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 School Improvement:  Easier First
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Easier First Discussion


After establishing a culture where it is everyone's job to...

1. Know what is happening

2. Work with others to improve what is happening

3. Make it easier for the next person to do their work well

The next thing is to ....


A fundamental strategy in system improvement is to start by making tasks easier.  As an on-going process this is quite consistent with both Deming & Goldratt's notions of continuous improvement. It is also at the heart of the use of deployment flowcharts. By knowing who is doing what, when it is simple to work with others to make the tasks easier. 


We improve processes  by working with people and working on the system to align, refine, redesign elements of the system to ensure that

  • tasks are easier (more efficient), and,
  • outputs/outcomes are better (more effective)



Easier first means doing everything possible to ensure that things are done right, the first time with a minimum of effort and minimum use of other resources. Getting the system right will be the best way to ensure things are done right.


Easier First also focuses everyone's attention on what can be done

  • now (or soon)

  • in the longer term to make a positive difference


This relates to Druker's notions of 

  • Being effective is "doing the right things" 

  • Being efficient is "doing things right." Being in a position to do things right makes it easier to do well.


MAKING TASKS EASIER is important because  

  • it is more economic:  resources are released, and thus, 
  • it increases the capacity of the system: it is possible to do more with the same resources
  • it attends to both people & tasks: people's efforts are valued (1 below)
  • it results in improvement: most people will do a better job (2) thus

    - people will use the released resources to be more effective, ie, do a better job

    - when consulted about how to make the task easier people will contribute insights about also being more effective

  • knowledge of the system and its process will be greatly increased while finding ways to make the tasks easier
  • people will have a sense of engagement & belonging because of their contributions to the achievement of improvement  (3)
  • it is informative: it makes the present process explicit and thus easier to improve (4) 




(1) The Telstra Cultural Imprint study (early 90s) identified that to be available for change/contribution, Australians need to:

  • be acknowledged for 'who I am' (identity)
  • be acknowledged for 'what I do' - where I fit in & the work I am  doing is significant (self worth)
  • understand 'where we are' going (clarity of direction)
  • understand the reason why (purpose & cause). 

In other words, this means that the employer is interested in them and what they do. Remote ill-informed management is the main cause of disengagement of Australian people from improvement in the workplace.

People doing the work are reassured on all the above issues when the organization understands that improvement includes making tasks easier for those who have to do them.

(2) People want to do a good job (Deming) and so they will redeploy their effort into new aspects of their work that contribute to the purposes of the organization. As we used to say about RPS: 
"Riverside Primary School is an easy place to teach because everyone works so hard"

(3) Involving people in improving the processes they use so that it is easier for them to do a better job has powerful results in terms of 

  • their engagement with the organization & its purposes, and thus
  • the importance of doing the work well
  • attention to the processes being used and 
  • the potential for improving the processes
  • the contributions of everyone (team building) and 
  • their sense of belonging. 


The test of belonging is whether one's contributions will be acknowledged (Glasser). Making improvements on the basis the people's' contributions is a concrete demonstration that people doing the tasks belong.


(4) Knowing how the process produces its present outputs/outcomes is central to making changes that will improve the outputs/outcomes. Substitution of of the existing process with a new process is usually 

  • a decision made largely in ignorance of the potential of the current process
  • highly disruptive (see  Improvement cf Change)               

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