Thursday, January 21, 2010

Deliver Us From Deliverology

Updated: 1/22/10 at 2:35 pm PST

In late November 2009, when the edict from Chancellor Reed came down that the CSU would be adopting Sir Michael Barber's Deliverology, a conversation on my campus' CFA email list ensued. The discussion prompted me to contact John Seddon whose critique of Barber from his book on Public Service Sector Policies in England can be viewed here. Some of the rest of that elist conversation I plan to post here on this site.

The two below are the first ones I've selected from that discussion. The first comes from John Edlund, the second from Nicholas Van Glahn. Please weigh in on this, as some of you already have begun to on this site, either by sharing an observation or raising a question.

Entering Phantom Logs About Phantom Logs

"It has been a while since I have read Solzhenitsyn but at some point in The Gulag Archipelago he is assigned to a labor camp that cuts timber and rolls the logs into the river to float down to the sawmill. The camp has production quotas that are physically impossible to meet, but politically impossible not to meet. Thus the camp commander meets the quotas by reporting phantom logs.

"Everyone in the supply chain understands this perfectly well, so the sawmill eliminates some of the phantom logs through various accounting fictions, but to meet its own quota reports phantom lumber made from the phantom logs. Downstream, construction units get some of the phantom lumber off the books by reporting damage and loss, but also build phantom houses out of phantom lumber. It's crazy, but it is the system.

"My reading of articles about Deliverology so far indicates that it results in a very similar system, where managers face losing their jobs if they cannot meet the targets imposed from above. It actually seems like administrators have more to fear from this than faculty, but it doesn't sound good." - John Edlund

"What makes this [Deliverology] obnoxious is that this presupposes that a degree is a product to be delivered more efficiently. It is not! A degree is something one earns. I understand wanting to make sure we retain students and find new ways to help students earn those degrees in the face of a paucity of resources, but you can not make a demand that a certain percentage of people must get degrees. I can't see how such a demand will not inevitably lead to administrators (and perhaps faculty with enough 'gentle pressure') making more and more concessions on curriculum and rigor." -- Nicholas Van Glahn

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