“Until the whole ugly, sloppy, inefficient, demoralizing, dehumanizing, mess makes everybody unhappy.”

by Steve Wyckoff on February 24, 2010

Earlier this week I attended a State conference for Career and Technical Education. I’m trying to learn all I can about the do’s and don’ts, and the rules and regulations. Now I may not be the brightest guy in the world, but I find the maze of regulations to be, well, amazing. Furthermore, what you learn may vary based on whom you’re talking to. It’s very frustrating.

All of the discussion about what you can and can’t do, and how you can and can’t do it got me thinking about a quote from Tom Peters in his book Re-imagine. He talks about what gets companies in trouble, I would add, what gets bureaucracies in trouble as well. Peters said,

“And yet most of the trouble businesses get into – in serving their customers and in general getting things done with dispatch – is directly attributable to the ugliness of their systems and processes. Over time, even a beautiful system tends to get elaborated and elaborated … and then more elaborated … with every change. Each one made of course, for a “good reason.” Until the whole ugly, sloppy, inefficient, demoralizing, dehumanizing, mess makes everybody unhappy. We end up “serving the system” rather than having the system serve us.” – Tom Peters
Oh so true! It’s not that the people at KSDE  aren’t good people, or they don’t care. And it’s not that in isolation each of the rules and regulations isn’t good, and makes sense. It’s the interaction of all the rules, and all the regulations, over years and years. Indeed it appears to me that instead of serving our kids, and preparing them for the 21st century, we end up serving the bureaucracy.

Perhaps the solution is to unwind the whole big mess. To throw out all the rules and start over again. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. In fact, more and more, we deal with rules and regulations from the federal government. These rules and regulations make even less sense, and do less good, than rules made by the well-meaning people at KSDE.

I know one thing for sure, in the 21st century, a time of individualization and customization, one set of rules designed to cover every situation, for every individual, and every school, makes no sense. One of the speakers proclaimed that the administration wants all of the resources for career and technical education expended on solutions that are creative and innovative. Just so long as every rule and regulation designed to make sure nobody does anything different is adhered to! Proving once again that Tom Peters was exactly right! –  Steve Wyckoff

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