Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Consultants and a Plan; So What Else is New?

This was sent out by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson (I'm not sure to whom but likely community leaders):

As I begin my fifth month in Seattle, I am impressed by the dedication and passion of our staff members in our schools and in our central office. I have seen areas of excellence throughout our District, where our students are successful, our staff are energized, and our families are engaged.

You may have heard about or been involved in some of the reviews that are underway in our district. The purpose of these reviews is to identify these areas of excellence, develop plans to enhance and expand those areas, and direct resources and best practices to areas in need. This can ensure that our district becomes a "District of Excellence," recognized throughout Washington and the nation.

Today, I am delighted to announce a deepening of our relationships with local philanthropic partners dedicated to excellence in Seattle Public Schools. The support of our local philanthropic foundations has enabled us to partner with McKinsey & Company, a worldwide strategic
management consulting firm with significant local ties and public sector experience. They will work with us to develop our multi-year strategic plan, which will include specific strategies to accelerate our vision of excellence as the norm becoming a reality.

You may be asked to participate in an interview with our McKinsey consultants, or to fill out a survey, or to participate in this work in some other way. I have designated Holly Ferguson as my point person for this. Ms. Ferguson is the Manager for Strategic Alignment; she works with me, my Chief Academic Officer and my Chief Financial & Operating Officer on strategic issues.

I look forward to sharing the results of McKinsey's work and to collaborating with you all to achieve the kinds of dramatic improvements for our students, families, and staff that this moment offers Seattle Public Schools.

Dr. Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Ph.D.

Reading between the lines, some organization is fronting the money to hire this McKinsey. (Wikipedia has some interesting things to say about this firm but frankly, if you've dealt with one consulting firm, you know what they are like.) Holly Ferguson is very bright but not the most forthcoming person (maybe it's the lawyer in her).

Sigh. Another plan, another vision. I had expected Dr. Goodloe-Johnson to do a through overview of the district. But we allegedly already have a plan and now here comes another one. And really, the Board should be the ones to set up the plan and then the Superintendent figures out how to enact it and then follows thru. I'll be interested to see the Board's reaction.

I do like the phrase, "where our students are successful, our staff are energized, and our families are engaged". It has the ring of A Prairie Home Companion but it really is what we want to see in SPS.


Anonymous said...

It was an email sent out to district employees last week.

Anonymous said...

I had a look at the wiki site, many red flags here. Will this just become one of those instances where the districts pays enormous $ for someone to come in and state the what many already know. I think it might be a way for the super to deflict any critizism of a plan when she can point to the consultants for anything that doesnt go as planned. Guess we can wait and see what they come up with.

Charlie Mas said...

There was this from the Wiki article:

"A top civil servant described McKinsey as "people who come in and use PowerPoint to state the bleeding obvious.""

But I think that those things which are obvious to someone working within a system are not always obvious to those who are running the system.

The value of a consultant sometimes isn't in what they say, but in the credibility that the perspective gains because the consultants said it.

Look, for example, at the new energy behind revamping Special Education now that the consultants have said what a lot of other people have been saying for a while.

At the end of this month we will see the report from the consultants on APP. I don't know what they are going to say, but I expect that their perspective will obliterate the stalemated scrum around every issue and push them all forward in the direction the consultants indicate.

There are barriers to change which are easier to overcome when you have a recommendation from a consultant in your hand.

Does it allow the decision-makers to deflect criticism? Maybe it just helps them diffuse it. They can show that other experts share their perspective.

The main benefit that comes from consultants like this isn't their product so much as their process. When they are good - and they aren't always good - they open conversation on topics that have been taboo to discuss, they ask for evidence of effectiveness, they make people in authority explain their decisions, and they give voice to the people on the front line about what they need to do their jobs.

In the end, their conclusions and advice generally do seem obvious - but if it was so obvious, then why hadn't the organization done it?

Anonymous said...

hiring consultants is a boss rite of passage. when someone gets to a certain level in the public or private sector, they can hire consultants and they do, because they can. It shows everyone how powerful the old / new boss is.

charlie's point - if the suggestions are obvious, then why are they being done - sounds good, but

from what i've seen the bosses who like consultants are bosses because being a boss has a lot more bells and whistles than being a nobody, therefore they want to be a boss. it isn't about the best managers rise the highest - we want to be or we'd like it to be, but it rarely is.


Anonymous said...

IMO Charleston County School District (your Superintendent's last job) was not left in a better position by her tenure. She did the same things with consultants and bringing in the Edison folks to turn around a few very low performing schools. Now, those folks are gone and the schools they were suppose to improve are still the pits.

Sorry you all will have to deal with her, but I am glad she isn't here anymore. Her "Plan for Excellence" didn't produce near enough of it imo. Though, I am sure she'll take credit for the Academic Magnet School that always does well on national surveys.

Anonymous said...

The above comment on MGJ and Charlestown made me think of Wednesday night's board meeting.

In the extensive amount of time that the board members were patting each other on the back there was mention about the wonderful Supt. hire.
I am still waiting for the evidence that this is going to prove to be a wonderful hire.

Thus far I see an emphasis on uniformity, which has accomplished very little in other urban situations.

Attorney's are often hired to be held accountable or hold someone accountable if some one screws up.

Two Rules:

1) Deliver the bad news on Friday afternoon.

2) Hire consultants to deliver anything that might be objectionable and should it fail blame them.

Wow!!! Consultants let us all leap for joy.

Read the Witch Doctor's by editors of the Economist for truth on consultants.

Anonymous said...

Hey wait a minute, when do we get results from the audit that MJG had done for about $125,000 in September?