Steve Iman

en*thu*si*asm \in-'th(y)uze-az-em\ n [Gk enthouslamos, fr enthouslazein to be inspired, fr entheos inspired, fr en- + theos god] a 1 : belief in special revelations b : fanaticism 2 a : strong excitement of feeling : FERVOR b : something inspiring zeal or fervor syn see PASSION


Essays on just about anything


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Classroom Organization

 Trying to build a classroom into a performing organization is a challenge I love. Getting at the process keeps my brain alive with all kinds of parallels. Each session provides links of memory to so much of my experience that it's always fun. 

Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist posted a blog at Huffington post early in 2010 which chimes right with some of my core thoughts. ( from_b_421797.html) He believes there's a whale of a difference between those who actually put customers first  and those who simply pretend to, or those who engage in the common practice of saying so -- all the time pursuing their path to profits. Thank God I honestly enjoy being with and working with people and students. The neurotic and fearful, and others raised on threat and fear are not likely to experience the benefits. 

Craig underscores something I've always believed in reminding that almost always, rank and file employees or students know more about the system than those in charge, and are best suited to spot opportunities for improvement. The Japanese, once Deming got there and taught them, showed us how far one can go on an unbending commitment to continuous improvement. In reality that means looking and and scouting detailed improvement in systems. Students sometimes don't believe that I'm serious about entertaining ideas for changing the course. Honestly I don't always enjoy inputs aimed at little more than reducing work -- but I really am after student leering and I'm open to finding ways of getting them on board. I get a feeling that many students don't see much importance in the details of course structure, but I'm not with them on that. Everything can be reengineered once in a while, and ought to be. Newmark is right in thinking back to the 1980s as a time when there was a strong focus on reengineering systems. There was a lot of talk, and I agree with him too, that somehow those at the top of most organizations never really took up the challenge with any interest, and so the talk died out before much of any benefit was had. I suppose that managers everywhere love to be managers and do little more than they have to. It'd be work to revise systems or be open and listen to the input of those who actually know how things work. So I suppose that so long as we breed employees who don't speak up much, things will remain about the same. 

Newman remarks at how hard it seems to be for top managers anywhere to do much of anything in the way of innovation. We see little or no change, for instance, at banks, and top executives there are once again investing in derivatives and spending their time dishing out obscene bonuses. They really don't get it. It's just the case that we can rarely look to the GMs, Fords, or Chryslers for innovation. Nobel Economists have demonstrated that until there are about 6 major players in any industry or market that customer needs rarely account for much, and yet we don't organize to pursue those benefits. Those who make the rules prefer the monopolies from which they benefit -- all in the name of 'freedom' and with a patently false ideology of magical hands. 

Change doesn't happen at the top of large systems. In my many years of trying to observe organizational change of a planned sort, it's been clear that the thrusts rarely come from the top. Innovative ideas come from small teams, and usually those in off-shifts who don't suffer from much oversight by top leadership. Setting up a small "skunkworks" team and giving them a charter to get things done usually does show how progress can be made. This was shown time and time again by my "dual focus" projects for World Health. We'd go into a country and pull together a team of public servants, negotiate with national leadership that they'd have paid time, decent budgets, waiver from most legislation, and freedom to turn in results relating to health indicators, and each of the teams from Jordan or Pakistan, from Ghana, or Tanzania would get to the villages, get movements started, and quickly start showing the sorts of results never seen by politicians or hidebound government organizations.