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Does it really matter how I get where I want to go?

Some people would say that as long as you get there, who cares how you do it?

The late statistician W. Edwards Deming has long been a hero of mine. He was 91 years old when he spoke at a small conference that I was blessed to attend. He walked onto a bare stage and began to speak in a deep voice that was noticeably lacking in inflection. He stated that he was not there to entertain us. He was there to teach principles he knew were true. He had me hooked!

It was a fascinating time, and one principle he imbedded in my mind was that “results come from the process.” Dr. Deming had proven in business that 98% of the quality of what is produced is the result of the process used to produce it.

If the process is flawed, the quality of the product will be flawed.

How do we define the process? It is all the steps taken from beginning to completion.

Dr. Deming taught that the responsibility for the process belongs to management. They are responsible to lead, evaluate, and improve the process. In business, few people would question that it matters “how we get there.”

But what about in school or in our personal lives? Does the process matter?

If my goal is to be the best in a particular sport, does it matter how I achieve that goal?
The consequences that some athletes have suffered due to flawed processes—such as Illegal drug use—show us that it does matter.

If my goal is to make great scores on exams, does it matter how I do it? The cheating scandal at the Naval Academy not too many years ago, in which 24 midshipmen were expelled—and in the process lost their privilege of serving in the Navy—would lead us to believe that it does matter.

But there is even more to this than the moral aspect of right versus wrong. Let me illustrate with my grandson’s taekwondo class. Each time the instructor asks the 40 students, sitting in four rows of ten, “Does practice make perfect?” In unison they respond, “No, perfect practice makes perfect!”

There is no moral code here—just a better way to achieve the goal.

A proverb tells us that zeal without knowledge is not good. As a wife, I can desire all day long to be a better wife. But I need to seek knowledge about what and how I can improve.

As a student, I can hope to be a better pupil by going into my room, closing the door and “studying harder.” Or in class, I can try to take better notes. Or when I read my lesson, I can try my best to comprehend more.

But until I have knowledge about how to improve my process of study, or note taking, or reading, my process will remain the same, and my results will not improve.

Maybe we as parents and teachers are the managers in Dr. Deming’s theory. Maybe we are responsible to evaluate, improve and help our students change their process.

Maybe we are the ones to help them understand the importance of having a sound process that gets them where they want to go!