Inspect what you expect

As summer vacation comes to a close, many of us have little (and not so little) ones who will be going back to school. Which reminds me of a study completed a few years back which looked to answer the question: What impact does a school district superintendent have on student performance? Being married to a public-school teacher this caught my attention.
So, what did they find: Hiring a new superintendent has NO IMPACT on student test scores. Let me say that again…no impact. What? This is the highest paid person and the top of the organizational chart…how can they have zero impact?
From the Lean Six Sigma perspective the answer ties into defining who “adds value” to school district customers (students). The value adders are those people in the organization who create and deliver value to the customer. For a school district the value adding employees are the teachers. The superintendent cannot be blamed; they are so far removed from the classroom that their presence (or absence) doesn’t have an impact at the individual student level…at least not right away.
I’m not saying the upper echelon people are not necessary, these are important positions. Superintendents have very important duties concerning strategic direction, funding, investments, recruiting, training, lobbying, and inspecting. Yes, part of what a superintendent should be doing is going to schools and performing audits on principles, who in turn audit teachers. There is an old Navy saying – Inspect what you expect. In Lean Six Sigma we call this “Going to the Gemba”, which is a responsibility of leadership.
If you have little ones heading back to school, I hope they have a wonderful year and suggest letting the teacher know how much we all appreciate them. I know I will. 🙂
Cheers, Erik