The 3 Defective Beliefs that Cause Dysfunctional Policies and Poor Performance

June 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Just this month the Department of Education issued waivers to eight additional states for the “No Child Left Behind” legislation (NCLB ) which passed in 2001.  So far a total of 18 states have received waivers.  The waivers allow the states to continue to work to improve education without experiencing the penalties for non-compliance with performance standards.   All the states who have received the waivers have missed their performance goals as defined by the NCLB Act.  The Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, recently stated he expects up to 80% of our nation’s public schools to miss their NCLB goals by next year.

The NCLB was a reinstatement of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 initiated by President Johnson as part of his “war on poverty” policies.   We can conclude that we have had 47 years of standards-based education reform and it has failed 80% of the time.

Recently the Governor of CT doubled down on standards based education reform with his own version of this type of legislation.  He even added an extra bell and whistle by including mandatory performance evaluations for teachers.  This too will fail miserably just as previous versions have failed for nearly 47 years.

It’s time we moved away from standard-based education.  It’s time we moved to a system that allows students to freely develop their passion with teachers who are facilitators of learning and not the “shovels” of facts into the brains of our children for the purpose of memorization and test scores.  We must stop forcing every child to comply with the same curriculum at the same time with the same grades.  It’s costly and dysfunctional.  Isn’t 47 years of failure enough time?  No Child Left Behind should be renamed the 80% failure.

What makes leaders to continue to embrace dysfunctional policies that damage performance?  It’s their defective beliefs that cause them to make the same mistakes over and over at our expense and at the expense of our children’s future.

I submit there are three beliefs that cause our leaders to continue to embrace failed policies.  Beliefs are hard to change but I think it’s time we examine these to question their validity.  I ask you to examine your own beliefs and I hope you will be willing to be open to a change.  Without this a re-examination we might all continue our dysfunction.

People must be held accountable to measurable goals

Leaders who think people need to be held accountable to measurable goals believe people by nature are basically lazy.  Goals don’t create performance success.  Effective and efficient processes create performance.   The reason the performance standards in our schools are not being met is not because of a lack of effort or laziness.  It’s because the policies and processes are flawed.  These flawed processes and policies are based on the false belief that people are naturally lazy.  The belief creates polices that damage natural motivation and therefore the belief becomes manifested in reality.

Managers must evaluate employees (teachers)

Evaluating and improving the parts of a system will not improve the performance of the system.  It’s the quality of the interactions between the parts that improve the performance of the overall system.

I recently rented a very expensive car just for fun.  It started to rain. I looked for the windshield wipers and couldn’t find the control for a good minute.  I nearly had to pull to the side of the road to find the control.   Although the control worked fine, and was obviously of very high quality, the interaction between it and me (the driver) was more important for safety and function of the car than the quality of the unit.

Having talented individuals in the organization is not enough for predictable performance.  Talent means little if the quality of the interactions between the individuals is poor.  Evaluating individuals is also much less important, if not irrelevant, to the functioning of the overall system.  Quality interactions will contribute more to the performance of the whole than talented individuals.  It’s always a team effort and the team members are interdependent.

People need performance pay to be motivated

Money is not a motivator.  It is best to pay people enough money so they forget about pay and focus on improving their processes and their interactions.   This strategy is the only way to generate predictable profitability and customer loyalty.

Beliefs are hard to change but I think it’s time we examine these to question their validity.  Defective beliefs cause leaders to make defective decisions.  These defective decisions will take the form of a policy or procedure that will eventually fail.  I ask you to examine these three beliefs.  Do you embrace them?  If so, please just do a little more study.  There is a good deal of evidence that these defective beliefs cause unintended consequences and poor performance. Contact me if you want to know where to find the research.

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