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3 Points Of View

Krauskopf   Who?
Allen Krauskopf
Alk_small_pic alkrauskopf@gmail.com
303-250-0436
Precision School Improvement
Managing Partner, Escent Partners, LLC

As Associate Partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers Management Consulting, Allen led a large organization that delivered business transformation and strategic IT services across all industries. In 2010, while volunteering as a math tutor, he was drawn to the fact that the performance of our schools remained stagnant during the same years he witnessed, first hand, transformational change throughout industry. Concerned by this, Allen formed Escent Partners LLC to explore the operational challenges of our schools, illuminate root inhibitors, and partner with mission-oriented Firms determined to do something about them.

Our schools are spending over $10B/yr on IT “solutions” that too often bear no relation to quality management and transformation tenets. This is unacceptable. For transformation to take hold, education's thought leaders, not tech vendors, should be driving our schools' improvement priorities.

 

Today, Allen is putting his business transformation experience to work by helping education's well regarded advisory Firms drive their methods into our schools and move them to higher levels of performance.


Good News For Thought Leaders
Driving IT Strategy
What Is A Blueprint?
The System View
Allen Krauskopf



'System' commonly describes education in America. The term is not a metaphor. It refers to the schools and districts themselves; the institutions that directly impact the academic growth of our children. And because they are systems, these institutions can be methodologically transformed according to well-established disciplines.

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The System View
 
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Allen Krauskopf Who?
Allen Krauskopf
Alk_small_pic alkrauskopf@gmail.com
303-250-0436
Precision School Improvement
Managing Partner, Escent Partners, LLC

As Associate Partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers Management Consulting, Allen led a large organization that delivered business transformation and strategic IT services across all industries. In 2010, while volunteering as a math tutor, he was drawn to the fact that the performance of our schools remained stagnant during the same years he witnessed, first hand, transformational change throughout industry. Concerned by this, Allen formed Escent Partners LLC to explore the operational challenges of our schools, illuminate root inhibitors, and partner with mission-oriented Firms determined to do something about them.

Our schools are spending over $10B/yr on IT “solutions” that too often bear no relation to quality management and transformation tenets. This is unacceptable. For transformation to take hold, education's thought leaders, not tech vendors, should be driving our schools' improvement priorities.

 

Today, Allen is putting his business transformation experience to work by helping education's well regarded advisory Firms drive their methods into our schools and move them to higher levels of performance.


Alk_small_pic
 

What Is A Blueprint?

Transformation Point-Of-View

The well-known axiom “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” has a corollary:
“If you can't agree on how it works, you won't agree on how to improve it.”


Blueprints are schematics, not a set of philosophies or guiding principles. They depict “how” a system works. More precisely, a school's blueprint depicts how teachers and principal, as an operating team, deliver the learning experiences required of every child, and how district-level processes tie into their ways of working. Schematics visually reflect what we already know; that educators control the workings of their system, which can be understood and improved using devices and methods applicable to all system.


The schematic does what an organization chart cannot. It represents the school as an organism in motion. It adds meaning to the notions of inter-dependence, throughput, bottlenecks, capacity, and constraints. It maps where finite resources - time and money - are being expended in relation to the student. It distinguishes between teacher affects, school affects, and district affects on the student. It separates "value-add" processes that directly impact the student from all other processes, many of which may be deemed "important" but nevertheless depend on other processes for their effect to be felt by the student (for example, PD is important, not value-add). Every work discipline in the system resides somewhere on the blueprint. So when processes change, or new tools are given to teachers, without conscious regard for their position on the blueprint there can be little certainty about the effect they will have on the student.


Transformation involves a deliberate, leader-driven, shift in the allocation of resources across the system, due to incremental changes to how it works. The blueprint representation will show how, for example, by fixing root issues in “value-add” processes (those directly effecting students) other processes traditionally considered “important” become less important, maybe even unnecessary. Transformation wants leaders to fix high "value add" processes so that other compensating processes (usually in overhead) are rendered unnecessary. The challenge isn't simply to build system capacity where it's most needed; it's to, at the same time, render existing capacities unnecessary so that the system itself changes.


Without the means to examine, through a blueprint, one's organization as the system that it is, traditionally “important” processes tend to remain important. Change barriers are often encountered when the fix to a root problem in one organizational silo effects entrenched processes elsewhere in the organization: and the barrier is usually insurmountable when the fix calls for rebalancing capacity between the silos. If educators can't agree on how their system works, they won't agree on how to improve it. But resistance to change can be overcome when everyone is working from the same blueprint.

  roll-up

The well-known axiom “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” has a corollary:
“If you can't agree on how it works, you won't agree on how to improve it.”


Blueprints are schematics, not a set of philosophies or guiding principles. They depict “how” a system works. More precisely, a school's blueprint depicts how teachers and principal, as an operating team, deliver the learning experiences required of every child, and how district-level processes tie into their ways of working. Schematics visually reflect what we already know; that educators control the workings of their system, which can be understood and improved using devices and methods applicable to all system.

... continue
Related Point Of View
View On Common Core: Ever Increasing Reliability
Top
Allen Krauskopf Who?
Allen Krauskopf
Alk_small_pic alkrauskopf@gmail.com
303-250-0436
Precision School Improvement
Managing Partner, Escent Partners, LLC

As Associate Partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers Management Consulting, Allen led a large organization that delivered business transformation and strategic IT services across all industries. In 2010, while volunteering as a math tutor, he was drawn to the fact that the performance of our schools remained stagnant during the same years he witnessed, first hand, transformational change throughout industry. Concerned by this, Allen formed Escent Partners LLC to explore the operational challenges of our schools, illuminate root inhibitors, and partner with mission-oriented Firms determined to do something about them.

Our schools are spending over $10B/yr on IT “solutions” that too often bear no relation to quality management and transformation tenets. This is unacceptable. For transformation to take hold, education's thought leaders, not tech vendors, should be driving our schools' improvement priorities.

 

Today, Allen is putting his business transformation experience to work by helping education's well regarded advisory Firms drive their methods into our schools and move them to higher levels of performance.


Alk_small_pic
 

Driving IT Strategy

Technology Management Point-Of-View
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Education’s transformation challenge has been described by some as an endeavor to morph our 63’ Chevy into a 21st century Prius. A great car, the Chevy, but most agree that it isn't designed for 21st century demands. In the transformation world, technology’s #1 job is not to automate a given way of working: it is to help people - educators - continuously alter how their system works (changing the car's design versus improving its parts). We spend over $10B every year on education technologies, yet student performance has remained stagnant for decades. Who can argue that education's IT strategies are affecting student growth in any meaningful way? Beneath all of our schools' 21st century tools lies the old Chevy.


In my “What is a Blueprint?” remarks, I explained that a blueprint schematically depicts how an organizational system works (View the illustration above). The blueprint draws attention to the inter-dependencies among the system's moving parts (processes) and reminds us that some parts can be rendered unnecessary if the designs of others can be improved. This is what transformation is. Yet too often the IT response to education's transformation imperatives are strategies having little to do with changing how the system works. Consider a few:


Be Data-Driven Does it follow from this that significant tax dollars be channelled into an IT strategy to aggregate data residing in the school district's disparate systems and organize them as dashboards so that teachers can, presumably, be more data driven? Can these dashboards be anything more than that of the old Chevy?
The blueprint allows us to consider the need to be “data driven” with sharper focus. Schools are known as “continuous flow” systems because students are continuously growing; every day their needs have changed from those of the day before. So, for teachers to be increasingly nimble and responsive to diverse and ever changing needs, they require a continuous flow of accurate indicators of every student’s needs (area 'A' in the schematic above.) But the Chevy, by design, is not able to produce data with the timeliness and granularity that continuous flow processes require. So how then will a data dashboarding strategy make our teachers more nimble and discerning, as implied by the "data driven" imperative? Answer: It won't. Different data are needed for teachers to become more nimble. Read this teacher's perspective on the challenges he faces with his data.
Blueprints draw our attention to the specific parts of the system where being “data-driven” matters the most, and help us understand what is required of the data. If the Chevy, by design, cannot satisfy these requirements, then a root process problem has been identified. A process re-design, not a dashboard, is needed. And an opportunity to morph toward the Prius has emerged.


Increase Collaboration: Perhaps the IT response, therefore, should be to invest tax dollars in Schoology's tag line, "Social Networking for Schools." But the blueprint does not recognize amorphous behaviors, like social networking, whose impact on students is, at best, assumed rather than managed. When Dana Frazee speaks here of shared leadership disciplines, she refers to a specific business process in which collaboration has a specific purpose and form. The IT strategy to employ technologies designed to encourage unmanaged social interactions, which have no discernable place on the blueprint, rather than well defined process inter-dependencies, which do, is really an expensive experiment, not a stewardable strategy. It's not surprising that these popular social platforms being sold to our schools are of little help to thought leaders such as Dana.


What about the imperatives to Have Greater Accountability? or Break Down Organizational Silos? Can you see how the blueprint can inform the IT strategy on these issues? If accountability is important, does the IT strategy reinforce the notion of process ownership and measurement for all - meaning everyone in the entire system? If silos are to be broken down is the IT strategy agnostic toward existing silos, or is it influenced by, and therefore reinforces, the silos?


My intent is not to instigate debate on why education's IT dollars are being mis-spent (although the topic deserves serious attention). It’s to point out that IT strategies are very expensive and the cost of getting them wrong in a resource-constrained community is very high in terms of lost dollars, lost opportunity, and a perpetually poorly tuned system. Solution blueprints help education leaders reconcile their strategic priorities with their expensive technology strategies. Without them any "good idea" can be, and seemingly is being, rationalized as “strategic” for our schools.


  roll-up

Education’s transformation challenge has been described by some as an endeavor to morph our 63’ Chevy into a 21st century Prius. A great car, the Chevy, but most agree that it isn't designed for 21st century demands. In the transformation world, technology’s #1 job is not to automate a given way of working: it is to help people - educators - continuously alter how their system works (changing the car's design versus improving its parts). We spend over $10B every year on education technologies, yet student performance has remained stagnant for decades. Who can argue that education's IT strategies are affecting student growth in any meaningful way? Beneath all of our schools' 21st century tools lies the old Chevy.

... continue
Related Point Of View
View On Common Core: Ever Increasing Reliability
Top
Allen Krauskopf Who?
Allen Krauskopf
Alk_small_pic alkrauskopf@gmail.com
303-250-0436
Precision School Improvement
Managing Partner, Escent Partners, LLC

As Associate Partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers Management Consulting, Allen led a large organization that delivered business transformation and strategic IT services across all industries. In 2010, while volunteering as a math tutor, he was drawn to the fact that the performance of our schools remained stagnant during the same years he witnessed, first hand, transformational change throughout industry. Concerned by this, Allen formed Escent Partners LLC to explore the operational challenges of our schools, illuminate root inhibitors, and partner with mission-oriented Firms determined to do something about them.

Our schools are spending over $10B/yr on IT “solutions” that too often bear no relation to quality management and transformation tenets. This is unacceptable. For transformation to take hold, education's thought leaders, not tech vendors, should be driving our schools' improvement priorities.

 

Today, Allen is putting his business transformation experience to work by helping education's well regarded advisory Firms drive their methods into our schools and move them to higher levels of performance.


Alk_small_pic
 

Good News For Thought Leaders

Professional Services Point-Of-View
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Allow me a bold, if not provocative, opinion: Education’s thought leaders, those Firms that are scratching and clawing for grant dollars to drive better operational processes into our schools, are being steamrolled by investor-backed tech vendors and content providers.

Where exactly is education’s $10B/yr technology spend going, as well as the man-years and mind-share that's being dragged along with it?


Are the dollars going into the enablers needed to harmonize operational processes, such as those advanced here by Frazee? Or, are we placing large bets on tag lines, like “Social Networking For Schools,” hoping, in an operationally ill-defined way, that these platforms will impact our kids more? Are leaders committing themselves to the tough challenge of fixing root issues that are deeply buried in "value-add" processes (area ‘A’ in the illustration above), and thus diminish the "importance" of area ‘B’? Or, are we doubling the importance of area ‘B,' to the benefit of the few dominating suppliers that this part of system relies on?


Education leaders, who every year develop performance improvement plans, may rightly say that they don’t need a blueprint to figure out what needs fixing in their schools. But the cycle of disappointment and waste doesn’t come from mis-diagnoses of what needs fixing; it comes from mis-calculations on how to fix what needs fixing. For this, the system view is indispensable.


Top-tier consultancies drive transformational change by framing their client relationships, using blueprints, in the context of the system as a whole. Concerned exclusively with process, the system view allows entrenched presumptions of what needs fixing to be examined in relation to the performance of the whole. And it gives these Firms the voice they need to be heard over that of tech vendors selling candy.

  roll-up

Allow me a bold, if not provocative, opinion: Education’s thought leaders, those Firms that are scratching and clawing for grant dollars to drive better operational processes into our schools, are being steamrolled by investor-backed tech vendors and content providers.

Where exactly is education’s $10B/yr technology spend going, as well as the man-years and mind-share that's being dragged along with it?

... continue
 

 
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