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Wasting US Research

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

snow INSIDE classroom window

There is something wrong in the US.

We do the research, but the results are often implemented in other countries, with enviable outcomes, but ignored here.

It was adoption of the work of American Edwards Deming by Japanese industry, especially automobiles, that changed “made in Japan” from a symbol of shoddy work to one of world-class quality—decades before the US moved in that direction.

Despite being honored in Japan in 1951 with the establishment of the Deming Prize, he was only just beginning to win widespread recognition in the U.S. at the time of his death in 1993.

When it comes to education, it’s Finland.

Year after year, Finland is ranked as one of the world leaders in education while America lags far behind.
But it’s not that Finland knows more about how to build effective schools than the US does.
Almost all education research takes place in the US, and American schools can’t seem to learn from any of it — and yet Finnish people do.
Over time, the ideas have helped shape the Finnish education system as one that prizes autonomy, peer learning, collaboration, and varied forms of assessment. These were all ideas developed at one time or another by American theorists, yet modern American classrooms — noted for their heavy reliance on tests and teacher-guided lectures — bear little resemblance to those up north.

Bjarke Ingels, Danish architect of Two World Trade Center, Google North Bayshore and many others, made a telling comment that the US would do well to take to heart.

“The education of our youth is one of the best investments any society can make. In that sense, not investing in our future is simply the worst place to cut corners.”

It took the US 40 years to embrace quality and we’re still playing catch-up.

We don’t have 40 years when it comes to education.

Image credit: @ Detroitteach

Ignoring Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016


It is said, “as you sow so shall you reap.”

If you had any doubts the results of our educational system over the last five decades should end them.

It’s too bad politicians, especially those in the GOP, ignored (and continue to ignore)  the words of one of the truly great Republicans.

Abraham Lincoln.

Teach the children so it will not be necessary to teach the adults.

“Children” is plural and, since there is no modifier, inclusive.

Something the US educational system isn’t.

Or perhaps that’s what our politicians want.

An ignorant and unthinking population.

Poor Abe.

He must be spinning in his grave like a top.

Image credit: JBrazito

Leadership’s Future: Inflation

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

My niece and her husband are both teachers; several other friends also teach.

They teach at various grade levels from kindergarten through advanced high school courses.

One complaint they all voice is the pressure from parents and students to give better grades.

Not to be better teachers, offer more relevant material or strengthen students’ skills, but to give better grades.

It’s called “grade inflation” and it is rampant across the country at all levels of education.

Andrew Perrin, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “An A should mean outstanding work; it should not be the default grade,” Mr. Perrin said. “If everyone gets an A for adequate completion of tasks, it cripples our ability to recognize exemplary scholarship.”

Business was the culprit a decade ago when title inflation was rampant during the dot com boom; now it is grade inflation.

Everybody knows inflation is bad—but are you aware that it devalues people in the same way it devalues money?

Think about that before you pressure a teacher or hand out a title instead of a raise.


Leadership’s Future started several years ago with guest posts from a college professor when I was writing Leadership Turn; after he left I continued from my own viewpoint.

After Leadership Turn was shut down I moved the feature to MAPping Company Success. In a broad way, Leadership’s Future focused on the Millennials and the following generation in terms of the kinds of people our society had and is producing.

There may be occasional posts on the topic in the future, but not a regular feature.

Join me tomorrow for an overview of the changes coming to MAPping Company Success in 2011.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/skyenicolas/4056810694/

Leadership’s Future: Rudolf’s Leadership

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

How about that. Finally some leadership advice with which I totally agree to share with you and it’s even Christmas themed. How cool is that?

It’s called Three Leadership Lessons from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the lessons apply to all, no matter what you do.

You could do a lot worse than make these your template for 2011 and beyond.

We all have natural gifts and abilities; embrace them.

We all face opposition; ignore it.

Your moment to shine will eventually come; welcome it.

Read the article, I think you will enjoy it.

But don’t just read it, absorb the lessons and practice them every day for the rest of your life.

Image credit: the Internet

Leadership’s Future: Teachers

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

If you truly want to know how good a positional leader is in the business world you ask the people she manages. Productivity and even retention don’t tell the whole story, because there can be informal leaders in the group who offset her ineptness and errors.

Essentially, teachers are in the same type of positional leadership roles, but you don’t see anyone asking their students to evaluate their skill.

No, that would be way too simple—until now.

Surveying students is part of a $45 million Gates Foundation funded study of teacher effectiveness.

Teachers whose students described them as skillful at maintaining classroom order, at focusing their instruction and at helping their charges learn from their mistakes are often the same teachers whose students learn the most in the course of a year, as measured by gains on standardized test scores, according to a progress report on the research.

Even the descriptions and actions cited are similar to what people seek in their manager.

According to Harvard researcher Dr. Ronald Ferguson, “Kids know effective teaching when they experience it,” just as employees know when they have good managers.

Micro management, that killer of initiative, productivity and morale, has it’s counterpart in teaching, too, in the form of rote drilling.

One notable early finding, Ms. [Vicki] Phillips said, is that teachers who incessantly drill their students to prepare for standardized tests tend to have lower value-added learning gains than those who simply work their way methodically through the key concepts of literacy and mathematics.
“Teaching to the test makes your students do worse on the tests,” Ms. Phillips said. “It turns out all that ‘drill and kill’ isn’t helpful.”

The big question I have is when will schools and business recognize that motivational efforts are the same, relatively speaking, across ages and environments, just as are the actions that demotivate?

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wfryer/204073798/

Leadership’s Future: One Person

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

American education is trying everything in an effort to improve, but just how big a difference can one person make? Especially in Baltimore, which has the dubious distinction of having the worst school system and the highest murder rate in the country.

Humongous, if that person is smart enough to gather support to change the culture, not just try and “fix” schools or improve test grades.

“Andres Alonso took over the Baltimore city schools in 2007 and has brought deep changes in just three academic years. … Next he took on the culture of the schools, which relied heavily on suspensions for discipline, a practice Dr. [Andre] Alonso strongly opposed. “Kids come as is,” he likes to say, “and it’s our job to engage them.””

On the other side of the continent a group of ‘one persons’ in Compton are using a radical new California law to force the takeover of a failing school by a charter school operator.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Marion Orr, a professor of public policy at Brown University. “It really pushed to the edges of a strong democracy and could create real challenges for public officials who believe they know best how to run school districts.”

Sadly, most public officials seem more interested in keeping their jobs and pushing their ideology/agenda than they are in educating kids.

Just think what would happen if every ‘one person’ did just one thing to improve education (not support ideology).

I often get asked why, “at my age and with no kids of my own” I care so much about education; or why I’m so focused on urban problems when they aren’t likely to affect the small town in which I live.

The answer is simple.

I (and you, in case you haven’t realized it) are going to live in a world run by today’s children and populated by “those” kids.

We are each one person, alone and together we can each do a lot to encourage/force change.

Stock.xchng image credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1287589

Leadership’s Future: Coping

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

“Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”
–Virginia Satir

Smart lady, Virginia.

That thought, or any variation thereof, is probably the single most important concept people need to wrap their heads around.

Neither vehement denial nor passionate pleas will change what is; what matters is what you choose to do.

Positional leaders and those who claim the leadership label are often more into pleas and denial than they are into coping.

Understandable, since it’s much easier to rail or whine than to get off the proverbial ass and do something.

But that is exactly what leading requires and leading yourself is the most important leadership job you will ever have, because if you can’t lead yourself you will never have the opportunity to lead others.

Coping isn’t about playing ostrich or ignoring something and hoping it will go away.

Coping doesn’t involve ideology and rhetoric.

Coping doesn’t always mean solving the problem or overcoming the challenge.

Coping isn’t about being a hero or going it alone.

Coping rarely yields a perfect or even a complete fix.

Coping means facing whatever it is head on, recognizing it in its entirety, figuring out how best to deal with it, and then doing what needs to be done—all while accepting the reality and limitations of what is possible.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cobrasick/4597169938/

Leadership’s Future: Pressure and Betrayal

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

pressureIt takes years to build a brand into a leader; years of adherence to stated values and grueling work building trust.

And that is what the Better Business Bureau did for nearly 100 years.

It takes far less time to destroy or, at the least, badly damage a leadership brand.

And that is what the BBB has done; apparently for money.

Both Friday night’s ABC program and Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal’s attack focused on the two-year-old BBB marketing tool to assign letter grades ranging from the low of F to the top A+ rating to hundreds of thousands of businesses.

The marketing tool that is destroying the BBB isn’t sophisticated or subtle—more a case of grades for money.

Old story; buy a membership and raise your grade.

The scheme wasn’t universally popular, but the leadership had the leverage.

Some bureaus also had questions about the plan – developed and tested in the southern California chapter – and refused to follow it. The five chapters finally got with the program after the council threatened to expel them.

The result is betrayal, betrayal of the consumers who trust the ratings, of companies that work hard for good grades and the employees who just work hard.

Pressure; that is what leadership uses when it wants to have its own way, whether the leadership is an organization or an individual. And the leadership always knows exactly what kind of pressure to apply.

What do you do when your leadership starts applying pressure?

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31019817@N02/3254784742/

Leadership’s Future: Choosing Your Audience Redux

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

A call I had today prompts me to repost something I wrote last year.

Choosing Your Audience

Every day we make choices and, as kids, learning to make wise ones is one on the most important things that should happen as we grow.

But it doesn’t always happen.

The great thing is that you can change and learn to make good choices at any time in your life—it is an integral part of leading yourself.

One of the most important choices anyone makes is found in the people they choose to have as part of their life.

Although I could write my own ideas of what that means, I’d like to share something I received from a friend. I can’t find who the author is, so I’ll credit the prolific Anon.

auditoriumEveryone Can’t Be in Your Front Row

Life is a theater – invite your audience carefully. Not everyone is spiritually healthy and mature enough to have a front row seat in our lives. There are some people in your life that need to be loved from a distance.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you let go, or at least minimize your time with draining negative, incompatible, not-going-anywhere relationships/friendships/fellowships!

Observe the relationships around you. Pay attention to: Which ones lift and which ones lean? Which ones encourage and which ones discourage?

Which ones are on a path of growth uphill and which ones are going downhill?

When you leave certain people, do you feel better or feel worse? Which ones always have drama or don’t really understand, know and appreciate you and the gift that lies within you? When you seek growth, peace of mind, love and truth, the easier it will become for you to decide who gets to sit in the FRONT ROW and who should be moved to the balcony of your life.

You cannot change the people around you…but you can change the people you are around! Choose wisely the people who sit in the front row of your life.

Copy the last sentence and tape it to your monitor and the bathroom mirror; forward the post to every person you care about—not with a lecture, but with a hug; discuss it’s meaning with your kids—they are never too young to learn this.

Take a long, hard look at who sits in your front row; if you don’t want them there you don’t need to have a major confrontation, just quietly lower their priority in your life and assign them to a seat at the back—even if they have you in their front row.

I know that I’m in the front row of several people who sit in the rear of my audience, but I say nothing, because nothing would be gained. They would be deeply hurt for no reason; they have little-to-no impact on me because they are far back and where they choose to seat me is none of my business.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26881907@N05/2755415480/

Leadership’s Future: Good Writing

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

writeBosses, business coaches, academics, bloggers and many others bemoan the lack of communications skills in Gen Y, especially written communications, but they have plenty of company in preceding generations.

Not just bad writing, but opaque writing, the kind that leaves readers scratching their heads wondering what they are missing.

Of course, I shouldn’t complain, since on of my company’s most popular products is Clarity RE-writing, which involves using the fewest possible words to present even the most complex information in the most understandable way.

Who are the worst writers?

Granting that many of Gen Y don’t understand the difference between writing and texting, I find lousy writing much more offensive when it comes from those who (should) know better.

And while the more lofty their position the more offended I am, I save my greatest reaction for those old enough and senior enough to know better who work in the field—in other words, they are, or should be, professional communicators.

Charles H. Townsend, the chief executive of Condé Nast Publications, which includes Vogue, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, is such a one. He recently sent a 500 word memo to his staff, here is a sample from it.

“…a consumer-centric business model, a holistic brand management approach and the establishment of a multi-platform, integrated sales and marketing organization.”… “To optimize brand revenue growth, we will shift responsibility for single-site, digital sales and marketing to the brand level. Publishers can now fully leverage their offerings across all platforms.”

Don’t feel badly if you aren’t sure what he is trying to say, his staff wasn’t sure, either.

If you want to write clearly here is some quick and basic guidance.

  • Avoid jargon;
  • shun multi-syllabic words;
  • use short, simple sentences;
  • pass on large blocks of text, especially on the Net;
  • spell check everything; and, most importantly,
  • remember that most people scan and don’t actually read.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nirak/2854421030/

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