W. Edwards Deming and the Leander Way

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By John Hunter, author of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog (since 2004).

YouTube video

2014 W. Edwards Deming Institute conference presentation by Monta Akin, Kendra Shaffer and Jill Walker: W. Edwards Deming and the Leander Way.

The Leander, Texas independent school district looked to focus on improving student learning (not to improve teaching). Those ideas seem similar but there is a big difference in what you see as your aim. To achieve this aim to improve student learning Leander focused on viewing the organization as a system. With that focus they sought to continually improve the system with a focus on student learning.

This view allowed them to focus on how to improve the system to allow students to learn. If the results are not what is desired they don’t blame the student or the teacher but seek to improve the system so future results are better.

Another key to the success in Leander is that they understood this was a long term effort. They didn’t expect to finish in a year or two. They understood everything would not change at once. But by viewing the organization as a system they could maintain a focus on continual improvement and understood those things that are stuggling today can be improved next week, next month or next year.

Leander uses data and PDSA to experiment, learn and improve.

Often people will say Deming isn’t just the tools. That is certainly true. But using tools and data to make improvement efforts concrete is important.

As Deming said, best efforts are not enough, you have to know what to do. But he also said, “Best efforts are essential.” Tools are not enough: and like best efforts, using them without understanding the management system can do damage. But tools are also essential and Leander’s experience shows a long term effort to integrate quality improvement tools into the management system to achieve long term continual improvement.

Related: Monta Akin on The 20 Year Deming Journey at the Leander Independent School District (podcast)Deming Podcast with Dr. Bret Champion, Superintendent of the Leander Independent School DistrictWhat Schools Can Learn from Dr. Deming’s Philosophy by Andrea Gabor

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