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

Lew Rhodes Responds:

Buried in the problem statement are assumptions that blind the eye and mind to solutions that would otherwise seem obvious. Without those blinders, not only would the answers to this specific request be clearer, but so would the reasons why quality management principles and employee participation processes have not taken root in most schools.

   To most, teachers “cause” learning. A teacher and the teaching process are the same. Principals “cause” teaching. A school leader and the leading process are the same. Teachers and principals are each critically necessary, but not the sole contributors to the final result. In each case, the other influences must come from the environment—the immediate system of sustainable processes that support the teacher and the developing learner.

   Unfortunately, because the “common sense of common practice” is supported by seldom questioned assumptions, we have trouble seeing the actual scope and nature of the immediate interactive environment that the “system” must provide. We can’t recognize the interdependence of roles and we confuse individuals with the interdependent acts of individuals (processes that empower individuals).

   What might we see with the blinders of our assumptions removed? One clue might be found in the ways we think of effective organizations in other realms of society.

   Effective organizations are structured and managed around the same simple, common sense, continual information process regardless of whether they provide services or products. This consists of two elements:

   1. A core work process that is responsive to the needs and requirements of the client, customer or product. In that process, informed interaction between the worker and the object of the work engages the human mind’s natural trial-and-error way of solving problems and achieving purposes. At the end of that process, the quality of results—the match between intentions and outcomes, between needs and results—is directly dependent upon the frequency and appropriateness of that informed interaction.

   2. An organization in which every function is aligned to, and supports, the response-ability of the core interaction. The organization’s information flow informs that interaction, and time and tools are provided to support the process’ interactivity.

   It’s easy to see why industry calls those critical interactions the “moment-of-truth”—the choices made by the “last person in the line” fulfill or diminish all those decisions that went before. In education, it’s always been known as the essence of “good teaching.” But in education it has also always been assumed that each teacher had to do the whole job alone. As a result of this common sense of the work of teaching, schools—as opposed to other human response services—are not organized to support those “moments-of-truth” as if they were in fact a critical, core requirement of the process.

   Today, however, with what neurobiology and cognitive science have added to our knowledge of the workings of a child’s mind, schools no longer have that choice. We now have a common picture of the ways children’s minds learn. With this as the center of a new level of consciousness—or paradigm—for framing our understanding of what we observe in schools, classrooms and districts, we have a new opportunity to see how schools can be run so that each teacher’s moments-of-truth are fully informed by their creativity, expertise and the support of their system’s knowledge.

LEW RHODES is principal of SABU, Inc. His professional experience includes association executive, consultant to federal and state government, director of national projects for foundations and government, private sector consultant adn university faculty member. He has written extensively with articles appearing in Educational Leadership, Education Week, The School Administrator and more. He can be reached at


Maryann Brennan Responds

Question for Consultants

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