Sleepy Education USA

Education.jpeg

Education is fundamental to learning, development and preparation for career and life. 

We’ve always believed that if you invest in anything, invest in education!

However, despite initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Every Child Succeeds Act, scores in the fundamentals like reading, math, and science all lag behind other advanced industrialized nations.

As of 2015, the U.S. ranked a stinking 38 out of 71 nations in K-12 education

Yet, it is seemingly the complete opposite, with college education, the U.S. has about 75% of the top 25 schools. 

However, the comparison is flawed because university rankings are based not on student academic performance, but rather on research performance, including things like journal articles published and Noble Prize winners. 

When academic proficiency is tested for American adults, the rankings again lag and are at best mediocre. 

While there are many dedicated and good teachers, still too many teachers and unions continue to fight testing and reform so that progress of our education system continues to fail our children and our nation.

We need to end education by memorization, and focus instead on hands-on learning (by doing), critical thinking and problem-solving.

Sleeping through a lecture may not mean a student is missing squat in the current failed education system. 

(Source Photo: The Blumenthals)

Survey The Performance

survey

So I was in the Apple store recently and made a purchase to upgrade some technology.


Afterwards, I got an email asking:


“How was your experience with Beverly?


When I opened this my wife saw this and was like, “What the heck is that?!”


We should be surveying the work performance and not the experience with the person.


I can’t imagine that super smart Apple didn’t see this sort of double entendre about sweet Beverly.


All Apple needed to do was add in the word(s) at the top, shopping and/or at Apple, as in “How was your shopping experience with Beverly at Apple? (rather than burying it in the subtext later)”


But then their customer satisfaction survey maybe wouldn’t get as much attention.


Sexualizing the customer experience shouldn’t be part of marketing, unless maybe your purposely visiting a shady part of town for unscrupulous reasons. 


Anyway, I did respond that Beverly was a definite 5!


Thank you for the wonderful technology Apple and for the experience with Beverly–it was great! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Amazing Amazon

Amazing Amazon

So Amazon should be renamed Amazing, because they are.

They are the best online retailer–love ’em!

SELECTION: Amazon has everything.

PRICE: Amazon is reasonably priced.

SPEED: Amazon Prime gets you your goodies delivered in under 48 hours.

RETURNS: Amazon takes returns easily; virtually no questions asked.

Amazon is so customer focused that you can even email Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO himself, at Jeff@Amazon.com.

Aside from their highly successful retail operation, they have the Kindle tablets, Amazon Web Services (AWS) for cloud computing, Kiva Robots for warehouse operations, and more.

So what’s the secret of their success?

One thing, according to the Wall Street Journal, is their tough hiring practices.

Amazon has “several hundred” interviewers called “Bar Raisers” that give candidates extremely thorough interviews.

Bar Raisers typically have conducted “dozens or hundreds of interviews and gained a reputation for asking tough questions and identifying candidates who go on to become stars.”

Typically, it “takes five or six employees at least two hours each” to evaluate and vet an applicant.

Amazon makes all this effort in recruiting to weed out people who are the wrong fit for the company.

They believe that it’s better to invest in a sophisticated recruiting process than to make costly hiring mistakes.

While this certainly sounds like a well thought out and vigorous hiring process, the article makes little to no mention of performance measures showing that their hires really are better matches, have superior performance, or stay with the company longer.

The one anecdote given was of a Bar Raiser who found a candidate for a programming job that “didn’t know much about the specific programming language.”

Barring some real statistics though, either you could conclude that Amazon’s hiring process is truly superior or perhaps question why it takes them 5 to 6 interviews to do what other successful companies do in 1 or 2.

Either way though, Amazon is a amazingly great company. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Performance and Transparency – 2gether 4ever

Performance and Transparency - 2gether 4ever

Really liked this performance measurement and transparency at Home Depot.

Here are their store performance measures prominently displayed.

Not a high-tech solution, but every measure has its place and metrics.

– Looks at friendly customer service.

– Tracks speed of checkout.

– Measures accuracy of transactions.

This lines up well with the management adage that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

Some pointers:

– Identify, collaboratively, your key drivers of performance

– Determine whether/how you can measure them efficiently (i.e. qualitatively, quantitatively)

– Set realistic, stretch targets for the organization

– Communicate the goals and measures, 360 degrees

– Regularly capture the measures and make the metrics transparent

– Recognize and reward success and course correct when necessary

– Reevaluate measures and goals over time to ensure they are still relevant

Wash, rinse, repeat for continuous improvement. 😉

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Perfect, In An Imperfect World

Perfect, In An Imperfect World

I have a new article in Public CIO Magazine about working to perfect ourselves in an imperfect world.

Please read the article here online.

“Recognize the importance of the journey over that of the goal–and accept the task of working to perfect ourselves, rather than of truly being perfect, or as I learned in Jewish day school, there are no angels here on Earth, only in heaven.”

Hope you enjoy! 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them

Project-success
I remember years ago, my father used to joke about my mother (who occasionally got on his nerves :-): “you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.”Following the frequently dismal state of IT project performance generally, I’m beginning to think that way about technology projects.On one hand, technology represents innovation, automation, and the latest advances in engineering and science–and we cannot live without it–it is our future!On the other hand, the continuing poor track record of IT project delivery is such that we cannot live with it–they are often highly risky and costly:

  • In 2009, the Standish Group reported that 68% of IT projects were failing or seriously challenged–over schedule, behind budget, and not meeting customer requirements.
  • Most recently, according to Harvard Business Review (September 2011), IT projects are again highlighted as “riskier than you think.” Despite efforts to rein in IT projects, “New research showssurprisingly high numbers of out-of-control tech projects–ones that can sink entire companies and careers.”
  • Numerous high profile companies with such deeply problematic IT projects are mentioned, including: Levi Strauss, Hershey’s, Kmart, Airbus, and more.
  • The study found that “Fully one in six of the projects we studied [1,471 were examined] was a black swan, with a cost overrun of 200% on average, and a schedule overrun of almost 70%.”
  • In other words there is a “fat tail” to IT project failure. “It’s not that they’re particularly prone to high cost overruns on average…[rather]anunusually large proportion of them incur massive overages–that is, there are a disproportionate number of black swans.”
  • Unfortunately, as the authors state: “these numbers seems comfortably improbable, but…they apply with uncomfortable frequency.”

In recent years, the discipline of project management and the technique of earned value management have been in vogue to better manage and control runaway IT projects.

At the federal government level, implementation of such tools as the Federal IT Dashboard for transparency and TechStats for ensuring accountability have course-corrected or terminated more than $3 billion in underperforming IT projects.

Technology projects, as R&D endeavors, come with inherent risk. Yet even if the technical aspect is successful, the human factors are likely to get in the way. In fact, they may be the ultimate IT “project killers”–organizational politics, technology adoption, change management, knowledge management, etc.

Going forward, I see the solution as two-pronged:

  • On the one hand we must focus on enhancing pure project management, performance measurement, architecture and governance, and so on.
  • At the same time, we also need to add more emphasis on people (our human capital)ensuring that everyone is fully trained, motivated, empowered and has ownership. This is challenging considering that our people are very much at a breaking point with all the work-related stress they are facing.

These days organizations face numerous challenges that can be daunting. These range from the rapid pace of change, the cutthroat global competition at our doorsteps, a failing education system, spiraling high unemployment, and mounting deficits. All can be helped through technology, but for this to happen we must have the project management infrastructure and the human factors in place to make it work.If our technology is to bring us the next great breakthrough, we must help our people to deliver it collaboratively.The pressure is on–we can’t live with it and we cannot live without it. IT project failures are a people problem as much as a technology problem. However, once we confront it as such, I believe that we can expect the metrics on failed IT projects to change significantly to success.(Source Photo: here)

Feedback, Can’t Live Without It

Feedback

Whether you call it feedback or performance measurement, we all need information on how we are doing in order to keep doing better over time.

Wired (July 2011) reports that there are 4 basic stages to feedback:

1. Evidence–“behavior is measured, captured, and stored.”  
2. Relevance–information is conveyed in a way that is “emotionally resonant.”
3. Consequence–we are provided with the results of our (mis)deeds.
4. Action–individuals have the opportunity to”recalibrate a behavior, make a choice, and act.”
The new action (in step 4) is also subject to measurement and the the feedback loop begins again.
Feedback plays a critical role in helping us achieve our goals; according to psychologist Albert Bandura, if we can identify our goals and measure our progress to them, we greatly increase the likelihood that we will achieve them. 
Thus, feedback is the way that we continually are able to course correct in order hit our targets: if we veer too much to the right, we course correct left; if we veer too much to the left, we course correct right. 
Feedback loops “can help people change bad behavior…[and] can encourage good habits.
From obesity to smoking, carbon emissions to criminal behavior, and energy use to employee performance, if we get feedback as to where we are going wrong and what negative effects it is having on us, we have the opportunity to improve
And the way we generate improvement in people is not by trying to control them–since no one can really be controlled, they just rebel–instead we give them the feedback they need to gain self-control.
These days, feedback is not limited to having that heart-to-heart with somebody, but technology plays a critical role. 
From sensors and monitors that capture and store information, to business intelligence that makes it meaningful in terms of trends, patterns, and graphs, to alerting and notification systems that let you know when some sort of anomaly occurs, we rely on technology to help us control our often chaotic environments. 
While feedback can be scary and painful–no one wants to get a negative reaction, criticized, or even “punished”–in the end, we are better off knowing than not knowing, so we have the opportunity to evaluate the veracity and sincerity of the feedback and reflect on what to do next. 
There are many obstacles to self-improvement including disbelief, obstinance, arrogance, as well as pure unadulterated laziness. All these can get in the way of making necessary changes in our lives; however, feedback has a way of continuing to come back and hit you over the head in life until you pay attention and act accordingly.  
There is no escaping valid feedback.