In Their Own Words
In Their Own Words
Jan 30, 2024
Go Beyond Skills Training: Deming in Schools Case Study (Part 19)
Play • 26 min

What's the difference between education and training? Why is the distinction important? How does the Deming lens offer a new perspective on teacher effectiveness? In this episode, John Dues and host Andrew Stotz talk about why it's important to go beyond skills training and encourage education for personal growth. 

TRANSCRIPT

0:00:00.0 Andrew Stotz: Here we go. My name is Andrew Stotz, and I'll be your host as we continue our journey into the teachings of Dr. W Edwards Deming. Today I'm continuing my discussion with John Dues, who is part of the new generation of educators striving to apply Dr. Deming's principles to unleash student joy in learning. This is episode 19 and we're continuing our discussion about the shift from management myths to principles for the transformation of school systems. John, take it away.

 

0:00:31.2 John Dues: Andrew, good to be back. Yeah, principle 13 today, Institute a Vigorous Program of Education. I'll just start by reading the Principle, "Institute a vigorous program of education and encourage self-improvement for everyone. The school system needs not just good people, but people that are improving with education. Advances in teaching and learning processes will have their roots in knowledge." It's interesting, when I was reading about sort of this particular principle, Dr. Deming took this actually pretty far when he was asked where would you draw the line? And he basically said, I would allow any educational pursuits that people are interested in. So that was his sort of take on this particular principle. But I think it's maybe the first thing is to differentiate between training and education. When he was talking about those things, we talked about instituting training on the job back when we talked about principle six, and he basically said the training is for a skill and a skill is something that's finite because it ends when performance has reached a stable state for a person when thinking about that particular skill.

 

0:01:51.3 JD: The differentiator with Principle 13 is that it's focused on education and it's meant for growth. And in the Deming philosophy, this is sort of a never ending process of education. So skills, so training is focused on skills, whereas education is focused on knowledge and theory. And this is really an important distinction in my mind, and you need both, training and education are complimentary components I think of an effective school system or really an effective organization in general. So I think, I mean, obviously training is important. It's something that's necessary, especially when you come into a new job. We have lots of new teachers that come to us 'cause we're a relatively young organization. And it's pretty typical for these new teachers to come even if they majored in education many times, they don't have sort of the basic classroom management skills, the basic lesson planning skills, the basic lesson delivery skills that they need to be successful in the classroom.

 

0:03:00.9 JD: So we have a training program, and in the absence of that training program the teachers would probably flounder or it would take a lot longer time to get their legs under them. So training is important, but we have to sort of shorten that runway. So we have to be good at training 'cause we're like a relatively young organization and we have students that come to us on average that are below grade level. And so they can't wait a long time for these sort of teachers to get up to speed. And I think we've talked about the fact that we have this sort of three week training program before the school year starts for new teachers for that reason. And so training is obviously important, very important. But I think what I've sort of come to appreciate is this idea of... And Deming stressed this, that leaders, systems leaders understand this idea of a stable system.

 

0:04:00.7 JD: One of the things that he said was that "The performance of anyone that can learn a skill will come to a stable state upon which further lessons will not bring improvement of performance." And this for me, reading Deming at this point in my career was really an interesting revelation because for many years I had heard sort of policymakers, education reform types sort of lament the fact that teachers improvement largely levels off in about year five of their career. Now, there has been some more recent longitudinal teacher research in terms of effectiveness over time. And basically people have found that that's not quite true. And that teaching experience is positively correlated with student achievement gains sort of across the teacher's career. But it's definitely true that the gains and effectiveness are steepest in those initial years.

 

0:04:55.2 JD: And so when you put those two ideas together that there's sort of this leveling off in about year five with Deming's sort of concept of stable systems, it really sort of dawned on me that it was this perfect explanation for this phenomenon. When a teacher is in their first five years there's a lot of foundational skills like the things I was talking about, like lesson planning, lesson delivery, classroom management, those basic things. There's sort of this period of rapid improvement or growth, and then it sort of levels off after you get the basics of how to be a teacher. And then after that happens, you have this... The potential for improvement sort of lies within the organization, within the system itself and not in the individual. So this really lined up with this thing I had heard for a long time, even though I think sort of it was misinterpreted.

 

0:05:52.0 JD: And I think a lot of those people that were talking about teacher skills leveling off after five years, they didn't have this lens of a stable system. They didn't have that part of it. And so they were saying, well, teachers aren't improving. Well, it really wasn't the teachers not improving. It was the fact that most of the capacity, like we've talked about here for improvement lies within the system itself and not the individuals. And I would also make the argument that this is not just educators, that this is other sectors as well, healthcare or whatever that thing is.

 

0:06:27.0 AS: Yeah. I mean, a good way of imagining that is a person who knows nothing that has the prerequisites, the education or whatever's necessary to get the job. And they know nothing about teaching and about the school system or anything that you can just imagine that so much of the initial phase is just understanding how the system, how they operate within that system to do certain tasks, which can be a process of trying to understand all of that. But then it's like they become, it's like entering the stream and then they become the stream floating down the river where everybody's kind of doing the same thing. And then you realize, okay, by this time now their, their, the amount that they can improve has been hit for some specific tasks and things like that. And then all of a sudden their output is a function of the system.

 

0:07:23.0 JD: Yeah. Yeah. And I think where this can really go off the rails is when people don't understand the stable state of systems. I think that, and I think a lot of the educators from reformers were sort of talking about it as if teachers were kind of replaceable because they didn't improve after those initial five years, especially 10 years ago that was sort of the common way people talked about this. And you could then sort of the next step is to draw the conclusion that experienced educators aren't that important since that improvement sort of levels off pretty early in their career. But I think that is the completely wrong conclusion to draw. I think experienced teachers are incredibly important because of the stability they provide a school. They can provide mentorship to inexperienced teachers, they have longstanding relationships with families as multiple students come through the system.

 

0:08:25.0 JD: That stability is really important for all those reasons, which are hopefully fairly obvious to anybody that's worked in a school. But I think even maybe more importantly is this idea that once teachers have that baseline level of knowledge and skills, they can run a classroom, they can deliver a well-planned lesson. The reason that it then becomes important for improvement to have those folks is because once those basic things are in place, now we can actually start to work on the system where the real potential for improvement lies. And I think that was a point that was missed or glossed over in a lot of those conversations about education reform and this idea of the teacher skills leveling off after year five.

 

0:09:23.8 AS: Mm-hmm. One of the the things about education that I have a story that's... I guess one of the conclusions is that the next level of improvement of the system oftentimes comes from outside the system. And that's where education takes the mind into another space.

 

0:09:40.9 JD: Yeah.

 

0:09:49.2 AS: From that other space, they're getting knowledge and theories of what's going on out there. And I had an example, John, that was... When I was the head of research at Citibank, and I had been head of research before taking care of a team of analysts, and analysts are always late in their reports, they're writing long reports about whether to buy or sell a company. They're trying to gather as much information, talk to the company, things get delayed. They set their deadlines and then they... The job of a head of research is juggling those delays so that the sales team and the clients need an idea day. And it's always the case that you're juggling around and okay, we don't have something this day, let's make something up with what we've got. Okay, this guy couldn't produce on that day, but he's gonna come in on Monday. So I felt pretty good about my skills at managing that process. And then I got a job at the number one foreign, the number one broker, let's say, or investment bank at that time in Asia called CLSA. And when I talked to them, I asked them how do you handle the flow and how bad is it here [chuckle] with the analysts being late? And they said, the analysts are never late.

 

0:11:13.3 AS: And I was like, that's impossible. My whole career it's been about handling the analysts being late. And they said, no, analysts are never late here. And I was like, how are you doing that? And they're like, well, we have a three week plan ahead. Everybody knows it. You know your day. There is no excuse, there's no shifting, there's nothing, it has to be delivered on that day. So it's up to you to kind of bring your project to a head so that you're ready to present on that day. And if you have some kind of major setback or problem, talk to another person and switch the day with them and sort it out. And every single day we had great stuff coming out. And I would've never, I mean, I was operating at a certain level thinking I was really knocking it out of the park, 'cause I was accommodating. I was careful, I was thoughtful. I understood the pressures that people were feeling. I was doing my best, but I didn't have a knowledge that it could be a very different way of doing it. And that's where I think about going outside of your own system to observe and learn and see. And then all of a sudden you're like, oh, [laughter] Okay. And that's where I feel like what you're talking about, about the education aspect is really the most amazing part.

 

0:12:33.2 JD: Mm-hmm. Yeah. That actually... I hadn't planned to talk about this, but I've been reading recently about the... Called the... Well, there's a book called Toyota Kata and Kata is from martial arts. It's the various movements that you have to do sort of repeated deliberate practice so you can sort of, they become ingrained in your muscle memory. Well, the same idea is in place in Toyota. They call... Well, they don't, but the author called it... They don't call... They don't have a name for it, but he sort of observed it and gave it the Improvement Kata name Mike Rother. Yeah, there it is. Yep. There it is. That one. And one of the things that was interesting, and it kind of reminded me of this as you were talking, is that part of the improvement kata is there's a sort of a target that's aligned with the organization's vision that guides anything that the folks in the organization are working towards.

 

0:13:27.0 JD: And so there's always a target condition. There's an understanding of sort of where each individual is and the departments are. And they're always setting a new target on the way to that sort of vision target and running these experiments all the time. And they constantly set those targets so that they are ambitious but within reach. And then they're coached on the way repeatedly. And in that way they're sort of always moving forward the organization. And so I think of when you've changed investment banks and you're at this new bank and they're saying, Hey, this thing is possible, it's possible to do this. Here's the way we do that. Here's how we work towards that. And so you can imagine a place like Toyota being so successful, because if everybody has got this mindset, this scientific thinking where they're constantly moving towards a target and there's a method for doing so, [chuckle] that is an incredible education right there if you're an employee working in an environment like that. So that just made me think of the Toyota Kata.

 

0:14:41.4 AS: Yeah. And it's a great example of how reading books is part of education because you're getting exposed to new ideas and exploring and thinking about things. And that's where, well, think about the repetition in let's say a martial arts as an example. And when Dr. Deming talks about opening up education to everything for everybody, there's something to learn in almost everything out there. Like if it is about... What is it about those repetitions and why is that important and could that benefit our business? And he talked about painting and other things, you know? Like education very widely can bring you new ideas that can come back to improve your system.

 

0:15:27.3 JD: Yeah. And I think you have to invest in that sort of broader education, 'cause it's sort of an investment in the future, you know? Especially right now, things are changing fast. And you could have the best training program in the world, but if you are not also sort of looking out for what's next beyond that, to adapt to whatever's changing in your environment... A good example is this, we have a much better understanding of cognitive science than we did 20 years ago. And so if we didn't adapt... If we didn't sort of learn that and then adapt that and sort of include that learning in our training system that we're gonna start falling behind pretty quickly. And I think this can get... This may be part of the most important responsibility of a leader on the learning front.

 

0:16:28.5 JD: Because what I also see is that education leaders are often getting enticed by many, many fads that sort of come along. And so how to sort of actually latch onto something that represents a potential advantage, that's a real important skillset to have. And I don't think... That's a key... I think a key function of systems leaders is sort of to know what to let go of or what not to latch onto at all and what to sort of sink resources into because if you're gonna go do these educational pursuits, you're obviously gonna have to sink time and money resources into these things. And so being able to differentiate between what is good and what is bad is a real key skill.

 

0:17:22.6 AS: And one of the things about Toyota is it's like the ultimate Asian family business. And although it's now a big public company, the largest automaker in the world, and the family's ownings in the company is relatively low, it still has the influence of the family. And I was thinking about another huge company that I know of in Thailand here that shifted its focus away from, let's say, Deming in this case, to when a new CEO came in, he said, well, there's a different way and this is my way. And one of the things that's interesting about what Toyota's done, you know, Toyota gets a lot of blame for being slow to progress and stubborn and all of that, but man, they have built a machine and a... You just can't change the direction of that quickly, you really nurture what has been developed and how do you not just throw away. I was presenting to my students last night in my finance class here at Sasin School of Management in Thailand and I was showing them the DuPont Analysis in the world of finances where you break down the return on equity of a company. And I explained why they call it the DuPont Analysis, and that's because the DuPont company bought shares in General Motors in 20- or 1912 or something like that and they instituted this method of financial controls on General Motors. And I said to my students in passing, General Motors has been going bankrupt since 1912.

 

[laughter]

 

0:19:00.9 AS: And it's like every... It's not a cumulative level of learning. And that's where I feel like Toyota, what Toyota has achieved is a cumulative learning process.

 

0:19:16.9 JD: Mm-hmm. Yeah. You know, and it's a part of their DNA. I think certainly there have been challenges as they've grown across Europe and the United States and the world really. And a lot of the challenges that I understand is because people... That improvement Kata is sort of combined with a coaching Kata, like an approach to coaching and managers at different levels coach folks that are sort of a level down from them. And everybody in the organization, especially early, had sort of this mentor-mentee relationship. And so part of the challenge with growth was the fact that there are only so many of these folks that are grounded in this scientific thinking in the coaching part of this. And so that was a challenge as they grew, you know, in California and Kentucky and other places across the world.

 

0:20:17.9 JD: They had to build this coaching capacity across all of these new production facilities and other types of facilities across the world. So... But I think that what I really like about this principle...I, you know, if push came to shove, I started this by talking about Deming would basically allow almost anything when it came to allowable educational pursuits. And I think I would be much closer to that than I would be to limit those things. I think that is a really... That's a good sort of approach to take as a leader. I think here where I am at United Schools Network, one of the things that I was able to do was go take an improvement advisor course which required significant resources and time and money at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

 

0:21:19.6 JD: And so someone could look at that very easily and say, well, why are you an educator going to a healthcare organization? And I think it's one of those things where people maybe don't realize that the Deming philosophy and some of the continual improvement stuff, it's sector agnostic. And so when you can learn the philosophy, the methods, the techniques, you can bring them back to your own organization. So I think had I not gone down this path to study Deming, I wouldn't have made it to IHI and then bring this stuff back to my organization. I think it's benefited our organization in lots of ways, even though that might not have been immediately apparent to folks, you know, initially.

 

0:22:09.8 AS: So how would we wrap this up for the listeners to make sure that they truly understand the idea of vigorous education, self-improvement, this type of stuff?

 

0:22:14.0 JD: Yeah. I mean, for me the main point is that systems leaders should really encourage education among the whole workforce with a pretty wide latitude for allowable pursuits. I think especially for educators, when we seek those types of opportunities, we're also modeling this idea of continual learning to students as well. They see that just because I have a degree or a master's degree or even folks here that have a PhD, we have I think an organization that's pretty hungry for learning. And that's a model for students. Oh, this doesn't end when you graduate high school. This doesn't end when you graduate college. It doesn't even end when you graduate from graduate school. People all across the organization have books piled up on their desks and we're sending people to various learning programs and stuff like that.

 

0:23:09.4 JD: And I think that's a good model for students. And I think within that another big thing is to think about do you have an understanding of the stable state of systems and understanding that training programs are only gonna take you so far? Individuals are gonna come to a sort of a stable state once they've sort of maxed out on any particular skill. And that's why this idea of education is so important. Skills are important, training is important, but this other side of the coin, you have to pay attention to education. What's on the horizon? How are you gonna push the boundaries within your system? And I actually think to your point about outsiders or having an outside perspective, that's sort of, I think the benefit of education, because I think without that sort of push from an outsider, the push from the education, breakthrough improvements aren't possible in our school systems. They're not gonna come from training programs. They're gonna come from this continuous learning, this idea of continually pushing the targets, having sort of an improvement mindset. Having a coaching mindset that's always pushing towards those things. And I think this requires not just skills, but it requires new knowledge and new theory continually. And I think that has to come from this vigorous program of education.

 

0:24:39.7 AS: And the beauty of capitalism is that if you don't go out and get the education, your competitors will, and you don't want your source of learning to be facing constant defeat from your competitors.

 

[laughter]

 

0:24:56.2 JD: Yeah, you can't sit around and wait, that's for sure. That's for sure.

 

0:25:00.0 AS: Exactly. Or someone's gonna take it. And that's the beauty of the capitalist system, the adversarial aspect between companies definitely gets people riled up when they see that all of a sudden someone's doing much better with some new technique or idea. Well, I think that was a great discussion to help us understand the difference between training and education and why it's so important. John, on behalf of everyone at the Deming Institute, I want to thank you again for this discussion. For listeners, remember to go to deming.org to continue your journey. You can find John's book "Win-Win: W. Edwards Deming, the System of Profound Knowledge and the Science of Improving Schools" on amazon.com. This is your host, Andrew Stotz. And I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Deming. "People are entitled to joy in work."

 

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