Two Management Systems: Transformation of Education Must Include Management System Transformation
October 14, 2015
This post is a follow up to my last post. In this entry I will provide details about what we have done and why we have done it. And how, like Thordarson, CDE pioneered a new approach to an old problem; a problem that not everyone acknowledges is a problem.
When is a problem a problem?
The system, more specifically, the management system, applied in education has not changed since the very beginning of formalized education. For the most part educational systems management stands alone among organizational systems, in that it has not significantly changed. Also, it stands alone as the one part of the current education system that has not been compelled to change. Indeed, all other aspects of the education system have been asked (in some cases, forced) to change. Teachers can no longer use a two-year “standard” degree to begin teaching; they must be highly qualified, which soon will mean a Masters Degree is required. Classrooms are no longer simply rooms, but are places that support many types of gadgets and many types of environments. Paper and pencil has given way to students accessing schedules, assignments, supplementary resources, and in some schools, courses via computers, tablets, notebooks or pads or even pods. The school building themselves are now reflective of advances in architecture that consider more than the basic needs of the humans who occupy them. Natural lighting, visual lines, access points, lockdown capabilities, and security are among a whole host of considerations that the builders of new schools concern themselves. But what, if anything, has changed about education’s management system? Very little.
So, what are we talking about when we use the words management and management system? A simple definition, one that is supported by the International Standards Organization (ISO) is this. A management system is a system to establish policy and objectives, and to achieve those objectives in an organization. If we define management in the same manner, this is the result. Management is the coordinated activities to direct and control an organization.
What neither definition provides are the details. That is, what policies and objectives are needed? What do they look like? How do people in the system go about achieving the objectives, and once achieved, be able to recognize that they have been achieved? What are coordinated activities and how are they coordinated? What do direct and control mean?
What has been discovered by a whole lot of people studying a whole lot of organizations is that the systems which manage organizations are more likely to be the result of legacy, which in turn was the result of expediency, than anything more conscious and/or purposeful. In other words, no one person or group of people designed the management system that we now see existing in most educational institutions. Educational management systems, like management systems in any organization, unless they are consciously analyzed and subject to redesign, are the result of years and years of minor tinkering and tweaking. To make matters worse (if positive change is your goal), over time the resulting management systems are reinforced by laws and rules that make mandatory what was once something put in place simply because nothing else was available; they were not intended to last forever. The result is management systems that are battle hardened and very resistant to change.
No so many years ago I had no idea that a management system could have a shape and form, and that some approaches worked better than others. I now believe looking back that my state of understanding was the result of two conditions; two conditions I’ve come to realize I share with most people working within management systems. One, I had no reason to be curious so therefore had done no investigation. Two, I assumed that management systems were the result of executive leaders in each organization creating their own system, or those same leaders applying some type of universal template that all executives had learned about in ‘executive leaders school.’ My assumptions were proven right in some ways, but proven wrong in many others, as my career and my work exposed me to dozens of organizations over many years.
Due to an opportunity that I could not pass up, some 25 years ago I left education for 20 years. During that time I was exposed to multiple kinds of management systems because my opportunity in business was to study, understand, and write about organizational systems. And then, after a design and development period at the start-up company I was part of, to help other companies analyze themselves, makes changes, and as a result, perform better.
Many of those organizations that I examined were similar to what I have described thus far. And many were not doing well. Many of the companies felt they could do better. Many were forced to do better or risk losing chunks of their business because their customers would no longer select their products or services. A select few of the companies I came in contact with had changed. Those few were doing remarkably better than those who continued with the status quo. My job, and what my business opportunity evolved into, was my extracting the principals of design for the new kind of organization that was more successful than it predecessors, converting those design principles into practical and incremental steps, and then teaching organizations that decided (or were forced) to change, how to go about moving from where they were to where they wanted to be.
The keystone for change was the realization that regardless of the type of work, and regardless of what is being produced by the work, there are processes involved. That is, there are inputs, steps, outputs and some type of transformation which produces something, whether that something is a product or a service. What also became very clear is that seldom did companies use those same processes as the focus of their management practices. Regardless, most thought they were managing processes, but after deeper analysis, most came to see that they did indeed have activities and processes happening at all times, but in most cases, they did not manage the processes. This was almost universally true in one particular area; companies did not manage the gap between the output of one process to the input of another process. Hand offs were owned by no one.
What also became apparent is that it did not matter whether the output was something as abstract as learning or as concrete as a pre-cast concrete wall. The output did not come about magically, but did come about because the right things were in place, the right people were in place, the right actions were taken and the right timing for actions were based either on standard practices or on measurement of performance – product, process or people.
Due to my experience with management systems, I have a different notion about management systems than many of my current colleagues in education. Five years ago I was provided an opportunity to apply a process-based approach to management at NDCDE. I had done the application before in many organizations, including educational organizations; but always as a consultant. This time I would direct the system I was part of creating.
Based on a multitude of measures, I can report to you our process-based application at NDCDE has produced as expected. CDE has a better, more responsive system than it had before. The new NDCDE produces better services more consistently than it did in the decade prior to the change; and most important, CDE now learns as a system at a much higher rate than it ever had in the past. This by consensus of CDE’s personnel.
What CDE has developed is a process-based management system. A definition provided by ISO describes the approach this way. Process Approach (also referred to as Process-based Management) = is the application of a system of processes within an organization, together with identification and interactions of these processes, and their management that provides the advantage of ongoing control provided over the linkage between the individual processes within the system of processes, as well as over their combination and interaction. When used as the foundation for a quality management system the approach emphasizes the importance of: 1) understanding and meeting requirements, 2) the need to consider processes in terms of added value, 3) obtaining results of process performance and effectiveness, and 4) continual improvement of processes based on objective measurement.
Comparison and Conclusions
The diagram below is my graphic comparison of a typical, traditional education management system and the process-based approach applied at NDCDE. I have added some notes below the graphic to highlight some of the characteristics and results of each. While not exaggerating, I am providing those characteristics and results that create the strongest contrasts between the two approaches to systems management. After the graphic I have included some standard management system definitions. I do so for your convenience, not to make an additional point.
Because the post is becoming quite long, I will end this post and will follow it up in the future. This is enough for now.
Notes about the graphic
The hierarchical model dominates education and has since the beginnings of formalized education. Its organization depends upon
job descriptions, interpretations of job descriptions, assessment of performance according to job descriptions, authority assigned to position, ascendant relevance of opinions, disregard for the expectations of customers, appropriate regard for stakeholders, local control, correction accepted as improvement, no ownership for hand offs between silos, and funding unrelated to performance.
The process-based model seeks to elevate how work is accomplished (processes / activities) to the way an organization manages itself. To do so the model relies on the system’s ability to understand and manipulate its linked, interactive, and sequenced causes and their effects. To create value (the universal goal of all organizations) the organization must
determine what a customer expects, assign internal ownership to the expectations, plan actions to accomplish the expectations, determine the performance indicators for process and product expectations,
assign authority and resources, execute actions consistent with the plan, adjust and/or correct actions according to performance indicators, and assess outcomes and convert to improvements in design and/or process.
NDCDE Management System Definitions
Based on ISO international standards for management systems
Process Approach (also referred to as Process-based Management) = is the application of a system of processes within an organization, together with identification and interactions of these processes, and their management that provides the advantage of ongoing control provided over the linkage between the individual processes within the system of processes, as well as over their combination and interaction. When used as the foundation for a quality management system the approach emphasizes the importance of:
- understanding and meeting requirements
- the need to consider processes in terms of added value
- obtaining results of process performance and effectiveness, and
- continual improvement of processes based on objective measurement.
- Process = is a set of interrelated or interacting activities which transforms inputs to outputs. Note: Processes in an organization are generally planned and carried out under controlled conditions to add value.
- Management = coordinated activities to direct and control an organization.
- Management System = is a system to establish policy and objectives, and to achieve those objectives in an organization, and can include different management systems, such as coordinated activities to direct and control an organization with regard to quality (quality management system), a financial management system, or an environmental management system.
- Continual Improvement = is the result of recurring activities to increase the ability to fulfill requirements. Sources for continual improvement could come from audit findings, audit conclusions, analysis of data, management reviews
- Quality = is the degree to which a set of inherent distinguishing features (characteristics) fulfills needs or expectations that are stated, generally implied, or obligatory (requirements).
- Quality Improvement = is the part of quality management focused on increasing the ability to fulfill quality requirements, such as, the extent to which planned activities are realized and planned results achieved (effectiveness), the extent to which the relationship between the result achieved and the resources used (efficiency), or the extent to which there is an ability to trace the history, application or location of that which is under consideration (traceability).
- Competence = is the demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills.
- Customer Satisfaction = is the customer’s perception of the degree to which the customer’s stated, generally implied or obligatory expectations have been fulfilled.
- Capability = is the ability of group of people and facilities with an arrangement of responsibilities, authorities and relationships (organization), set of interrelated or interacting elements (system) or process to realize a product that will fulfill the requirements for that product.
- Effectiveness = extent to which planned activities are realized and planned results achieved (measurements of process performance).
- Efficiency = relationship between the result achieved and the resources used.
- Measurement = the set of operations having the object of determining the value of a quantity.
- Corrective Action = action to eliminate the cause of a detected nonconformity or other undesirable situation.
- Nonconformity = non-fulfillment of a requirement
- Requirement = need or expectation that is stated, generally implied or obligatory.
- Verification = confirmation, through the provision of objective evidence, that specified requirements have been fulfilled (calculations, comparison of specifications, tests, review of documents).
- Validation = confirmation, through the provision of objective evidence that the requirements for a specific intended use or application have been fulfilled (real or simulated).
- Management Review = a review of the quality management system by top management at planned intervals to ensure suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of the management system. These reviews must include all requirements of the quality management system and its performance treads. Part of the review must monitor the organization’s quality objectives, and the regular reporting and evaluation of the cost of poor quality. Evidence must be retained from each review as evidence of the achievement of the quality objectives specified in the business plan and customer satisfaction with product supplied.
- Quality Objectives = measureable quality objectives that are consistent with quality policy, contained in the business plan, address customer expectations and are achievable within a defined time period.
Values most often associated with Process-based Management
- Leadership = Leaders establish unity of purpose and direction of the organization. They should create and maintain the internal environment in which people can become fully involved in achieving the organization’s objectives.
- Involvement of People = People at all levels are the essence of an organization and their full involvement enables their abilities to be used for the organization’s benefit.
- Process Approach = A desired result is achieved more efficiently when activities and related resources are managed as a process.
- System Approach to Management = Identifying, understanding and managing interrelated processes as a system contributes to the organization’s effectiveness and efficiency in achieving its objectives.
- Factual Approach to Decision Making = Effective decisions are based on the analysis of data and information.
- Mutually Beneficial Supplier Relationships = An organization and its suppliers are interdependent and a mutually beneficial relationship enhances the ability of both to create value.