I was listening to NPR radio last week when a phrase caught my attention: People, Process, Product. This phrase, from my quick search, was first used by Motorola in their development of Six Sigma, the set of techniques and tools they developed for process improvement in the late 1980’s. Six Sigma hit the big time when Jack Welch used it as part of his strategy to make General Electric the world’s most valuable and admired company during the late ’90s and early 2000s. You can now find this phrase in the world of Lean Management where the “core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.”
The phrase has resurfaced with a new television show, The Profit. Marcus Lemonis (CEO of Camping World) is a business turnaround king who judges businesses with the People-Process-Product principle. He recognizes that the most important “P” is people, and that the right people are effective while the wrong people are destructive. The second “P” looks at how organizations create, deliver, and sell the process. Finally, the third “P” determines whether the product is an excellent one and a relevant one.
As a lifetime educator, I have a tendency to put up a wall when “business” principles are applied to education. After all, we deal with learning communities, not commodities. Our reason for being is the transformation of student lives, not the transaction of goods. I was reminded at the Cardus Table III in Southern California last month that phrases such as these are not business principles; they are just great principles to be adapted as needed by an organization. The phrase – People, Process, Product – certainly can be adjusted to fit our Christian schools.
Some questions we need to be asking ourselves based on this principle:
- Do we have the right people in the right seats (see Jim Collins’ Good to Great if this idea needs further development)?
- Do we have a valid and accepted way to measure People effectiveness (or People destructiveness)?
- Do we have a blueprint of the processes (curricular, financial, marketing, recruiting and retention, facility…)
- Are we running these processes well? How do we know?
- Have we looked at ways to simplify these processes without losing the essence of the product?
- Are the best sales people for our product our current parents? Teachers? Both?
- Do we have the potential to be the best in the area?
- Do our parents trust the product that our school provides? How do we know?
I think the order of this phrase matters. The most important “P” in our business will always be people (students, parents, faculty, grandparents, community members). People have to create the processes that lead to Christian schools becoming the best educational environments for children to develop a love for God and His Creation and the place to be challenged and equipped to be the transformational leaders needed in all aspects of society. It seems to me that if we have the right people who are carrying out rigorous and relevant processes, the product will be outstanding. Definitely what I want for my children.
Dr. Tim Van Soelen serves as the Director of CACE. Tim is also a professor of education at Dordt University. He has served as a principal, assistant principal, and middle school math and computer teacher at schools in South Dakota and California. Tim has his undergraduate degree from Dordt and advanced degrees from Azusa Pacific University and the University of South Dakota.