By Dr. Harry Tennant


by Harry Tennant
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Entries from June 2012
Posts 1 - 5 of 5

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thank you, teachers, for my kids

My kids aren't kids any more. They are in their thirties. I have eleven grandchildren, two of whom finished Kindergarten this week. It made me think back to my own kids' schooling.

I was thinking about my daughter, Kristin's, schooling.

I'm grateful for the teacher who had them make pilgrim costumes for Thanksgiving (I love that picture!)

I'm grateful to the teachers who taught her how to read and write, even though spelling was a bit of a challenge for a while.

I'm grateful to her math teachers and the chance to write a Hypercard program for her to practice arithmetic while she sat on my lap. 

I'm grateful for the teacher who taught her chemistry and was the reason Kristin and I sat on the couch going through flash cards of the elements.

I'm grateful to the teacher who had her make that hurricane project...I've never seen so much cotton in one place.

I'm grateful to her soccer coaches, softball coaches and cheerleading coaches.

I'm grateful for her opportunity and coaching to be a Lake Highlands Highlandette.

I'm grateful to her teachers for her academic education and for helping her to learn about life.

There are so, so many things that our children get from their schools and their teachers that go far beyond what their parents can give them. To all her teachers, coaches, counselors and the rest, Kristin's dad says thank you.

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Keywords: thank you teachers


Friday, June 8, 2012

Compounding improvements

Continuous improvement of processes is like compound interest. Improve a process today and it is improved into the future. Improve the process further tomorrow and that improvement builds on the improvement you made today. And so it goes. Each improvement builds on all the others in the same way that compound interest works for investments.

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Keywords: continuous improvement


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What is improvement?

People assume they know that continuous improvement is. But many of them are mistaken.

The most fundamental idea behind continuous improvement is that it is improvement of a process, not a product.

Let's say you're putting together a lesson plan. The lesson plan is a product. Should you improve it? Of course, but how can your improvement of this lesson plan be applied to other lesson plans? If you improve your process of creating great lesson plans, all your lesson plans will improve.

If you make a list of your improvements, what should your list look like?

  • An improvement is something you've done. Adding a task to your to-do list is not an improvement.
  • An improvement to a process is far more important than an improvement to a product. If you need to obsess over a product to make it perfect, you're doing it wrong unless you're also improving your ability to make the next product perfect without obsessing.
  • Don't assume that just because you've obsessed over something you've learned from the experience. We fool ourselves then we think that just because we know something today, we'll remember it tomorrow.

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Keywords: continuous improvement


Monday, June 4, 2012

But sometimes I've got to get stuff done!

You may say to yourself or hear from others, I don't have time for improvement! I have things that must be done!

It's the familiar issue of urgent tasks vs. important tasks. First, I assert that improvement is not just one important task but one of the most important tasks! If you improve a process today you will reap the benefits of that improvement every time you use the process. That's how you create a lasting benefit!

Some tasks are not urgent and not important. Surfing the web or playing a game of Spider are examples. The problem is when people assume that since a task like improvement is not urgent (you can make it through your day without the improvement), it is also not important. Wrong!

One way to handle important tasks (like improvement) that are not necessarily urgent is to schedule a time to do them. And the assumption is that if the time is scheduled, you will block out other urgent tasks that may arise. (If you don't block those urgent tasks, what was the point of scheduling?)

A second way to handle important tasks that are not urgent is to make them urgent. You or your supervisor can create goals with deadlines for completing important improvement projects. The deadlines create urgency.

Another approach is to look at the tasks on your to-do list. Are there tasks there that are urgent but not important? We all have a tendency to give requests from others a level of urgency because it will please the requester. But it can destroy effectiveness. You end up spending your time on unimportant tasks.

So it primarily comes down to a conflict between tasks that are important but not urgent and tasks that are urgent but not important. When considered this way, the choice is clear: do what's important.

And remember, improvement is one of the most important things you do!

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Keywords: continuous improvement


Friday, June 1, 2012

Where to look for opportunities to improve


  • Students often say they would like to sleep on their books and learn by osmosis. But alas, learning requires attention. The same holds true for improvement. It isn't likely to just happen. You need to give it attention and make it happen.
  • Have you just had a frustrating experience? Can't wait to forget about it? Bad idea. Instead, think about it. What made it frustrating? How could it go better next time? How will you be prepared to make it go better next time?

Monitoring: Automatic Reflection

  • If you keep track of key measurements, reflection becomes nearly automatic. As the run chart of your measurements show your performance start to fall, the question why? naturally enters your mind.
  • If you see your performance improving, it is just as important to ask why? and build upon your success.

Eliminate Waste

  • Sort tools and materials keeping essential items close at hand and rarely used items accessible. Get rid of what you no longer need. Got a minute? Look around for how you can make your physical or online space more convenient.
  • Shine: make your area clean and keep it that way. Got a minute? Is your PC file system a mess? Make it a little better.
  • Set in order: make your area and processes orderly avoiding the waste of time looking for things. Got a minute? Put something in order. 
  • Standardize: You can prevent wasting time, materials, effort and mental effort through standardization. Got a minute? Do you have a good set of templates, snippets and macros that you reuse? A little up-front time can save a lot of wasted time later.
  • Sustain: after making improvements and eliminating waste, revisit the issues to make sure you keep it going. Got a minute? The crud comes back. Keep after it.

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Keywords: continuous improvement

  Posts 1 - 5 of 5