Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New President Interview -- Part 30 What is Leadership?

New President Interview -- Part 30 What is Leadership?

Q: The word “leadership” is commonly used in business and politics, but you seem to have a different understanding of the concept. Are leaders and managers the same people?  

A: Not every good manager is a leader and not every good leader is a manager.  If you refer
back to my definition of management quoted in part 29 of this series, management is business process.  Everyone in the organization can have management tasks and roles.  Likewise everyone can have leadership roles.  This is based on a concept from the Mishnah of Sayings of the Fathers (2:6), “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” [1] This can be interpreted to guide everyone to take a leadership role and accomplish the task at hand.  One does not have to be the “official” leader to step “up to the plate.”

The educational process seeks to teach students to expand their understanding of themselves and the world.  In this process they need to become experts in something.  If they become experts in understanding themselves, this is a satisfactory accomplishment.  After looking into themselves and discovering their strengths and weaknesses, they can find how they fit into the world.  

An official leader is one appointed, elected or otherwise authorized by the organization. This person sets the goals and is the force to encourage the members to do their tasks.  A manager is the person who deploys and manages the time, human and financial assets needed to achieve objectives, and measures the results.  This may be the same person and it may be two or more different people.  For example the CEO may set the goals and philosophy of the organization while the president is the manager who allocates resources to accomplish the goals. 

“Leadership” is not limited to leading people.  A student learns how to lead his or her life. Taking that “first step” is a leadership role.   Taking charge of a process is a leadership role. This thought seems contradictory to some.  They say the definition of “leadership” means that people follow you.  Before you can lead others, you must learn how to lead yourself.

Q: What does it take to be a good leader?

I can tell you some of the qualities of a good leader, but I can’t give you an exact answer.  Leaders need to authority to take chances and make mistakes and learn for the betterment of the organization.  If one is always afraid of losing one’s job, prestige, or reputation, you can’t find the path to greatness.  If one is making foolish mistakes and not listening to the good advice of others, no one will believe or follow you.  Leaders have to balance risk and prudence.  Good leaders know when to listen and when to talk. Good leaders know how to use the talents of the people around them. 

Q:  The education process has many dichotomies and conflicting goals. What is the difference between education and training? 

A: Education is the process of teaching students to be productive citizens and part of society.  One challenge is that everyone is a member of multiple societies.  The society may be based on geography, ethnicity, belief systems, gender, profession, religion, or anything else that makes individuals into members of a group.  Education is helping the student to understand the role one plays in society.  That means one has to understand the language, history, sociology, law and other aspects of society.  One needs the tools such as reading, writing, mathematics, and science to master living in society.  Education inspires students to be curious, to think, to learn about the world around them, to plan and to act when the situations change. 

Training is task oriented learning.  One gets training to operate a machine or know the office procedures.  Education provides the context for fitting the machine into the world.  Education is cumulative and never ends; the tasks learned in training will some day be obsolete.

Part of the schooling process at the K-12 schools and college level is vocational.  Many employers want graduates who are ready to work and master the job.  The educator wants students to become life-long learners who are able to understand the world and meet new challenges. Teaching the thinking process is part of the teacher’s goals from the youngest to the most senior of students.  Each step of the learning process prepares one for the next.

Q: Last week I read an article, “It’s time for every student to learn to code,” by Alice Steinglass. [2]

A: I saw the article. Learning computer programming can be a way to understand logic, consequences of actions, project management, and how the world works.  I spent many years as a computer programmer.  It taught me many skills that are applicable to other areas.  One peeve I have with surveys and questionnaires with multiple choice answers is that creators don’t always have an option for “other” or “none of the above.”  In computer programs with options every option must have a consequence.  If the program asks for numeric, input, the decision tree must include provisions when 1, 0 and negative numbers are input or the program may crash.

Too often we see students and adults who have limited understanding as to the consequences of an action or decision. This process of action leads to a consequence is part of the scientific method. Too often I read about people with such a strong belief system, that strong evidence to the contrary is just not believed.

Q: Any final words?

I am never sure of the right course for people who are supposed to leaders. Politicians are elected to leadership roles. College presidents, deans and administrators are appointed, hopefully based on their abilities, experience, and strength of character, but everyone has to walk a fine line between failure to thrive, reckless decisions, and progress that will put the organization “on the map.” Without a systemic program of total quality management, someone will always feel the president or other leader is stepping on toes or making reckless decisions.

Part thirty of imaginary interviews with the president of the College. After more than 20 interviews the president is no longer “new,” but since we are all works in progress I am continuing the series as if s/he were a “new president.” Please feel free to suggest new ideas for interviews and presidential comments. This article is for your information, amusement, and edification. Everything is true, but some events have not yet happened. Any connection to a real college or president is strictly coincidental.


[1] The original Hebrew: מקום שאין אנשים השתדל להיות איש..
[2] In : Eschoolnews  May 14th, 2015    http://www.eschoolnews.com/2015/05/14/learn-code-639/

Sunday, May 17, 2015

New President Interview -- Part 29

Is TQM Connected to a College Education?

May 17, 2015 (new material added May 26, 2015)

Q: Recently I read about a game from the 1990’s called "Guns and Butter." [fn 1] In the game players pretend they are in charge of a country’s economy and have to decide the investment balance between armaments, food and infrastructure. If the player spends too much on arms, the people starve. If the people starve, they won’t be able to support an army. How does this balance play out in the college? What is the connection with Total Quality Management (TQM)?

A: “Guns and butter” is an economic theory that is based on a concept of how to best build a strong nation. Does the nation build arms or feed its people? Dictatorships frequently choose to build a strong army and use external threats as a justification for actions against the good and prosperity of the people. Dictators make excuses for not spending resources to create a nation that is strong in the promotion of peace, intelligence, and happiness. For example look what happened to the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. After the war Germany and Japan with the external threats removed, they built strong economies.

In an organization such as a college or business “guns” are the quick fixes and “butter” is the investment in infrastructure. Infrastructure includes the physical resources such as buildings and tools, training of personnel, and business processes that promote the smooth running of the organization. Also needed are control systems for resource management such as procurement, spending, inventory, income, scheduling, time management, and personnel. An organization that presents a strong public face, but has weak products and support will not succeed. Support systems have to encourage staff and faculty by having the tools so that they avoid wasting time on tasks not connected to their jobs. Since these words seem to be circular reasoning, let me give examples. One should not have to waste time searching for proper procedures and policies. The staff in charge of equipment set up should keep equipment running so that faculty members don’t waste time asking for help. The building should be maintained for optimal classroom use. A directory of people, places and responsibilities should be available to all faculty and staff. One should not need an information network to figure out who does what.

Every organization has economic pressures. No college can exist without paying attention to the financial bottom line. However, the accountants in a distant office can not be allowed to rule the classroom. Some academic programs may lose money, but they are worth keeping. Reasons to keep a money losing program include the program supports a community need or is important as a component or precursor of another program. For example: Imagine a small program with 30 students that is the only school in the area teaching that discipline. If there are no other schools to enable students to be prepared and trained, then that profession or industry may suffer. The community needs the program. Another program such as a MBA program may be one of 20 in the area. If that MBA program closes because it is not financially viable, the community will not suffer.

Q: What kinds of quick fixes should be avoided?

A: A quick fix is anything that looks good, but does not solve the problem. Of course in building maintenance sometimes the quick fix is good enough. That kind of quick fix may last until a better solution can be devised. For example if a pipe breaks a quick fix may be to use pipe repair compound until a plumber can be called to replace the pipe. However, if the whole plumbing system is broken, a quick fix will just postpone the inevitable and not solve the problem.

W. Edward Deming is credited with starting the movement called, Total Quality Management (TQM)[fn 2]. Every aspect of the business from how the phones are answered to the
sourcing of raw materials and creating the final product is dedicated to quality. One of his examples is a company that makes white marbles. Early in the manufacturing process the marble machine was making 85 white marbles and 15 red marbles for every 100 marble batch. The quick fix would be to ship 100 marbles and charge for 85, letting the customer throw out the defective ones. Another quick fix would be to have a selection or inspection process to remove the defective ones. The Total Quality solution would be to figure out why the defective marbles are being manufactured and fix the whole process. Embracing quality and constant improvement are important part of Deming’s philosophy.

Q: What does this have to do with education?

A: Colleges need to have success metrics. Two metrics in vogue throughout the country are retention and graduation rates. The logic is seemly simple -- the goal of going to college is to graduate and launch oneself into a career. However, as we learned graduation is not always the goal or the planned outcome. Higher education, once only for the well-to-do, academic elite, or the extremely motivated, became a national priority with the National Defense Act of 1958. [fn 3]  The act begins with the reason for the law.
The Congress hereby finds and declares that the security of the Nation requires the fullest development of the mental resources and technical skills of its young men and women. … We must increase our efforts to identify and educate more of the talent of our Nation. This requires programs that will give assurance that no student of ability will be denied an opportunity for higher education because of financial need…

The National Defense Act gave opportunities for financial help to millions of students including myself to attend college. The act did not even refer to graduation and retention. Most students in those years were highly motivated to finish. It was the student’s responsibility to complete the degree, not the college. Then as now not everyone who started college, finished. Many students left because they were not college material (either self discovered or the college asked them to leave) or had financial pressures. Personal and financial reasons are still the main reasons students don’t complete programs. Economically for the college it makes sense to retain students until they graduate. As in any business it is better to keep a current customer than find a new one.

If the metric is to measure retention and graduation rates, the institution changes behavior to increase the rates. This endangers lowering the bar to graduate. I heard a story from a colleague who told me his son just got an A.A. degree from a community college. I congratulated him and he responded, “My son hasn’t been in the college since 2005.” He had already graduated with an undergraduate and masters degrees and has been working full time for 7 years. It seems that someone in the administrative office of that college was looking for students who were close to the 60 credits required for graduation. Students received letters asking them if they took courses after leaving the college. If so, the office requested a transcript. If the credits were transferable, the students were sent a diploma. This meant nothing to the students. It was just to make the graduate rate higher.

In 2004 Vincent Tinto in an article [fn 4] for the Pell Institute wrote about retention and graduation. Without an interpretation of the student’s attainment of goals only 10% of students who started in a community college completed a bachelors degree within six years. [fn 5] Compare this to a 58% completion rate for those who started in a four year college or university. There are many factors involved such as income above $70,000 and parents who had completed college also had higher completion rates. Confounding all our statistics and measuring of graduation rates are those students who have no intention to graduate. They may want to update their skills, complete pre-requisites for a career change, or just learn to satisfy their curiosity. [fn 6]

The common reasons that students don’t complete their degree include lack of academic support, family support, and financial. Many low income students are not prepared for academic life for many reasons. Tinto suggests that the ways to increase graduation rates are to increase financial aid and academic support systems. The Federal and State governments need to remove the disincentives to serving low income and first generation college students.

Here are additional articles that support Tinto’s conclusions by Ann M. Gansemer-Topf [fn 7] and John F. Ryan [fn 8]. Doug Shapiro and Afet Dunbar suggest in chapter 13 of Handbook of strategic enrollment management [fn 9] traditional measures of success give a limited understanding students’ path to success. They say that existing studies on graduation and retention use flawed tools and metrics. They conclude that colleges must understand their student pathways, including where they come from, how and when they arrive, and why they leave. Colleges must devise and implement policies that lead to increase the number of successful students and (getting back to total quality management) institutional effectiveness (i.e. excellence.)

Based on this research, here at the College we are trying to measure success with metrics that relate to student success. Before I even started, the application included questions concerning student goals. Students who are attending without a desire to graduate are not included in retention and graduate metrics. We marketed the summer session to visiting students whose home town is here, but attend college in other cities. This led to more students attending summer session classes and we were able to offer courses to fill their needs.

We marketed college readiness courses for the summer session to high school seniors wanting to attend in the fall. They enrolled and by fall most were ready to take college level courses. When the summer session concentrates on readiness skills, the outcome in the fall was much better. The students got to the work of learning soon after high school graduation rather than waiting 2-3 months until the fall. The college readiness program is a dynamic process. We are always learning how to best serve the students with academic, personal, familial, financial and other needs.

Q: How does this relate to TQM?

A: In a previous article “New President Interview -- Part 24 Culture of Excellence” I talked about excellence. Now I am trying to find metrics to measure quality and excellence. So far I am having a hard time coming up with answers that both the faculty and the accountants can agree with. If we find out students are dropping courses we try to examine the reasons. If problems exist that we can correct, we take corrective action. If staff and faculty report processes that are not optimal to meet our goals of excellence we work on ways to correct them.

A first step is trying to define the products the College has to offer. TQM is about listening and understanding as much as acting to make change. We have to measure behaviors, not just gather numbers.  The many areas of social science research have learned about polling and statistical analysis and that knowledge can help create a better way of educating our students and community.

A future article will deal with leadership.

Q: Thank you very much.



Part twenty-nine of imaginary interviews with the president of the College. After more than 20 interviews the president is no longer “new,” but since we are all works in progress I am continuing the series as if s/he were a “new president.” Please feel free to suggest new ideas for interviews and presidential comments. This article is for your information, amusement, and edification. Any connection to a real college or president is strictly coincidental.

I was reminded that I should define management.  In 2006(revised many times) I defined in my article, Knowledge Management Terms what is management.
 Management is the organizational process that includes strategic planning, setting; objectives, managing resources, deploying the human and financial assets needed to achieve objectives, and measuring results. Management also includes recording and storing facts and information for later use or for others within the organization. Management functions are not limited to managers and supervisors. Every member of the organization has some management and reporting functions as part of their job. http://home.earthlink.net/~ddstuhlman/defin1.htm

“Quality” has a subjective definition that is many things to many people. One part of the definition occurs when quality goods and services are produced with an outcome that is predictable and complies with standards either internally developed or externally imposed. These standards, publicly identified, produce some kind of uniformity in the product. Part two is the production of a product that the user, consumer, and/or community perceive as a reasonably and/or fairly priced. Part three is the product is continually improved and the consumer continues to desire use the service or purchase the product.

Quality in educations has some of these dimensions:

1. Consistency – Standards are followed and outcomes are predictable. Limitations, strengths, and human diversity are recognized.

2. Fitness to goals – Personal, institutional, and community goals are defined and met. Customer and stakeholder satisfaction is examined and improvements are implemented.

3. Value – Financial goals are met. That means the student and community get a fair return on their investment. Resources are spent efficiently and effectively.

4. Transformative – Education is always preparing someone for the next step in life. The student is empowered to advance and acquire life-long learning skills. The customer and the stakeholder experiences are enhanced with the education process and results.[fn 10]

[1] The Wikipedia article on the topic en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guns_versus_butter_model explains the concept and its history. For this article, it is just important to know the model is a balance of goals – infrastructure vs. armaments.

[2] Deming had 14 points in his management theory. See “Deming's 14-Point Philosophy A Recipe for Total Quality “ http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newSTR_75.htm for details.

[3] 20 U.S. Code Chapter 17 - National Defense Education Program Public Law 855-864. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-72/pdf/STATUTE-72-Pg1580.pdf Note the program was only for students of public or non-profit regionally accredited institutions that granted bachelors degrees or 2 year programs that transfer to bachelors degrees and graduate programs. Up to 50% of the loan would be forgiven for teachers in public elementary or high schools.

[4] Tinto, Vincent. “Student retention and graduation facing the truth, living with the consequences” Washington, DC : Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education July 2004 Available via ERIC http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED519709 or http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED519709.pdf

[5] Ibid. p.5.

[6] I know one person who took a course every semester in a community college just because he liked to be academically challenged. He was even on the board of the college. He had to stop when he retired to another city. He then enrolled in the local community college and took courses until he died at age 91. I never asked what courses he took. He had more than 60 credits required for a degree, but refused to take a math course so that he could never graduate.

[7] Gansemer-Topf, Ann M. and John H. Schuh. “Institutional selectivity and institutional expenditures: Examining organizational factors that contribute to retention and graduation” In: Research in Higher Education. September 2006 Volume 47, Issue 6 , pp 613-642.

[8] Ryan, John F. “Institutional expenditures and student engagement: a role for financial resources in enhancing student learning and development?” In: Research in Higher Education, March 2005, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 235-249

[9] Shapiro, Doug and Dunbar, Afet. “New context for retention and persistence.” Chapter 13 pages 249-265 in Handbook of Strategic Enrollment Management / edited by Don Hossler, Bob Bontrager. San Francisco. Josey-Bass, 2015.

[10] For more on the implementation of TQM see: Murad Ali and Rajesh Kumar Shastri, “Implementation of Total Quality Management in Higher Education” in Asian Journal of Business Management 2(1): 9-16, 2010 (Feb. 2010) p. 9 -16. http://maxwellsci.com/print/ajbm/v2-9-16.pdfhttp://maxwellsci.com/print/ajbm/v2-9-16.pdf