ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - August 2001


Issue Highlight — Moveable Chairs
- Peter Block discusses a Milwaukee religious dispute and how the protestors' passion and commitment regarding space and structure should transcend into the workplace.

Views For A Change

 In This Issue...
Championing Change
Training The Trainee
Teaming For Tomorrow
Quality From The Ground Up

The Road To Quality

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change
Brief Cases

Return to NFC Index

Consultant Q&A

Maryann Brennan Responds:

Before teachers can be creative and accountable, accountable behavior must be exhibited by the state agencies in setting realistic requirements so that school districts, and in turn, teachers, can reasonably achieve success. Accountable behavior must be shown by leadership in school districts in defining the strategies that will meet not only the state requirements, but also the expectations of other stakeholders such as parents, community, feeder schools and higher educational institutions. Leaders also need to be accountable by providing resources so that teachers can deliver against those strategies.

   So, even before we get to the teachers who are accountable for developing the curriculum, creating a learning environment, delivering against all those goals and—here is the caveat—doing it all with creativity, we must put responsibility for the success of their endeavors in the hands of the leaders.

   Am I letting the teachers off the hook in this discussion? No, I truly believe that good teachers will always find ways to be creative despite the innumerable constraints that get in the way. They will overcome limited budgets, increasing class sizes and the emerging learning needs of children. This issue is not about teachers. The issue is what leaders must do to create an environment that promotes not only creativity, but ethical values, equity for all students, safety, organizational agility and opportunities for teachers to grow and learn. For only by creating this learning environment can we expect teachers to not only transcend the obstacles that get in the way of creativity, but surpass the expectations of all stakeholders in teaching our children the creative thought skills they need to succeed in their lives.

   What do leaders specifically need to do to create this environment? To answer this question, let’s look at the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Education Criteria for Excellence. The Criteria represent a set of practices and behaviors that are deployed in role model educational organizations. The Criteria describe a results-driven system made up of other key management practices including leadership, planning, information analysis, student, faculty and staff focus and process management.

   The Criteria specifically set four approaches role model leaders use to create world-class educational systems. These include leaders personally and visibly setting and communicating direction and goals, creating an environment to deliver against goals, reviewing performance to assess progress against goals and improving their own leadership effectiveness to achieve goals.

   School systems such as Pinellas County in Fla. and Wake County School System in N.C., as well as many others, have found the answer to the question of how to encourage teachers to be creative within the guidelines of accountability and to create a role model organization. Their answer is to use the Criteria as a guideline for assessing how well they are doing against world-class organizations. The results are outstanding both in academic performance and in deploying an innovative learning organization.

   It sounds simple. And like all good things, it is simple. Of course, it requires accountability to succeed. In Pinellas and Wake Counties, leadership is taking accountability for leading this effort...and so are the principals, teachers and staff.

MARYANN BRENNAN is president of Brennan Worldwide, Inc. Consulting for Business Excellence. She is a judge for the New York State Quality Award and a Senior Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award. She has been published in a variety of professional journals and co-authored several case studies used in training Baldrige and state examiners. Her e-mail address is



Lew Rhodes Responds

Question for Consultants

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