What Would Deming Do? And What Happened to Overtime?

I’ve mentioned Edwards Deming before (here). His ideas on cooperation between workers and management enabled Japanese industry to out-compete American industry, which operated on the familiar top-down management model. You are probably well aware of what happened to the US auto, television, and consumer electronics industries as a result.

Deming always said that if front-line workers were messing up, then it was something that management was doing wrong that caused that to happen. Punishing the workers would just make them more resentful, and not improve matters. Training workers well, asking for their input, and giving them the correct tools and support normally eliminates the problem. Any institution that has a revolving door of employees who leave after a year or two (which is what we have more and more often in education these days) is one where management is messed up.

What we are doing in education today in the US is precisely the opposite of everything Deming advocated. Teachers are being demonized as “rotten apples” and are being given tons of mandates and extra busy work to do, and any support that they used to have is being taken away. The answer to any complaint that the might have is that they need to work harder: 14 or 16 hour days, 7 days a week, is seen as the norm.

Andrea Gabor has an excellent article on what Deming would do (thanks to Diane Ravitch and Steve Ruis for brining this to my attention) regarding education today.

I also see that there is a move to allow teachers and many other workers to be paid overtime. This sounds like an excellent idea. Instead of edu-shysters like Eva Moskowitz earning half a million dollars plus, let those poor overworked charter school teachers who work 90 to 100 hours a week make the big bucks! At time-and-a-half for overtime, a nominal 40 hour week for $40,000 a year would earn a teacher who puts in 80 hours a week (which is NOT uncommon at all!) a yearly salary of $120,000 instead!


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