Organizational Excellence

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Posts Tagged ‘Education

Connecting With Dusty

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I mentioned in the “Cipher” section of What Drives You?  that I always took extra steps to connect with “tough case” students in classes I was assigned to substitute teach in. Validation of that strategy succeeding came once again yesterday when I ran into “Dusty”. He smiled and said “hey, Mr. Cool Sub! How ya been?” It was good to see him, and we visited a while before moving on.

Dusty and I have some history between us. He remembered me, and I sure remembered him from over six years ago…..

Before my first day assigned to sub a week for Dusty’s class, I was warned about him by his regular teacher-that he was an especially surly, disruptive, troublesome student and I shouldn’t give him an inch. On down the standard list. I identified Dusty first thing, slouched down in his chain-drooping gothic black clothes and five piercings that I could see, scowling “don’t mess with me, I’m bad”.

Enough of that. Before class started, I walked along the rows of students and set the strategy in motion. Simply “hey Dusty, how’s it going?” as I passed his desk. No response beyond a dark stare, but none expected. He had his game face on, after all.

In the halls, I greeted him every time I saw him. Same thing every morning in the classroom. Toward the end of the week, he finally walked up to me before class. “You know what’s cool about you?” he said, looking me square in the eye. “You know my name. My other teachers don’t even care if I’m alive.”

How powerful is that?


Written by Craig

November 11, 2012 at 2:11 am

UPDATE: Creative Tension and Education

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I pulled together Part One Education and Economic Issues and Creative Tension-Desired Future For Education added a whole lot to it and published a 7-page pdf on the Flawless-Execution web site, on the Greater Good corner.  

See the link titled  Education: Current State, Desired Future.  This white paper examines the current state of education and the long-term economic effects, and presents one possible solution to just a portion of the issues we are facing. As there is a good deal to do, it is my hope that the thoughts presented here will prompt other like-minded people to get involved to address these issues. There is plenty to go around, and I just want to do my part.

As a reminder, the premise of the “Greater Good” is that business and industry tools and techniques, concepts and philosophies can be directly applied to other areas—community, society, education.

Take a close look at the issues and the opportunities. You will see that there is no choice but to get involved.

Written by Craig

July 23, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Creative Tension-Desired Future For Education

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This is the continuation of defining my creative tension surrounding education and economic issues. Part One: overview and current reality. If you haven’t done so yet, read Part One first.

My mission: turn “my vision” into “our creative tension”. My vision for education, as best as I can briefly articulate it:

Academia and business collaborate to provide our young people with the best possible preparation for what awaits them in the real world, ensuring the success of the graduate, therefore impacting our global competitiveness and the long term viability of our quality of life.

Nothing too grandiose for me…if the following is intriguing to you or if you have questions or personal experience to relate, please join in!

Without getting into nuts and bolts, ACE-PONSI recommends college credits for non-academic organizations’ training and development. As ACE is the American Council of Education, the credits are accepted by most colleges. This opens a huge door of opportunity for forward thinking organizations and even communities, to offer a value-adding enhancement to traditional higher education. Just for kicks, call it “Real World Prep School” (RWPS). I’m working to upload a presentation that examines RWPS, and includes some of the ACE credit recommendation process. If youwant it, email me:

Benefits to Employers. RWPS is a recruiting incentive to those who could not continue into higher education: earn and learn. Employers can expand their recruiting pool beyond degreed candidates, an increasingly endangered species. High potentials in the RWPS system can be identified and hire, then developed. Learning and growth opportunities are high on the list of why people stay with a company, making RWPS a factor for retention. The curriculum is determined by the company, therefore it precisely targets goals and needs much more than traditional education can. And application-intensive projects and assignments ensure targeted, value-adding results, not just course completion and a grade. Finally, as ACE requires a high level of academic rigor and discipline, RWPS validates the quality and integrity of company training programs.

Benefits for Learners. RWPS is a highly accessible, affordable learning opportunity to take part in high quality, accredited learning. As the coursework is based on real-world skills needed that students learn and apply, they develop an impressive portfolio of real-world tools. This means greater employability compared to an academic degree alone. With distance learning, any student anywhere can earn credits.

ACE notes these benefits for learners: enables faster attainment of educational and career goals, increases ability to complete postsecondary credentials, and improves workplace mobility as credits earned are portable.

Benefits for the Education System. RWPS is not in competition with academia, but is an enhancement of learning opportunities. As RWPS is accessible to more students, more learners are recruited into the learning process, which they are more likely to continue with traditional schools. When local B & I and community grows, student enrollments increase as well. Last, RWPS establishes a long-needed partnership between education and the business sector, with each taking care of what they do best.

Economic Impact Potential. The community that crafts an innovative, world-class approach to education will be a big winner. In business relocation or expansion decisions, a key criteria is the local education system as it impacts current and future workforce preparedness. Growing families certainly look at education systems in their decision-making process. More business and more families = larger tax base. Pretty basic stuff.

Benefits for the Community. In addition to the above economic impacts, RWPS provides easy access to lifelong learning opportunity for all citizens. And if the community is experiencing business and population growth we can expect more of our talented teens at home-no need to go to greener pastures!

The Big Question: In a direct comparison of workplace relevance and value between a standard academic degree and completion of RWPS coursework, which would provide more relevance and value to the learner and employer?

Written by Craig

July 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Let the Rabbits Run, redux

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(It seems I get a query or two a day on this parable. Tells me there are a lot of rabbits who want to be allowed to run. STOP making them take swimming lessons!

What really gets me is that the education system is hell-bent on teaching rabbits to swim. I know, I know…we cannot allow anarchy to rule the schoolhouse. No way can kids be allowed to learn only what they like and what they are good at, just as we can’t permit them to avoid what they hate…I’m just sayin’.)

A parable from the book: Soar With Your Strengths, by Clifton and Nelson. This book is a classic!

 Imagine there is a meadow. In that meadow there is a duck, a fish, an eagle, an owl, a squirrel, and a rabbit. They decide they want to have a school so they can be smart, just like people.

With the help of some grown-up animals, they come up with a curriculum they believe will make a well-rounded animal: running, swimming, tree climbing, jumping, and flying.

On the first day of school, little rabbit combed his ears, and he went hopping off to his running class. There he was a star. He ran to the top of the hill and back as fast as he could go, and, oh, did it feel good. He said to himself, “I can’t believe it. At school, I get to do what I do best.”

The instructor said, “Rabbit, you really have talent for running. You have great muscles in your rear legs. With some training, you will get more out of every hop.”

The rabbit said, “I love school. I get to do what I like to do and get to learn to do it better.”

The next class was swimming. When the rabbit smelled the chlorine, he said, “Wait, wait! Rabbits don’t like to swim.”

The instructor said, “Well, you may not like it now, but five years from now you’ll know it was a good thing for you.”

In the tree-climbing class, a tree trunk was set at a 30-degree angle so all the animals had a chance to succeed. The little rabbit tried so hard he hurt his leg.

In jumping class, the rabbit got along just fine; in flying class, he had a problem. So the teacher gave him a test and discovered he belonged in remedial flying.

In remedial flying class, the rabbit had to practice jumping off a cliff. They told him if he’d just work hard enough, he could succeed.

The next morning, he went on to swimming class. The instructor said, “Today we jump in the water.”

“Wait, wait. I talked to my parents about swimming. They didn’t learn to swim. We don’t like to get wet. I’d like to drop this course.” The instructor said, “You can’t drop it. The drop-and-add period is over. At this point you have a choice: Either you jump in or you flunk.”

The rabbit jumped in. He panicked! He went down once. He went down twice. Bubbles came up. The instructor saw he was drowning and pulled him out. The other animals had never seen anything quite as funny as this wet rabbit who looked more like a rat without a tail, and so they chirped, and jumped, and barked, and laughed at the rabbit. The rabbit was more humiliated than he had ever been in his life. He wanted desperately to get out of class that day. He was glad when it was over.

He thought that he would head home, that his parents would understand and help him. When he arrived, he said to his parents, “I don’t like school. I just want to be free.”

“If the rabbits are going to get ahead, you have to get a diploma” replied his parents.

The rabbit said, “I don’t want a diploma!”

The parents said, “You’re going to get a diploma whether you want one or not!”

They argued, and finally the parents made the rabbit go to bed. In the morning the rabbit headed off to school with a slow hop. Then he remembered that the principal had said that any time he had a problem to remember that the counselor’s door is always open.

When he arrived at school, he hopped up in the chair by the counselor and said, “I don’t like school.”

And the counselor said, “Mmmm, tell me about it.”

And the rabbit did.

The counselor said, “Rabbit, I hear you. I hear you saying you don’t like school because you don’t like swimming. I think I have diagnosed that correctly.”

“Rabbit, I tell you what we’ll do. You’re doing just fine in running. I don’t know why you need to work on running. What you need to work on is swimming. I’ll arrange it so you don’t have to go to running anymore, and you can have two periods of swimming.”

When the rabbit heard that, he just threw up!

As the rabbit hopped out of the counselor’s office, he looked up and saw his old friend, the Wise Old Owl who, after listening to little rabbit’s sad tale, cocked his head and said, “Rabbit, life doesn’t have to be that way. We could have schools and businesses where people are allowed to concentrate on what they do well.”

Rabbit was inspired. He thought when he graduated, he would start a business where the rabbits would do nothing but run, the squirrels could just climb trees, and the fish could just swim. As he disappeared into the meadow, he sighed softly to himself and said…

“Oh, what a great place that would be.”

A great place, indeed. Weigh in:

  • Was owl smoking something to plant those fool thoughts in rabbit’s head?
  • Why would, or wouldn’t, rabbit’s utopian business work?
  • How much of your work makes you feel like a rabbit running? And, how much of your work makes you feel like a rabbit in water?

The whole “Strengths” genre is fascinating. Plan on seeing much more about this soon.

Creative Tension, Burning Platform, Goals and Change

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The broad topic: effective goals and managing through periods of change. Sub-topics: creative tension (Senge); burning platform (Schein); lead / lag; stretch goals. Purpose: what are the relevant applications in business and industry, government, community, education, family?

This post got too long for a blog. Below are excerpts, go to the full version here and come back to comment if so inclined. The full version will be expanded as appropriate.

Creative Tension, Burning Platform, Greater Good

I wanted to revisit Peter Senge’s creative tension model as it is an effective and simple illustration of goal-setting and change management that I’ve pulled out of my classroom hat real-time many times. So I looked around to see what has been done already.

Blair Peterson is an educator who maintains a blog titled Creative Tension. I stumbled across it by accident and, as the target of his creative tension is education, props up-front to Blair!

And, after the following was pretty much written, I came across a great analysis of creative tension by Cath Duncan at Productive Flourishing Rather than throw out what I had already done or re-create wheels already designed by others, here’s the whole shooting match.


The diagram is fuzzy but I couldn’t find better. And, I cannot find the source to give credit. At least you get the picture.

 Creative tension illustrates effectively managing the gap between vision and reality. From 5th Discipline author Peter Senge:

The gap between vision and current reality is also a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.

My contribution to the creative tension dialogue is to highlight the connection to Edgar Schein’s burning platform theory of motivation and change management, and to goal-setting generally. The Schein and Senge models target the same basic concept: closing the gap between current reality and desired future. Schein’s theory is examined in the link above but briefly: for people to make a leap from today’s platform to the relative unknown, it must be more uncomfortable for them to stay on today’s platform than the perceived anxiety created by the change to tomorrow’s desired future.

The creative tension diagram shows a rubber band stretched between two hands. The lower hand represents today’s reality, and the upper hand is the desired future. When the rubber band stretches, the resulting tension forces one hand or the other to move or the rubber band will break.

The million dollar question: will the lower hand or the upper hand win the battle? Current reality can exert resisting pressure on the desired future to the point that expectations must be lowered or the gap becomes too great…the rubber band breaks. Or, the upper hand is a relatively safe distance above the lower hand, and the pressure exerted by the desired future is ample enough to pull the current reality up.

The full version here includes a few thoughts on managing creative tension and change.

Creative Tension vs Stretch Goals

Which came first, creative tension or stretch goals? I recall the 5th Discipline coming out before stretch goals caught on, so I’ll assume that the rubber band hands inspired what was a nightmare for many. I hope some management theory historian verifies that because I didn’t dig back to find the answer.

What Gets Measured Gets Done

“Lead” and “lag” applies to goals as well as metrics. Lag goals like increase market share and profit are not good real-time motivators for performance for the first line. See What Gets Measured.

Applications for Leadership and the Greater Good

These concepts are critical for leaders to understand and apply toward managing their constituents’ journey toward the desired future. There are certainly applications for the Greater Good: the scope of operations matters little—business and industry, government, community, education, even family.

After defining the current reality and desired future and identifying intelligent goals to close the gap, how can we apply these models in education and community to effectively manage the gap?

Written by Craig

July 12, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Education and the Greater Good Connection

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The premise of the Greater Good is that business and industry tools and techniques, concepts and philosophies can be directly applied to other areas—community, society, education. The first private sector concepts to really make a connection were engagement and alignment.

My personal vision and mission includes making an impact by helping others….leave the campground in better shape than you found it. I feel the greatest potential for lasting impact is through youth via education, school-to-career specifically.

My career is in the private sector, people and process improvement. I’ve been marginally involved in education, as a high school substitute and adjunct college instructor. If our priorities were straight and educators were paid what they were worth, I’d be an educator not a company man. My second best alternative to educational immersion is to impact youth by working the school-to-career issues from the private sector side of the fence.

Education and business / industry have perceptions of each other that are anchored in reality to a large degree. The private sector feels that education is not preparing students for the real world, the system is out of touch with real needs, and is inflexible and / or slow to change. The view from the other side: business and industry refuses to get involved in education, much less seriously commit to making it better. B & I doesn’t know what it needs, has academic education and job skills training confused, and is expecting too much from an overtaxed system.

These perceptions are correct for the most part and that is the arena into which I’ve chosen to attempt to make an impact.

There’s no politically correct way to say this, so may as well be blunt: educators do not much appreciate outsiders messing with their stuff. And B & I typically operates best in reactionary mode: complain about the issues rather than commit to being part of the solution. But thankfully there is a potential marriage of necessity on the horizon (shotgun wedding?) between education and business and industry. I hope to sneak into the wedding party, or at least crash the reception.

I have started a web page for ongoing collection of Greater Good-related thoughts.  Future posts may link into that information.

Written by Craig

July 6, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Education and Economic Issues

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The Big Hairy Issue. The US is in a fight to maintain our standard of living. We’ve lost our competitive edge, and the gap is widening. At the core: workforce and education issues. It started long before the economic blip we’re experiencing and will continue well after economic recovery, as there are systemic and social issues to address. Some of the forces behind the issues follow. These will be looked at more closely in future posts.

Activity vs Progress. In process is a post that sums up all the stuff that is going on out there. The issues are not being ignored, there is a good deal of activity from many sources. But there is no focus, no priority targets or central coordination. Lots of activity but little systemic progress.

Talent Pool. Let’s assume the economy will pick back up. When it does, will we have the talent pool we need to sustain recovery and growth? Prior to this downturn, the black and white demographics showed a significant shortage in number of workers. Skills and capabilities is a whole ‘nother issue.

Academic Achievement. We are in a global economy (psst-don’t tell anyone…). Many of the new players, and most of the old, are collectively kicking our US tails. We have lost our education advantage and along with it our edge in innovation and productivity.

Meeting in the Middle. Among the many initiatives, efforts are nearly exclusively on providing for at-risk, disadvantaged, underperformers…evening the playing field out which is socially right and we do need it. The concern is that we are only furthering mediocrity, as there is no comparable effort toward educational excellence. We need balance. See “Acceptable Level of Competency”.

Attainment Levels and Accessibility. The high school drop out rate is increasing, and the proportion of high school grads continuing into secondary education is dropping. One reason for the latter: the cost of higher education has increased at 4x the CPI. Many students are forced to find what work they can without a college degree, then somehow get back into the education groove and complete college classes while working. Not easy.

Disengagement. The economic, environmental and execution-related impact of disengagement in the workplace has been well-documented (The Business Case for Engagement). But what about students, teachers, parents who are not fully engaged in the education process? Engagement: fully buying into the importance and relevance of education for the future; exerting exemplary effort to achieve.

Disconnect. Are students getting what they need from the education system to hit the ground running after high school, whether in post-secondary education or the workplace? Are employers getting the raw human resources they need to be competitive? Is education getting input and support from the private sector, and from students and their families? What are the needs that are not being met? Who should provide them?

Economic Impact Potential. Thinking locally rather than globally…this is not an issue unless it continues to be ignored, then it is a wasted opportunity. In business relocation or expansion decisions a key criteria is the local education system as it impacts future workforce preparedness. Growing families certainly look at education systems in their decision-making process. More business, more families = larger tax base. Pretty basic stuff.

The communities that craft an innovative, world-class approach to education will be big winners.

Any one of these alone can be a book. And they are interrelated. More to come.

Written by Craig

July 6, 2010 at 12:56 pm