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Problems cannot be solved…

Problems cannot be solved…

Dave Derosier

…without breaking them down into issues.

Like so many other things in life, problem solving activities have an “80-20 Rule”. To correctly address problems, spend 80% on your time on the problem and 20% of your time on the solution. Most people do it the other way around.

Picture this, a business meeting where it is announced that, “Sales are down and the company is losing money”. Immediately someone in the group says, “We need to increase sales.” The group agrees and they go ahead with efforts to do that, happy that it was so easy to solve the problem.

Do you think that was a good way to solve the problem?

The folks at this meeting jumped on a knee-jerk reaction and then implemented it. Like most people they spent all of their time on the solution. “We need to increase sales.”

If they had spent more time on the problem, they might have found out that their selling costs were so high that they lost money on every sale. Increasing sales would just increase the losses!

The first step in addressing problems is to answer the question, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

In this case, what they thought was the problem, “sales are down”, was not the problem at all. The real problem was that they were losing money.

Problem diagnosis requires getting from the “simple why” (often just a symptom) to the “real why”. The real why searches out the causes of a problem. These causes usually go beyond technical reasons. Causes are best found by the repeated asking of “why” as we dig deeper and deeper into a problem.

Problem diagnosis means seeking answers to factors that could have affected or contributed to the problem. For example:  When does the problem occur? Where does it occur? Who is involved in the problem? Are the people involved carefully selected, trained, and motivated? What equipment and facilities are involved? What events or conditions are connected to the problem? What were the hints of an impending problem? What calamities, crises, and/or unusual events may be contributing?

Solving problemsThe answers to these real why’s are the issues (factors) surrounding a problem. Not all issues contribute to the problem and some don’t need to be addressed, but always assume that there can be multiple contributing issues do contribute to the problem.

Determine any constraints you may have for solutions (like the cost, legality, etc.), then analyze the issues, and come up with possible solutions. Evaluate each possible solution and select one or more. Develop a plan and implement it. Problem solved.

Remember that fixing a symptom doesn’t cure the problem. For example, an offer of a ride from a neighbor doesn’t solve the real problem of a vehicle not starting in the morning. Another example would be failing grades at school – that’s a symptom; the problem is kids not learning.

All of these steps work on addressing bigger complex problems, like failing school grades, or choosing a new job, or a business that’s losing money. But what about the small simple problems? What can we do to simplify finding solutions? There are many “shortcuts” that can be used.

Everyday Techniques like these are simple:

  • Pros and Cons: Listing the advantages and disadvantages of each option, popularized by Plato and Benjamin Franklin.
  • Simple Prioritization: Choosing the alternative with the highest probability-weighted utility for each alternative.
  • Satisfying: using the first acceptable option found.
  • Acquiesce to a person in authority or an “expert”, just following orders.
  • Flipism: Flipping a coin, cutting a deck of playing cards, and other random or coincidence methods

…and of course, prayer, tarot cards, astrology, revelation, or similar methods.

One other thing to remember in problem solving – learn to differentiate between a PROBLEM and a FACT OF LIFE. “My mother has Alzheimer’s” is a fact of life. There are no solutions to facts of life, learn to adapt yourself and move on. When you encounter a fact of life, treating it like a problem will make you miserable as you search and try fruitless solutions.

On the other hand, “my mother has Alzheimer’s and she is going to need constant care” is a problem for which problem solving is needed.

I hope this brief exercise helped a lot of you in addressing problems at home or at work, even at play. In future columns I will be making references to some of these tools in addressing some big issues. Please stay tuned in.

David Derosier consults with small business on planning and marketing issues, and provides web design and hosting services through OhainWEB.com, an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau that is rated A+ by BBB. He can be reached at JDAVID@Strategy-Planning.info

This article was first published in The Orange Leader on 10 October 2018.

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is Power

Dave DerosierMy last post departed a little from the usual technology topics, although it did stay with the principal theme of trust.

I wrote about the grades that were earned by West Orange-Cove CISD (WOCCISD) from the State of Texas. Just like the schools give out grades based on student performance, the State gives out grades based on school performance. Ten out of 11 subjects got “F” grades.

The purpose of the article was to shed light on how the WOCCISD schools are doing. Not enough people know that the schools themselves get grades from the State, even fewer know how bad the grades really are. An awful lot of comments on social media were like, “I knew there were problems but I didn’t know it was that bad”; others were in denial, making excuses for the poor performance; others took the words personally and were offended that their kids were being labeled as bad learners.

Now they know, and knowledge is power.

The article was successful in that people started talking about subjects that were not so public a few weeks ago. Dialogue is spreading – both pro and con. That was the intent of shedding some light on the subject matter.

With new knowledge, hopefully more people will go to WOCCISD meetings and participate. Ask questions, share your opinions. If light can be shed on all these failing grades then the public stakeholders – parents and taxpayers – can choose whether or not to accept it or demand change.

The power is in the people.

For at least the last 10 years WOCCISD schools have been on the State’s “List of Worst Schools in Texas”. It could go back further but I stopped downloading the documents at 2006.

We can’t blame hurricanes for more than a decade of poor performance, nor can we put full blame on the current administration that has only been at the helm since 2015.

Kudos to the Orange Leader for providing a public forum in which this and other critical community issues can be brought to light and debated by the public. Also to Facebook and other social media for the forums in which a lot of that debate occurs today.

Is WOCCISD alone?

Not really. Beaumont ISD had problems and the state stepped in and took over.

Last May, ten people were killed and 13 wounded in a shooting spree at Santa Fe High School, south of Houston. Like WOCCISD, Santa Fe ISD was not technically rated by TEA for the 2017-18 school year after applying for an exemption due to Hurricane Harvey, if they had been rated, they would have received an “F.”

A Houston paper reported that family members of Santa Fe victims admonished the school board last week for the district’s poor academic performance on the Texas Education Agency’s Accountability Rating System.

“ ’What this tells me is Santa Fe is not providing an environment conducive to education; it’s providing just the opposite,’ said Steve Perkins, whose wife, Ann, a substitute teacher, was killed in the Santa Fe High School shooting. Many of those at the meeting wore T-shirts emblazoned with the letter ‘F’, for the failures reported by TEA grades for the district.”

Santa Fe failed four out of the eleven subjects mentioned in my last article. Compare that to ten out of 11 failures for WOCCISD and yet parents are not attending school board meetings and not speaking up which they have a right to.

Who cares?

According to minutes, in the last year only one outside person has taken the opportunity to present their opinion at a school board meeting, that person was Larry Spears, the Mayor of Orange.

Any presentations to the board are supposed to be recorded in the minutes of the meeting. However, it is not always an easy thing to find because, on average since the beginning of 2017, it took 5 months (147 days) before the minutes were presented to the board and approved. For example, the minutes of the November 17th 2017 meeting were on the agenda for the September 24th 2018 board meeting – nine months after the meeting happened.

You, the parents and taxpayers, have the right to speak out at the Board meetings. Go and exercise your rights. As citizens, you also have the right to vote in WOCCISD elections. Go and exercise your rights.

Knowledge is PowerYou also have the right to remain silent…and accept the status quo.

How will YOU vote for the $25 million bond issue? Where are YOUR priorities? What’s important to you as a parent, and/or a taxpayer? Early voting starts in just a few weeks on October 22nd.

Knowledge is power – exercise your rights.

David Derosier consults with small business on planning and marketing issues, and provides web design and hosting services through OhainWEB.com, an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau that is rated A+ by BBB. He can be reached at JDAVID@Strategy-Planning.info

Originally published in the Orange Leader on Wednesday September 26th 2018.

Where there’s smoke there could be fire.

Where there’s smoke there could be fire.

Dave DerosierA senior manager in a Fortune 50 company, to whom I reported for quite a few years, always insisted that his staff understand that, “If you can smell smoke anywhere, go and investigate, because it could be fire; and part of your job is to put out fires before they happen. “

For example, if a customer is loud and unhappy, find out why and fix it. Seldom does it happen when one loud customer is not happy that there aren’t many more quiet customers also unhappy with the same issue. If you have unhappy customers than you are not doing your job.

In a recent issue of the Orange Leader, (and on the paper’s Facebook page) there was an article entitled “TEA doesn’t tell the whole story”, which reported on the most recent WOCCISD school board meeting. At that meeting, an unnamed district employee, in relation to people raising issues about the districts recent grades from the Texas Education Agency, was quoted in the local paper as saying, “Don’t listen to the noise”.

Any business manager that dismisses smoke because they can’t see the fire is a hazard to operations at hand. Likewise, when a public official says, “Don’t listen to the noise” when the noise is coming from taxpayers and voters, that person is a hazard to the operations at hand.

Let me tell you a quick story.

Two men, good friends, would take a week each year and go moose hunting in the backwoods of Maine. They would rent a cabin on a lake where there are no roads and hire a float-plane (sea-plane) to fly them out to the cabin.

After arriving at the cabin this year, the new pilot told the hunters that the plane was too small to carry out both hunters and their gear plus two moose. They could only get one moose rather than one each.

When the pilot came back a week later he found that the hunters had gotten two moose. The pilot again told them the plane was too small; that with all that weight it would not be able to take off, let alone clear the trees.

The hunters argued that the pilot last year had said the same thing and his plane was the same size and with two moose they were able to take off and clear the trees. After much argument, the pilot gave in.

As the plane taxied across the lake it shook like crazy, finally after a very long distance it got into the air and just barely cleared the trees.

Then, poof! The plane went down propeller first into the trees.

Shortly after that, the two hunters crawled out from under the wreckage. The first one, dazed, looked around and said, “Where are we?” The second one spied the lake and said, “About 100 yards further than we were last year”.

That, my friends, is one way to measure progress.

In the same newspaper article mentioned above entitled “TEA doesn’t tell the whole story”, the word PROGRESS is mentioned in the article twice.  In my experience, progress is usually judged according to one or more benchmarks. I wonder how WOCCISD measures progress?

J David Derosier consults with small business on planning and marketing issues, and provides web design and hosting services through www.OhainWEB.com He can be reached at JDAVID@Strategy-Planning.info.

Trustee: TEA doesn’t tell the whole story

Trustee: TEA doesn’t tell the whole story

An article by Orange Leader about a WOCCISD school district meeting. Published Wednesday, September 26, 2018 by Holly Westbrook, The Orange Leader.West Orange Stark logo

Issues such as the district’s debts, an approved contractor for roofs on both the Middle School and North Early Learning Center were discussed at the West Orange-Cove CISD Board of Trustees regular meeting Monday evening.

Of all discussions, the District and Campus Improvement Plans were most informative dealing with present and future involvement towards student academic progress district-wide.

“We’re not leaving anybody behind.” Director of Federal Programs Dr. Larry Haynes said.

The collaborators for these guidelines are Haynes, Ashton Knox, Vickie Price, Dr. Troy Bethley, Brodrick McGrew, and Wilt Alexander. Individual student needs and how to get them, not just to walk a stage, but how to go from K-12 and absorb what is being taught to them is their goal.

“Every single student who takes STAAR, how did the student do? No child is left behind,” Hanes said. “Now we have to look at every kid. We are held accountable…”

From the North Early Learning Center placing only four students to one teacher to getting WO-S High School kids College Career Military Readies (CCMR), everyone in the district is pulling together to move forward.
Haynes said WO-C CISD “is making progress, despite what you might have heard, seen or read,” even with Hurricane Harvey causing so much set back in every accept of the student’s lives.

Although the district, like many others along the coast hit by the natural disaster last year, were “Not Rated” by the Texas Education Agency, Haynes showed research from 2017 to 2018 the students are improving.
“People don’t have a clue what’s going on (in our schools),” a board member said.

Even with the full setbacks of Harvey, the students in 4th and 6th grade did truly well in math. These students showed that there might be water everywhere after a storm, but numbers won’t drown them out of the equation.

Another Trustee said that the TEA doesn’t tell the whole story. “It truly gives me chills,” she said. “People can make numbers say anything they want.”

What the elementary and middle school students accomplished is the growth the teachers, students, and familiar community look forward to and want more of.

“Are we growing our kids?” Haynes said as he addressed the Board of Trustees and the few in the public. “The media is never going to tell you about our growth. Did anyone record that?”

The high school did well in English I by going up by 10 and English II by 13, Algebra was up by nine and Biology up by 19 points according to the TEA numbers. One will not find these numbers because the Harvey Wavier was in effect. However, Haynes was able to gain these statistics to help the district and board to see how to improve the individual student’s education.

“Make sure to work with our households and parents,” Linda Platt-Bryant said to the board, teachers, and administrators present Monday at the end of the open session. “We don’t want to expect failure.”

The board member was referring to students who have, in the past, not been able to graduate their senior year and therefor retook it. Later, it was found that it was the home life that was setting back the students, and she hopes to help all students by way of parent-teacher conferences and focusing on each child.

The overall Board of Trustees time focused on meeting all individual student’s needs instead of the whole school, as was done in the past.

Members also put emphasis on negative feedback from both the media and social platforms.
As one district employee said in the boardroom, “Don’t listen to the noise.”

David Derosier consults with small business on planning and marketing issues, and provides web design and hosting services through OhainWEB.com, an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau that is rated A+ by BBB. He can be reached at JDAVID@Strategy-Planning.info

 

A New School Year at West Orange – Cove

A New School Year at West Orange – Cove

“The West Orange-Stark Mustangs have gone to the state championship game four straight seasons. They are picked as one of the top teams in Class 4A, Division 2 again this season…” was the opening paragraph on a local radio station website article recently.

West Orange Stark logo“Welcome to the new school year! I am glad to share that West Orange – Cove CISD had an outstanding in-service and first week of classes…Our goal in delivering training is always to ensure that we provide students with the best quality education possible.” So started an article in a local paper by the Superintendent of Schools for WOCCISD just a few days later.

“The best quality education possible”, are you kidding? Take a look at the elementary school:

  • Did you know that West Orange Stark Elementary (WOSE) has been on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) list of the worst schools in Texas* for at least the last four years – 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015?
  • Did you know that WOSE is ranked in the bottom 3% of more than 4,500 TX elementary schools for 2018, according to the Texas School Guide, published annually by Children at Risk (a non-profit) based on TEA data.

Dave Derosier
TEA created a new website (www.TXSchools.org) that contains interactive accountability rating summaries and detailed reports for each district, campus, and open-enrollment charter school in the state of Texas. The website shows the following 2018 ratings for WOCCISD:

Student Achievement:
Students that did better academically this year vs last year? GRADE OF 58% = FAILURE
Students that performed well on the STAAR test? GRADE OF 51% = FAILURE.
Students that are prepared for success after high school? GRADE OF 62% =FAILURE.
Students in this district that graduate on time? GRADE OF 65% = FAILURE.

School Progress
Students that performed better on STAAR test this year vs last year? GRADE OF 59% = FAILURE
Students that made a year’s worth of academic growth in reading and math? GRADE OF 57% = FAILURE.
Students that made progress relative to students at similar districts? GRADE OF 59% = FAILURE

Closing the Gaps
Grade level performance – Goals met: 1 out of 20 Targets. GRADE OF 5% = FAILURE.
Academic growth/graduation rate – Goals met: 0 out of 4 Targets. GRADE OF 0% = FAILURE.
English language proficiency – Goals met: 1 out of 1 Target. GRADE OF 100% = PASSED
Student achievement – Goals met: 0 out of 6 Targets. GRADE OF 0% = FAILURE.

District Overview
How well is this district performing overall? GRADE OF 58% = FAILURE

Orange County Overview
Within Orange County, the overall  grades earned by the five independent school districts for 2018 are:  #1) Orangefield with a grade of 88, #2) Bridge City with a grade of 86, #3) Vidor with a grade of 82, #4) Little Cypress-Mauriceville with a grade of 78, and then, in last place, West Orange-Cove with a grade of 58 – FAILURE!

This was the fourth straight TEA analysis with similar grades; however it should be mentioned that theTXschools.org results shown above for 2018 are preliminary. The final report for WOCCISD shows, “This district was impacted by Hurricane Harvey and did not receive an overall rating or grade”.

There will be an election on November 6th where voters will be asked to approve a $25.75 million dollar bond issue to fund two new buildings, one for athletics and one for a transportation center, plus artificial turf for athletic fields and other infrastructure repair or replacement. For academics, there are some items for technology, fine arts, and career programs. And, of course in today’s climate, there’s money to spend on safety and security.

In the meantime, the kids can’t read or do arithmetic!

Sixty-two percent of the kids are prepared for success after high school. It’s likely that most who make it do so because of themselves and not because of the schools. What about the other 38% of the students?

Football is kingDoes doing well on the football field make up for the failure of the schools to educate all the students?

Who should you trust? The administration that talks about providing students with the best quality education possible, or the State of Texas that says WOCCISD is failing, based on the criteria by which all school districts are judged across the state?

When the only elementary school in WOCCISD is ranked in the bottom 3% of all elementary schools, when the Middle School is in the bottom 3% of all middle schools, and the High School is in the bottom 2% of all high schools – how important is it that we have a great football team?

At least in my mind, the priorities appear to be way out of whack. And we wonder why it is so difficult to bring new business to Orange. Think about it.

*NOTE: TEA publishes an annual Public Education Grant (PEG) list of underperforming schools? The press refers to this as the Worst Schools in Texas list. Search for “TEA 2018 PEG list” on the Internet.

Originally published in the Orange Leader on Wednesday September 12th 2018.