Engineered Metrics

for Public School Systems

 

 

by

Jesse W. Brogan, President

THE MANAGEMENT UPGRADE SHOP

 

 

It is common for efficiency amateurs to seek out performance metrics.  They are concerned that employees might not be properly rewarded or punished for their performances.  This provincial viewpoint is restricted to interpersonal relations.

Efficiency professionals have a different concept of performance, one based on value produced for customers.  It is not the skills and efforts of the individuals, or even what they do, that defines value.  Value is determined by what comes out of the productive process.  The functional definition of efficiency is: the ratio of value produced to value consumed.  It is how much it costs to gain a valuable result, and the value produced rarely changes with the effort or productivity of the workers who generate it.

Efficiency is a performance concept; it does not readily apply to individual employees.  Our modern organizational managers need a new, and very different, approach.

Management engineering, the application of basic industrial engineering to the art and science of gaining performance through organizations, provides that new direction.  Management Engineering delivers technical support for the administrator, the one who has something to gain through operating a school or school system. 

When it comes to measuring performances, amateur metrics attempt to measure in terms of performance characteristics: “Does the teaching use approved plans and teach prescribed subjects?”  In the other direction, there are other educational metrics based on characteristics of teaching, or attempts to measure the quality of teaching-results in terms of standardized student testing.

The efficiency professional recognizes such directions to be inherently ineffective.  Management engineering establishes meaningful and effective performance metrics based on delivery of value.

For production work, purpose is defined by a productive result, a count of units processed or products assembled.  This defines value to be produced; and the cost is simply the cost of the whole effort as it generates the desired value.  These group metrics are obvious.

When it comes to complex organizations, the purpose is often less clear than a count of products processed.  There can be a number of different types of value produced for different purposes.  There will then be a number of different metrics addressing the various purposes.  Unlike a production area, a single metric for performance will often be inadequate.

 

A customer sets the value of a product

by his or her purchase decisions.

 

Engineered metrics are based on a clear understanding of values.  Unless an organizational output has value to those who receive it, that output can earn no income.  Engineering expands this basic understanding into a general rule addressing the value of all products.

 

Brogan’s Rule:

The value of any product is

determined by those who receive it,

not by those who create it.

 

As a first application, improvements to some internal processes (such as Personnel) have no effect on the value of the organizational product.  Changes can only increase operating efficiency when they reduce operating costs.  This explains why many past efforts to improve educational processes have been successful in their own terms, but ineffective in accomplishing any real efficiency improvement.

 

Customer-Product Analysis:

Management engineering provides a general process for the establishment of organizational value, and this is understood through recognizing a customer-producer value cycle. 

Functional Customer:  Follow the flow of operating resources back to a source; and identify the decision-maker who decides to provide those resources.  By definition, this is the functional customer.

Functional Product.  Apply the two product criteria.  A product is something the functional customer receives as effective inducement to resource the organization.  It is also something that the organization generates.  By definition, whatever meets both criteria is a functional product.

With these definitions, we have established the value relations upon which the health and welfare of the organization rely.  The organization will survive and prosper through delivering functional products to functional customers.

NOTE:  Professional performance metrics are based on value relations.

Management engineering continues by providing analysis of these existing value relations.  The engineering focus on functional customers and functional products serves efficiency applications, with efficiency defined as the ratio of value produced to cost of producing that value.  The engineered tool is Customer-Product (C-P) Analysis.

 

C-P Analysis for Students:

Students do not make funding decisions that direct income to a school system.  They are not functional customers.  In the terminology of engineering, they are third party beneficiaries of the value that is produced for functional customers.  With engineering, the performance focus is not upon serving students.

In the strictest sense, value delivered to students will not determine the health and welfare of the school system.  Educational services provided to students can only generate income for a school system as they influence the resourcing decisions of those who are functional customers.

 

C-P-Analysis for Parents:

The influence of parental decisions vary widely, but are always of considerable effect.  A public school is generally supported by tax dollars, but parents are likely to have major influence on legislators.  Parents who are unhappy with educational products promoted by a politician may well do harm to that politician’s career.  Parents are the most important of functional customers. 

Functional products for parents are not unitary, but have value based on the many expectations that parents have for the education their children receive.  Parental expectations are also variable due to their individual school experiences, and their interests in their children’s future welfare. 

Managing parental expectations is a means, and also an opportunity, to have effect on the definition of functional products that can be valued by parents.  Administrators can design communications to manage expectations, thereby influencing parental understanding of value.

As a few generalizations, the value will be delivered when parents feel that their children are being well prepared to enter into the world as effective people.  A high quality of literacy and basic skills such as mathematics are likely to be valued.  Good citizenship and general sensitivity to peer and larger society will have value.

Effective preparation to assume a competitive position in society will also be valued.  Parents want their children to be able to interact successfully, or even to best those who are not receiving a good education.  Competitive testing and positioning may have some value as products if the results are delivered effectively to parents.

NOTE:  In the United States, there has recently been a marked abandonment of public schooling in favor of private schools.  This has continued even to the extent of pressuring states to release public funding (dollars that would otherwise go to public schools) to help parents who decide to avoid public school systems. This loss of customers is much more than just a wake-up call!

Past educational-system practices included intentional delivery of negative products, results that parents see as costs of public schooling rather than benefits.  Among the most serious of these is an encouraged disrespect for parents, especially as to their influence on their own children.  A school system should avoid at all costs any perceived competition with its functional customers.  The younger the children, the more negative such a product is likely to be; and the less the parents will be inclined to support the school system that delivers such products.

Teaching based on personal political and religious leanings is to be avoided.  The current prevalence of liberalism and anti-Christian attitude and approach in many U.S. public schools are negative products for a large part of the parental population.  These indirect attacks on the system’s parental customers are the primary cause for public pressure to shift resources away from public education.  The school that engages in delivering negative products to almost all of its parental customers is rightfully abandoned.

Political and religious leanings of educators are not an excuse for cheapening the product delivered to parents.  Negative products are unnecessary; and educators who promote their personal political or religious leanings as part of the educational experience need redirection to generating value for the customers of the school system.

Education involves entrusting children to those who educate, which should establish a very personal bond between parents and educators.  Amorality in the educational process is a seriously negative product.  The school system that has, maintains and promotes clear moral standards is likely to be providing parental value – even for parents with a different morality basis.

 

C-P Analysis for the Public:

There is a public interest in schooling, and the public coffers are often a major contributor to the operating income of the school system.  So much as the public is involved, public officers have a decision process that will determine to deliver resources to the school system.  Those who make decisions to resource a school system with tax dollars are functional customers.

Decision-makers can vary depending on level of government and purpose being served.  The Federal Government is showing national interest in the quality of education of citizens as U.S. resources in competition with people educated in other nations.  There are political benefits from having a highly-educated and well-prepared population to draw upon.  States have an interest in having good citizens come out of the schools, graduates who are ready and able to become a part of an intelligent and resourceful voting public.  States also have economic need for a population that is able to earn good incomes and pay substantial taxes to keep state governments operational.  County governments have much the same needs as states, but usually have to carry the bulk of the costs of the educational system.  County-officer decisions are highly effective on behalf of both county and state governments.

Again, the primary product coming to these public decision-makers from the school system is not the education itself, but information on accomplishments.  That communication can be direct; or it can be communication through parents who contact decision-makers.  It can even be less direct through voters, news-media, or other parties interested in influencing public opinions.

Parental observation of students can significantly influence those who rely upon re-election to their public offices as a way to continue their personal influence and income.  Parental activism opens a primary communication channel, passing value to the politician supporting decisions that resource the school system.

 

NOTE: only educators regularly concern themselves with the quality of teaching process, or the structure and special services provided by the school.  Neither parents nor public decision-makers receive these – they are not functional products.  Functional products can only be what the decision-makers receive.

 

Parental Metrics:

There are two sets of metrics for parents, even as there are two sets of parental concerns for educational effect.  Immediate educational results, what the parents can see concerning their student children, is one source for value.  Then there are longer-term observations that indicate to parents that the overall effect of the education provided will meet parental expectations. 

NOTE:  There is a general rule of advertising that one dissatisfied customer is ten times as damaging as a satisfied customer is beneficial.  Any student that leaves dissatisfied with his educational experience becomes a walking advertisement for alternative school systems.

Students who harass their fellows, or otherwise disturb the educational process of other students, are not to be tolerated.  These indicate exceptional needs to be handled by exception managers.  Such exception situations cannot be intelligently handled in a classroom that is focused on performance. 

Modern educational terrorism, where students feel compelled bring guns or other weapons into the schools to defend themselves, is equivalent to systemic cancer.  Surgical extractions may be required.

 

The result of education is to be a positive experience where value is transmitted to Parents, to those whose decisions pay the bills.  Wherever the basic delivery of value is in threat, it is a situation calling for exception management, not for worrying over political correctness or equality in the treatment of students.  Political correctness is not a highly-valued product if it interferes with the basic customer purpose for the education.

 

Practical Metrics for a School System:

Establishing effective metrics is a mater of a practical artistry.  My first suggestion would be a periodic parental testing – one that suggests to parents that they are getting exactly what they should be getting; and that the school system is delivering what they value.

Consider a report card for the school, filled in by the parents as their record of their receipt of student report cards. 

 

Questions that indicate Parental Value:

How eager is your student to continue his/her educational experience?

Is your student developing an increasing appreciation for parental values?

How much support is the school giving you in your life lessons for your student?

How safe is your student in the educational environment of his/her school?

 

Questions addressing the value of students to their society:

Is your student learning valuable skills for dealing with others?

Is your student being encouraged to excel in his/her educational efforts?

Is your student learning skills that will support self-reliance and personal success?

 

Questions addressing the social-political value gained by students:

Is your student learning the foundation for his/her privileges of citizenship?

Is your student learning why he/she should be proud to be in this society.

 

NOTE:  School administration is in a position to manage parental expectations through the questions that are asked.  Questions such as “is your child learning to read and do basic arithmetic,” are wholly inappropriate.  Indicating that the child might not be receiving basic education indicts the entire educational system.  Test those things that are most in need of testing.  If there is a more serious failure, it will be noted as an exception.

Using a statistical report drawn from parental report cards provides a score-card that is directly suitable for communicating the value of your product right back to those who are doing the evaluation – the parents are also your principle customers.

 

Metrics have value only as they are used

and must be communicated before they are effective.

 

Using the results of parental report cards as a major factor for evaluation of teachers orients them to producing value for your functional customers.  The same reports are a way to communicate values to public decision-makers who can affect your resources.

NOTE:  True performance is defined by delivery of value to customers, a new concept.  Implementing this level of performance metrics will require reducing the impact of other metrics that have been in use.  True performance-based management comes with major changes in attitude and approach.

 

Public Metrics:

The value to the public is largely defined by the value to the parents.  The same general “parental report card” provides the basis for statistical metrics that will be effective in dealing with county and state representatives.  These parents are the public whose needs are being met.  They represent the voting public!

The larger challenge is communication.  To be effective, the school system has to get the message of public/parental support to those key decision-makers.  I would recommend a two-pronged effort.  The initial effort is a “preliminary” sending of the metric information to individual functional customers, the government decision-makers.  The second communication can be made to the public by regular news channels.

Even as “negative product” stories have been news in the past, so “valuable product delivery” can be news in the future. 

 

For now,

Public Support for Public Schools is News!

 

 

I Object!

There are a number of interests that will strongly oppose this direction for metrics – with educators and their representative organizations at the top of the list.  They desire metrics where they can succeed based on “doing the right things” instead of having to create value for public or private consumption.  This new type of metric is not fully under their control as a performance.

 

OPERATING RULE:

A business is run for the benefit of its owners,

not for the benefit of its employees.

 

The answer to such complaints is with performance orientation.  The same parental report cards should be used as a major tool for evaluating teachers, and even administrators.  If an employee is not contributing to what the school system produces to earn its way, then that person should be strongly encouraged into more productive activities.

 

Long-Term Effects:

There is considerable internal discomfort with the present number of legislative mandates and restriction placed upon public schools.  The ultimate source of this regulation is not legislators, but parents who are dissatisfied with the services they are now receiving from public educational systems.  Mandates and restrictions are placed on those who are not functioning to the benefit of those who apply the regulation.

A delivery of value to parents as a purpose will largely eliminate the basis for such regulation.  These same parental interests that now stand behind the regulation of public schools can be enlisted to minimize it.

Aligning internal operations with customer needs assures a general support for administrators who applies these metrics.  Public decision-makers must be aware of the metrics being used before they can be effective.  Bringing key customers into the design of the metrics system can make them into personal advocates for serving public purposes.

 

More on Management Engineering:

This article results from a very limited application of a general expansion to professional industrial engineering.  The wider application yields technical support for the efficient structuring and operations of large and complex organizations.  For more information on this emerging specialty, visit the Management Engineering website at:

 

http://jessebrogan.home.att.net.