write the thoughts on paper, then submit the comments back to the teachers for review and corrections.
Step 2 is very important in order for their frustrations to be quantified. The author has had quite a lot of experience in the use of “nonfinancial metrics” and helped the teachers select three metrics to be measured. The three selected metrics are:
1. Multiple requests to follow directions
2. Failure to actively listen
3. Bad attitude/conflict
These are all disruptions for each class in varying magnitudes. An admonition to a particular student to listen better will most likely not be a major event, but it does take away from teaching time. A severe disruption resulting from a student’s profane and violent outburst could affect the class for many minutes. All of these add up to lost instructional time and a poor learning environment. General admonitions to the entire class were not recorded; they had to be associated with a particular student. This is the only way one is able to quantify the impact of each student’s behavior.
Step 3 will be used to attempt to get to the bottom of the behavioral issues for Type 3 children. On several occasions the “why” question is asked. The journey to the root cause ends for this study once three factors are isolated. These factors are: parents/parenting, culture and personal choice. There will be more on this in other parts of this website – go to Looking for Root Cause.
Step 4 will be used in the second phase of this research. We will look to low-income schools that have been granted an ‘A’ grade for their methods to overcome the burdens of poverty.