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Systems, Sea Otters, and Soil

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Going down the improvement road is hard work. In this video, Superintendent Greg Gibson tells us how his time on a ranch in Texas helped him develop a systems perspective. He transferred this learning to leading his team and is willing to ask, "Does that kill the good stuff, too?" 
  • Are you unintentionally focusing on sea otters?
  • How well are you feeding the soil?
  • Why do it? Why take the path of continuous system improvement?
00:07
so as Joanne was talking yesterday and
00:11
that we are a little bit of Baldrige
00:12
nerds and I’m not gonna lie to carry the
00:14
framework around with me so I was trying
00:18
to think about what we’ve been talking
00:19
about and a lot of it
00:22
and you know as I’m sitting here I’m
00:24
listening is about systems perspective
00:27
and you’re looking at this thing as a
00:29
system so I got my glossary you looked
00:34
at that so Boulder’s definition the
00:36
systems perspective means managing all
00:38
the components of your organization as a
00:41
unified whole to achieve ongoing success
00:44
alright so that’s a really easy read
00:47
hard new thing the systems perspective I
00:52
mean that this unified whole and some of
00:55
you are probably aware this but Edward
00:57
Deming told the sea otter story when he
01:00
tried to describe systems perspective so
01:03
he would sit and talk about the
01:05
fishermen in Alaska that were in a bay
01:08
beautiful bay catching salmon and you
01:13
know they just noticed occasionally that
01:14
there would be a sea otter that would be
01:17
flowing when it’s back out there eating
01:18
a salmon and so they thought well that’s
01:21
our salmon you know how dare you eat our
01:24
salmon so they decided to host somebody
01:28
up in the tower
01:30
with a rifle and their job on the
01:33
fishing boat was to shoot otters and
01:35
they were pretty successful at start
01:38
just shooting everyone that he saw and
01:41
basically eliminating them and got a
01:45
little more return out of that they
01:48
caught the few salmon that the sea
01:51
otters were eating the problem was what
01:54
was going on below the surface of the
01:56
waters where all the action wise because
01:58
seminar really fast and sea otters have
02:01
trouble catching though sea otters
02:03
actually eat sea urchins the little
02:05
things that just kind of roll around on
02:07
the bottom and so when all the sea
02:10
otters were gone the sea urchins thrived
02:13
well steer chance eat kelp kelp is the
02:17
grass that grows on the bottom of the
02:19
Fleur guests were salmon need to lay
02:23
their eggs
02:23
they need to lay their eggs and kill and
02:27
so when all of the kelp was gone the
02:31
whole sea otter population of the whole
02:34
salmon population completely clashed
02:37
because they had nowhere to lay their
02:39
eggs so they were shooting at the stuff
02:42
up above the surface of the water not
02:44
knowing that they were damaging
02:46
everything that was down below the
02:48
surface of the water and that’s to me a
02:52
great way to describe a systems
02:55
perspective because we get in this you
02:58
know everything’s moving so fast in our
03:00
world it’s just constantly we’re looking
03:02
above the surface of the water put out a
03:05
fire fire fire constant and at the same
03:08
time there’s all this stuff that’s going
03:10
up on down below the surface of the
03:13
water and that’s where the real work is
03:15
and I would argue that that’s culture I
03:17
mean that’s the culture that’s down
03:19
there and
03:20
Melissa Matarazzo asked me to think
03:24
about when was the first time I thought
03:27
about a systems perspective she texted
03:29
that to me which was really annoying
03:31
because I was trying to enjoy a magazine
03:33
on the plane and then she texted me
03:35
right before I got think about the first
03:37
time you saw a system you know what is
03:39
it it is a good question I kept going
03:41
back and back and back and I grew up and
03:44
saying hey y’all this is the hub in New
03:47
Jersey I don’t know if you could not
03:49
escape West Texas so we’re way out in
03:53
the country and I grew up on a ranch
03:55
like some Texans do not all but some and
03:59
I remember asking questions about
04:04
putting topical fertilizers and weed
04:09
killers and bug killers out and I
04:11
remember asking my dad does that kill
04:14
the good stuff too you know I know we
04:17
were trying to kill bad stuff and you
04:19
know he would say something eloquent
04:21
like shut up boy
04:26
because now that road if you go down
04:30
that road
04:31
it’s hard work then he knew that that’s
04:34
why he said shut up boy because now
04:37
you’re gonna start thinking about next
04:39
step and next step and next step and
04:41
you’ve got a view this whole thing as a
04:42
system you know that you get you may be
04:45
inadvertently killing the good stuff too
04:47
and so you know he farmed me out to go
04:51
work for my uncle and that lasted less
04:54
time you know shut up boy you know next
04:56
stumble next I’ll call them and they
04:58
actually turned out okay they none of
05:00
them wanted me around so I went to
05:01
college so the rest of that story but
05:06
that probably was the first time I
05:10
started thinking about a system though
05:12
then there’s something going on here and
05:15
so now in my life and I we always talk
05:17
about we actually are going to retire to
05:20
a ranch some of y’all know that and it’s
05:23
I never thought that would happen but
05:24
it’s weird but we’re going to do it and
05:26
we’re back to saying we got to feed the
05:29
soil you don’t need to plant you’ve
05:32
deemed the soil the soil will grow the
05:34
right plant it’ll grow the right plant
05:36
in the right time you’ll grow a healthy
05:37
if the soil is correct and it’s the same
05:40
thing for all of us if we if we do all
05:42
this hard work and the soil is correct
05:44
then you won’t need to throw a bunch of
05:47
weed and feed up a bunch of scores
05:48
you know standardized test scores or
05:50
whatever because you’re gonna build up
05:52
the soil but it’s the hard hard hard
05:54
work so you know I guess my question to
06:00
you then I want you to think about for
06:03
just a little bit is and I mean this and
06:07
I’m gonna wait out to I was a secondary
06:09
teacher so why did it why why not just
06:16
get a checkmark and get this external
06:19
compliance that all these states are
06:21
trying to our federal education systems
06:24
or try why don’t just check the boxes
06:26
and head to the house and go have fun
06:27
why don’t why don’t want to be here and
06:30
try to dig deep on all this so I’m gonna
06:32
really let you think about that I want
06:33
some of you to share what why
06:35
you think you want to take it a harder
06:37
path than the easy path

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