Wednesday, August 29, 2007

From the Pestilance of Consultants, Deliver Us

There are no more dreaded words in any school district than "the consultants are coming." They come, some openly, some covertly, spying and observing, taking snippets of the average day and compiling them into some blurry snapshot of the "normal" work day. Then they pronounce from on high how deficient, creeping and low the schools are, how immobile their staffs have become, how unmotivated their students appear. And then a frenzy of quick fixes and largely touted gestures are put in place that do absolutely not one whit more than was being done before. This is in an educational setting. Education is one of the most fad-driven industries in our nation. Remember New Math? How about Phonics First? Whole Language? Open Classrooms? Self-contained classrooms? Mainstreaming? Pull-outs? Inclusion, exclusion and on and on and on? Is it any wonder that our school are in a constant scramble to change and adapt when all parents and the education hierarchy want to do is throw good thoughts and meaningless cosmetic changes into the mix?

And it's not just education. Ask any company that has been bought, downsized, moved, renamed or suborned and you will find the nasty memos of consultants making their rulings from on high. Just what qualifies these folks to judge others? If they were so good at what they do, wouldn't they be DOING IT THEMSELVES?

Well I have a solution. I will put on my own consultant hat and I am going to give every single superintendent, CEO, boss a bit of my own infinite wisdom for free.

1. Hire good people and let them work without constantly interfering.

2. Stop asking for reports you don't need. Busy work does nothing for the bottom line. If you want to look good, buy a new suit.

3. Remove the entire layer of VP, assistant superintendents, advisors to..., department head bureaucracy that does nothing buy supervise people and either make them work at actual projects or get rid of them.

Note: Someone whose sole function is to demand meaningless spreadsheets from a worker is NOT benefiting your business. Spreadsheets have never made a product, sold a product, taught a child, put our a fire or saved a life. If your business is run solely on the glossy lines of glitzy Excel productions, you are already in deeper trouble than you know.

4. Never ever let an engineer or an accountant be the head of any firm or school district in which actual human contact is involved. Sorry, but the skill set for those professions often don't include dealing with actual human emotions. These are the types of people who can't conceive of a situation which can't be solved by throwing a report in the works. Anyone who thinks that all life's problems can be boiled down to numbers and statistics has no business telling anyone else how to handle people, and especially children, in new and sometimes stressful situations. (These people should be locked in small rooms with slow computers and a dial up modem-possibly with a slide rule in place of a calculator.)

5. Finally, when you have removed the necessary flotsam and jetsam from your business or school, you will find you have more money to do the things that will actually improve workers' situations, like hiring enough people to do the work. Or maybe even small things like having more buses so that irate suburban moms don't descend on the parking lot blocking teachers' exits. Or maybe just having small enough working groups and classes to begin to know people on a personal level, rather than the superficial numerical level that seems to be the current rage.

Bottom Line-because I know you love it...stop stop stop micromanaging our schools, our homes, our businesses and our lives. Life has always and ever been messy. Trying to straighten it up with the vise grip of totalitarian, utilitarian, monarchical control is killing our workers, our kids, our productivity and our sanity. No freedom loving human ever thrived in an environment where their every move and action is measured and calculated. It is impossible to control every utterance, thought or conjecture. And I am pretty sure that it isn't normal, and is actually unhealthy to live under the constant threat of unspoken retribution if the whim of the week isn't followed to the letter. I am not condoning revolution, but I have to admit, there's a small part of me that wants to rally the troops on every campus, in every break room and at every coffee shop to wake people up to the ridiculous tyranny being imposed by people who have absolutely no stake in the success or failure of the enterprises involved. Think about it.
I'mWithFred - Contribute Now


Darren said...

What small changes occur can often be attributed to the Hawthorne Effect.

Oh, and I'm For Fred, too.

Ellen K said...

I thought you might be. We are "enjoying" the dubious benefits of "hypermonitoring" which in real world language means that if we sit at any time during the day when students are in the room and are seen by an AP, we get written up. Oh, and every year we are to reduce our special education kids until there are none. Where do they go? Into the regular classrooms. What do they do? Fail. Whose fault is it? According to the consultants, the teachers, but we all know who is really holding all the cards in this hand.