Letters To The Editor For July 2006

June 26, 2006
Lean in education doable?

Re "Education Revolution," June 2006. Why is it that those who think they know how to fix education are never those that actually do the work of education? How exactly does Davis think teachers are going to teach these skills?

Ray Mainer, quality manager
Specialty Filaments Inc.
Middlebury, Vt.

I'm a retired teacher from that same K-12 environment and I did indeed implement lean principles in my classroom as well as my curriculum. I also, to the extent I was allowed by management, tried to introduce Lean process improvement principles into the schools in which I have worked.

I have experienced firsthand what a difference the application made to me personally in my work as a teacher. I was much more efficient and productive in the use of my time and resources and increased my productivity in terms of the amount of material I was able to cover. In teaching lean strategies to my students, they were able to increase their own performances while simultaneously learning more material and doing it in a way that made their job easier for them to manage. They actually surprised themselves and were more enthusiastic in their learning because of the level of control I gave them and the involvement they had in problem solving. The life skills learned through such a program will be, as Mr. Davis points out, invaluable to these students by differentiating them from others when they get out into the world of work.

Beyond the personal teacher and student benefits, the potential for school and district-level improvements is also astounding in terms of increasing performance and stretching precious resources that are currently being wasted. I'm not talking just financial resources. [Taiichi] Ohno's seven wastes are absolutely there in education plus the waste of talent. My data collection on these wastes astounds even educators when they are presented with those facts.

So why is it not being adopted in education as it is in manufacturing? The problem is not if it can be done, nor how to do it. The biggest roadblock, as with any lean adoption, is the willingness of the traditional command and control mindset of education industry leaders to open their minds to authorizing non-administrators/managers to initiate and participate in school improvement processes-the willingness to turn to and adopt a lean culture.

Betty Ziskovsky, CEO
Lean Education Enterprises Inc.
Shoreview, Minn.

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