They’re delivering a one-two punch to defects. They’re ridding the earth of process waste. They’re on the front lines delivering customer service perfection. They’re in leadership striving to make a difference in the world. They’re kicking process improvement butt! The Wonder Women of Quality are here!
This month in the Wonder Women of Quality pantheon we are honored to highlight Kamaljit Jackson!
Kamaljit is the Senior Accountability and Efficiency Officer at the Racine Unified School district in Wisconsin. In addition to her work with the Racine School District, Kamaljit is on the board of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Racine. Kamaljit is part of the Emerging Quality Leadership Program with ASQ (the American Society for Quality) and also led the Advisory Council at the Gateway Technical College. She’s a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, a keynote speaker and she’s been given numerous awards and recognition for her success with continuous improvement.
Here are Kamaljit’s answers to a few of our questions:
What is your Quality Mission?
Every voice is critical to building a quality-driven process; it is utilizing the talent of our employees that sets the organization on the path to excellence. Failure is part of building an innovative culture and organizational success is collective (and so is failure) so we cannot take credit for one and pass the buck on the other.
What is your Quality Superpower?
I always strive to create a safe environment for individuals I work with and have an authentic and genuine approach to actually listening, not just hearing, what they have to say. I firmly believe in giving them the opportunity to voice their concerns so they feel heard and whether we go with their solution or not, they cannot say we failed to provide them with the opportunity to voice their frustrations.
Building solid relationships through authentic dialogue makes others feel at ease. Having good listening skills and being genuinely interested in what others have to say helps with influencing outcomes that are in the best interest of the whole.
It’s important to give everyone the opportunity to participate in the work so they can own it — you lead from behind. As the quote so eloquently says, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say we did it ourselves.”
What do you see as Quality Kryptonite?
Titles and egos. We just cannot get over ourselves. We use the word collaboration, but do not truly understand what it means. True collaboration is about coming to the table and saying to the group, “I am all in. What barriers or constraints am I putting up that I can remove so you/we can be successful?”
We are so focused on control and digging our heels in that we lose ourselves and forget why we do what we do every day — losing that passion for improvement or quality or serving the needs of the community, students, families, or even the collective good.
What are some of your Quality Victories?
- Transforming our middle schools at RUSD. I led a middle school Kaizen back in 2017 and involved over 200 individuals to transform what our middle schools offer our families. Because of this cross-functional, cross-collaborative approach, our middle school choices increased by 200% from previous lottery selections. I am very proud of the work we did together. There is still a lot to be done, but we are continuously improving to ensure we are serving the needs of our students and families.
- Bringing in language around Lean and ensuring we set a common vocabulary for the District has been very positive. We are currently at 67% completion (2,211/3,300 employees) on the White Belt Training. We even had our Board of Education complete the training and we have built this into our on-boarding for new board members. We will add this as an on-boarding component for new employees so they understand the culture around continuous improvement and how we work together to solve problems with a heavy focus on distributed leadership.
- Deployed Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Training in Fall of 2018. The inaugural class of 21 began their journey to quality and continuous improvement and are finishing up their training and working on projects that will showcase the importance of the method and how distributed leadership is effective in making change. We hope to get to our internal capacity of 73 Green Belts trained by end of 2019.
- Deployed the Performance Improvement Team (PIT) structure across each of our schools. This team serves as the conduit between central office and each of the schools. We have 26 schools which now have a dedicated data lead that works with school leadership teams to help them understand how to conduct data analysis and make data-informed decisions to move the needle on student achievement. This model is only 4 months old, but our first charge is really to have a soft launch at the school building level and build relationships with the schools teams, so they understand that the lead is there to provide support and look at things from a holistic perspective and be their thought partner. (Synergy with #s 5 and 7)
- Implementation of a Data Warehouse to serve as the central repository for all data (i.e. assessment, behavior, attendance, success ready, etc.). We are set to unveil to Directing Principals and Assistant Principals at the end of January. This will be a game changer for us as we will have one place to pull data from and make data-informed decisions in real time. (Synergy with #s 4, 7)
- Environmental assessment of data literacy across the District. We have begun capturing the data on what we know (and what we don’t) and the training we need to develop to make everyone data-literate with the hope that they become empowered rather than intimidated by data, graphs, etc. We want to make them autonomous, so they are empowered to conduct analysis and make decisions to make improvements.
- Coming soon! A new platform to develop and monitor School Improvement Plans. We had previously used Excel sheets (too many of them) for the schools to conduct a needs assessment and build an improvement plan around data. This will also be a disruptive change as we will provide real-time data in a platform that will assist with accountability, progress monitoring, and the visual nature of the improvements they are making. (Synergy with #s 4, 5)
- Deployment of an ideation/innovation tool to capture ideas from our employees. This platform allows for all to provide their ideas on how we can improve as a District. Additionally, this platform provides a vote for all and comment capability on others’ ideas. All ideas go through an evaluation and validation process and members have the opportunity to be a part of the project. This will also be a game changer for the District as we all will see all ideas and see the workflow and eliminate past frustrations that employees’ suggestions are not taken and ideas and suggestion fall into a black hole.
Do you have any Words of Wisdom?
As a woman, and a woman of color, your credibility is always questioned. I have always had to put 150% more effort into everything I do. I live on the mantra that if I am going to be criticized, questioned, or not taken seriously, why not hold true to that and unleash the inner rebel.
I read the following quote on a daily basis because I think it sums up what I think all change agents should live by:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”— Theodore Roosevelt
So in the end, to those aspiring leaders and Wonder Women of Quality: BE BRAVE, BE BOLD! Never, ever, let anyone define who you should be or what you are capable of doing. Stay true to YOU, for you will be criticized anyway. As Churchill once said, “you will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” If your passion is quality and improvement, be free and unleash your inner Wonder Woman!