Category Archives: Quality Leadership

Guest Column: Indpls Star – Faith and values section

October 7, 2018.  Sunday Edition – Faith and values:  Guest Column: “People working together can make a more perfect union”

PDF Version Indianapolis_Star_20181007_A008_2 More Perfect Union

People working together can make a more perfect union

Your Turn

Tim J. Clark Guest columnist

Addressing the spiritual, economic and social challenges of our times may be as simple as recognizing that, although we may share a common desire for improvement, we have different ideas on the changes that need to be made to bring about that improvement.

But how do you determine when a change results in an improvement?

Faith-inspired philosophies, such as Christianity, can help answer this question. These philosophies acknowledge that human beings will always be imperfect but can improve by leveraging the potential of the human spirit. Changes motivated by love, compassion and the application of better methods can result in outcomes where everyone can benefit or at least not be any worse off in the long-term.

Philosophies that also align with the aim of the U.S. Constitution can provide a frame of reference for determining when a change results in an improvement. The aim of the American system of government is to enable “We the People” to work together to make progress – not toward a “perfect” union, which would be impossible – but rather toward a “more perfect” union.

The Founding Fathers of the United States provided us with the Bill of Rights, so that we may work toward a more perfect or better union. What the founders left up to future generations was to develop and apply better methods for determining when a change results in an improvement.

Walter Shewhart discovered one of those methods – the variation principle – in 1924. This principle is rooted in the fact that actions are accomplished through a process and everything involved in a process or system varies, including people. The type of variation (common cause or special cause) in a process or system helps identify the type of action needed to improve it. Continuous improvement by reducing variation results in better quality and less imperfection.

W. Edwards Deming, a student and colleague of Shewhart, developed methods that support the application of Shewhart’s variation principle to improve the quality of products and services. Deming’s contributions were recognized by Fortune magazine as being among the 20 that have shaped the modern world of business and by U.S. News and World Report as one of nine turning points in history.

The top turning point was identified as “The Apostle Paul, whose preaching and eloquent writings led to mass acceptance of Christianity.”

Deming once said that if he was to reduce his message to just a few words, it all had to do with individuals working together to make things more perfect by reducing variation.

I had the opportunity to attend a four-day seminar conducted by Deming in the late 1980s. Since then, I’ve successfully applied his methods to many areas of my life, including personal, family, community and career. For example, I had the opportunity to apply them while supporting the development of military and national defense related strategies. In 1986, Deming, estimated that it would take another 50 years before awareness of Shewhart’s contributions were more commonly known.

I hope that in some small way I have at least raised awareness of a new method that can be applied to leverage the potential of the human spirit that supports progress toward a more perfect community and union.

Tim J. Clark is a senior member of the American Society for Quality, past chairman of the Indianapolis Section and an exponent of an improved standard for quality leadership that supplements faith-based philosophies with the scientific method.

ROI — The “So What?” People with a Plan

ROI – Ready Schools: Initiative aims to align school districts to the education and workforce needs of employers and industry in the Indiana Uplands.

The Southwest Central Indiana Uplands Region – Brown county one of the 11 counties in the region,  is projected to have more good jobs than people.  (Our region does not include Bartholomew County where Columbus is considered a world-class manufacturing hub.)

The regional average wages range from a high of $85, 582 in the Information and Communications Technology Industry to $24, 477 in the Hospitality and Tourism industry. (Source 2015 Strategic Plan for SouthWest Central Indiana)

The ROI grants – Ready Schools and the recent $500K grant (Brown County Schools awarded ROI Ready Schools implementation grant) support our K-12 students (and adults through the CRC), to take advantage of the educational, training and career opportunities that will provide them with the capabilities that will help them to have productive careers.

The quality of our workforce can also attract small employers which can lead to an increase in the number of good job opportunities available within the county.  Encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship (designing, launching and running a new business ) provides even more opportunities for individuals to turn their ideas and dreams into economic opportunities.

The county has also recently received a planning grant to create an economic development strategic plan that provides the community with a plan.

A “plan” is a written account of the intended future course of action (scheme) aimed at achieving the specific goal (s) or objective (s) within a specific timeframe. It explains in detail what needs to be done, when, how, and by whom.

Brown County schools are working to ensure that all our students graduate with a “plan” for their future. The Career Resource Center (CRC) can help adults develop and execute their plan for improving their uniques capabilities and a “community with a plan ” can provide the inspiration and strategy that will contribute to Brown County remaining a desirable place to live, work, and play.

“The connection with enrollment trends and development strategies for attracting young families can’t be understated.  Without policy change related to affordable housing and daycare (ages birth – three), we will lose young families to more urban environments where access to these two non-negotiables is “easy.”  Laura Hammack, Brown County Schools Superintendent

Maple Leaf: Election Issues and Update

Summary of responses on Brown County Matters to my article published July 25, 2018. GUEST OPINION: Tim J. Clark. Maple Leaf: Will more money be a recurring theme?  
Talking Points

Non-Supporters: The “Talking Points” from non-supporters of the process used to fast-track this project can be characterized by three Cs: Crony capitalism, Corruption, and Contempt for the citizens:

  • Crony capitalism is an economy in which businesses thrive not as a result of risks they take, but rather as a return on money amassed through a nexus between a business class and the political class.”
  • Corruption is when a person’s conscience no longer registers right and wrong. – Pope Francis
  • Contempt for the citizens.  “If you have contempt for someone or something, you have no respect for them or think that they are unimportant.”

2018 and 2020 Elections. The ends do not justify the means. It was evident last June/July that the decision to approve Maple Leaf had already been made and citizens would only have a voice in the 2018 and 2020 elections. This observation led me to develop the Independent Voters of Brown County IN blog and Facebook Page.  

  • Brown County Matters is another Facebook Group that citizens can join that covers “Matters that Matter” to Brown County Citizens.

Acceptance or Rejection by the Community?  Just because a venue is built and “might be” successful, does not mean that it will be accepted by the community at large. The fast-track process for this government-owned music venue will always be part of the legacy.

  • The county is funded by income taxes and property taxes.  The revenue from the innkeeper’s tax can only be used to promote tourism.  An economic analysis by students from IU’s SPEA/MPA program identified that tourism-related wages are among the lowest in the state.

Maple Leaf Options – Are we  (county citizens) stuck with a government-owned music venue forever?  FOR SALE BY OWNER — ACCEPTING OFFERS   🙂

  • The venue can always be sold. The sales price would be determined by the success of the venue.
  • I would never want to see an attempt to transfer the debt on to taxpayers or use general funds to subsidize the venue in any way.
  • The president of the county council at the time – Dave Critser at the council meeting to approve funding, stated that in a worse case scenario, the county would allow for a default and a transfer of the asset to the bank.

Social Media – Voice of the Citizens

There can be many emerging issues (electronic sign for example) that can increase risk and lead to divisiveness and polarization within the county that can be expressed on social media. This can contribute to a reputation that Brown County is a place to be avoided.

Maple Leaf: Will “more money” be a recurring theme?   

Published in the July 25, 2018 edition of the Brown County Democrat.

The July 18, 2018 article in the Democrat, “New ‘Leaf’ Turned: Work begins on performing arts center,” provided the highlights from the groundbreaking ceremony for the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center (MLPAC).

The same edition of the paper also included the article “Additional loan sought for Maple Leaf project.” The request for additional monies is because construction bids exceeded the project budget by $743,167. In addition to the new $200,000 loan, Convention Visitors Commission (CVC) Board member Mike Patrick suggested soliciting donations for $600,000. This amount would include covering the money needed to pave the parking lot. Another requirement that was recently identified by the Maple Leaf Management Group is the need to develop a strategic plan.

At the groundbreaking, President of the County Commissioner Dave Anderson was quoted with stating the following: “No process was missed, not one thing was overlooked and I looked closely. It was done right.”  

This may be an accurate statement from a legal standpoint if not somewhat overstated. The county attorneys – Barnes and Thornburg did oversee the project to ensure compliance with appropriate laws and regulations.  Similar sentiments were expressed by Council President Keith Baker. Baker remarked that government officials performed their due diligence and he was complimentary of the Maple Leaf business plan — referred to on the Maple Leaf website as “The Plan.”

It’s unfortunate that both Anderson and Baker referenced opposition and obstacles to the project which could likely have been prevented through a more deliberate planning process, transparency and by conducting open meetings. Citizen input at public meetings would have helped to identify risks and may have also led to suggestions for other options other than a music venue. This information would have allowed the commissioners and council members to make more informed and balanced decisions.

A little history. Commissioner Diana Biddle led this project on behalf of the commissioners, Councilman Baker on behalf of the council and innkeeper Barry Herring on behalf of the CVC. Only the commissioners and council are authorized by law, to approve the funding for this venture.

Barnes and Thornburg, at the direction of Commissioner Biddle in July of 2017, designed a process for fast-tracking this project. The initial plan by the attorneys would have included public meetings and the active involvement of all affected government entities. The county Redevelopment Commission (RDC) volunteered to facilitate this process. The RDC was not asked to be involved in the fast-track process.

The fast-track process included a refusal by the commissioners and council to hold public meetings to solicit input from citizens on the desirability of this project. At the public meetings, which were held to approve zoning and funding, commissioners and council members declined to respond to written questions, many of which were provided in advance of the meetings.

The Maple Leaf project team included members with an inherent conflict of interest.  Doug Harden is credited with developing the idea for this project that he refers to as his ‘dream.”  Harden is identified as the designer and architect who has a direct financial interest in this project. The innkeepers who led this project will indirectly benefit from increased overnight stays in their respective establishments.  Individuals that served on the team to promote this project did not include anyone that identified expertise or experience in owning and managing a music venue.

Is a 2000-seat music venue feasible? Assuming that what worked in the past (the Little Opry) will work in the future is a significant risk. Given the conflict of interest, the lack of music venue experience among project leaders and the inexperience of commissioners and council in reviewing a “business plan” for what is generally considered a private sector venture, contracting for an independent feasibility study was needed to identify and manage the risks associated with the project. The council refused to delay the project to contract for the needed study.

The collateral for the Maple Leaf loan is future profits from the venue and revenue from the innkeeper’s tax.  Initially, profits were to be shared with the county.  A bank or other lender without collateral from tax revenue would require a private sector venture of this type to develop a more thorough business plan.  The requirements for business plans are available from the Small Business Administration. An example of a Music Theatre Business Plan is available at bplans.com.

Consequently, since the bank was not relying solely on a business plan to help assess the risks associated with this project, it was up to our commissioners and council to educate themselves to ensure they were performing their due diligence before voting to approve this project.

Citizens were not informed through an announcement in the Democrat of any public meetings where the business plan was to be reviewed and discussed by the commissioners and council before their vote to approve this project. Due diligence would have required several public meetings.

The decisions that have already been made by the Commissioners, Council and CVC will determine the success or failure of this government-owned music venue.  At this point, my suggestion for voters is to elect representatives that will oppose any future effort to transfer all or part of the $12.5 million or more Maple Leaf debt onto county taxpayers or use general funds to subsidize the venue in any way.

This project was sold as “too good to fail” – let’s hope that’s true.   The public and voters will determine if the decisions and process used to fast-track this project are in the best interests of all county citizens.

Changing the Government from the “Top” 

By Tim J. Clark

Politically within the United States, we are in the midst of what might be considered as an uncivil conflict. America has been divided into red states and blue states, with social media serving as the battleground. The casualties in this conflict include opportunity costs — the outcomes this country could have achieved had we been working together instead of battling each other. We need to make some changes if we want to improve this situation and ultimately the nation.

When most people think about making improvements at the national level of government, they consider the “top” as beginning with the President, the U.S. Congress, or a political party. However, by law, the “top” is “We the People,” according to the U.S. Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. [emphasis mine]

The vision for America is to work together toward achieving “a more perfect Union.” Working to achieve this aim must be led and supported by “We the People” and not by the red states, blue states, or “deep state” politicians and their respective interest groups. These groups add value by identifying the polarity on issues and offering nonpartisan solutions but can also be corrosive to a system that was designed to be continually improved.

Tip O’Neill, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, reinforced that all politics is local.” Therefore, the U.S. government can be improved starting from the local level of government.

If “We the People” can begin the transition to improve quality at the county level of government, we could demonstrate a successful approach that might inspire improvements at the state and national levels of government.

The goal at the county level would be a shared vision for the future — a plan that identifies what people want and do not want regarding economic and community development. This would be followed by action that results in outcomes that citizens would agree result in a “more perfect” county.

To achieve these results, we need more independent voters as well as a critical mass of quality leaders.

Independent Voters Are Needed

An “independent voter” is an individual who votes for the person they believe is the best candidate, regardless of any political party affiliation. The “best” representative is someone who can lead change that results in everyone benefitting or, at least not being any worse off in the long term.

I consider myself a political independent. To vote in the primaries in my home state of Indiana, you have to declare a party, so I registered as a Republican. However, I vote for the best candidate, regardless of political party affiliation. If there is not a good candidate for a position, I leave the selection blank to send a message to the parties to recruit better candidates.

Last year, 42% of Americans identified themselves as political independents, while 29% percent identified themselves as Democrats and 27% as Republicans, according to Gallup. In upcoming elections, we need more people to be independent voters. In other words, we need more people to elect individuals based on their ability to address issues and challenges rather on their political party affiliation.

Critical Mass of Quality Leaders Are Needed

While it is important to let your voice be heard by voting, elections only come every so often. That’s why we need more quality leaders.

I support the theory identified by W. Edwards Deming. His contributions for improving quality were recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nine turning points in world history and by FORTUNE Magazine as among the greatest contributions to business history.

Deming believed that you need a critical mass of quality leaders to improve or transform an organization (e.g., group, community, country). Quality leaders are individuals who can apply and support the application of the better methods to improve processes and systems, resulting in outcomes where everyone gains, or at least are not any worse off in the long term.

The number of leaders needed can be calculated as the square root of an organization:

“In a small staff of 25, just 5 dedicated people who are committed to the improvement process and who work consistently will create a transformation. The same is true in a classroom. Think about getting a critical mass of students in a classroom. In a class of 30 students, the square root would be approximately 5.5. Since you can’t have half a child, round to 6. If you can get 6 students to commit and begin working with you and supporting your initiatives; you can transform the culture of the class.” — David Langford

As anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

An Example of What Is Possible

The challenges that local counties face can parallel the political polarity found at the national level. A political party can develop a monopoly on political power, which can be described as allowing a few people (along with ad-hoc project teams or interest groups) to dominate decision-making. Monopolies can lead to an abuse of power, which leads to less transparency, a lower quality of decision-making, and poorer results. It also leads to policies that benefit the few at the expense of the many.

Take, for example, the county in which I live: Brown County, Indiana. Around 15,000 people live in this small rural county. Residents appreciate its natural beauty, the rural environment, the friendly people, and our history as the “Artist Colony of the Midwest.” Key strengths include our community foundation, volunteers, and excellent schools.

Brown County has the highest concentration of forested land of any of Indiana’s 92 counties. Much of the county’s 312 square miles are state and federal lands or privately owned and not open to development. It is among the least populated county in Indiana, with a population density of just 48 people per square mile, compared with 182 statewide. The majority of employed citizens commute outside the county for work and tourism accounts for approximately 30% of jobs within the county, which contributes to a low to moderate income level.

Brown County has seen its share of challenges lately. The county government has recently implemented some policies that many residents view as being fiscally irresponsible, including:

  • Approval of a fast-track process to build a $12.5 million government-owned and government-managed music venue without providing citizens an opportunity to provide input on the desirability of the project, conducting an independent feasibility study, or reviewing the complete business plan before approving the project
  • A taxpayer-funded settlement for a township issue resulting from what some residents considered a hostile takeover of a volunteer fire department
  • A proposal to build a new $10 million courthouse without identifying the compelling need and analyzing other alternatives
  • Pushing through a $7.3 million wastewater treatment proposal without identifying the need or addressing the concerns and issues with people affected by the project

The critical mass needed to lead a transformation using methods that respect what citizens want (and do not want) regarding economic and community development is 112 (the approximate square root of 12,500 registered voters).

While we have not reached the critical mass of quality leaders yet, our network includes individuals who have opposite political positions regarding national policies but support basic governance principles. We are putting any left-wing/right-wing biases aside and working together to achieve “a more perfect county.”

The Independent Voters of Brown County IN website and Facebook page includes non-partisan suggestions for addressing our local challenges. The intent is to identify principles that could provide common ground and a strategy for improvement. A local  Facebook group was also created to share information and discuss “matters that matter” to the citizens of Brown County.

How You Can Help

Legendary National Football League coach Vince Lombardi remarked that “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” A more perfect county and country requires that citizens identify their vision for “more perfect.” The next step is to work together to apply methods to continually improve the processes and systems that will lead to “catching excellence.”

If you support the concept that national-level change can be led from the “top” (“We the People”) and want to provide moral support, go to our Independent Voters of Brown County IN Facebook page and “Like” us.  A few thousand “Likes” will provide some positive feedback. It will also help reinforce that it’s a small world and that local efforts can have wide-scale impacts.