Lean is very prevalent in manufacturing because manufacturing needs so much help. Jobs are being lost and profits and struggling, and so lean is one lever people try to pull to salvage the situation. Now that the healthcare industry is in so much trouble, they are running to lean in droves to try to improve both the quality of care and the financial situation. But our K-12 education system is equally broken. Students are not getting what they need, teachers are perhaps the most underpaid profession around and the costs continue to rise. But lean hasn’t begun to touch this space.
There are many reasons for this. One is that the work is very distributed. Teachers can come in, do their curriculum and go home and can get by without coordinated action. Adminstrations are focused on fighting for funds and looking to new areas and ultimating, making tough decisions about what programs to cut. Politicians are busy playing God thinking that with different federal funding scenarios they will magically solve the problems. But here we have what is ultimately our most vital industry – education – and lean can make a difference.
I don’t know how it’s going to get traction but I write this with an item to share and a recommendation. The Pawley Institute at Oakland University, where I chair the board of advisors, has started exactly this effort with lean for schools. They just had their first workshop. Check it out here. Dr. Shannon Flumerfelt is leading the effort. If you think this is worth supporting, we’re always trying to raise more funds to support the Pawley Institute.
My request is this: get involved. Share what you know with a teacher or administrator. If you’re in a company, open up your education programs to schools. Or go a step further and run for school board. Lean was brought into healthcare primarly by lean manufacturing folks, like LeanBlog.org founder Mark Graban, bringing it to healthcare. Perhaps lean can follow the same path into our schools.
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