The room was silent, the mood pensive. Ashok had shared the results of an education process mapping exercise. It took 125 processes to operate a block of schools in India. These processes, covering 250 schools on average, demanded the attention of School Heads. As a typical academic year had 220 days, each school had 2 days of effort on average to respond to a process, including teaching and student assessments. This feat demanded extreme efficiency and proficiency, supported by well designed support systems. They did not exist. Was there a way to thrive in this complexity?
Over next few months, when I met School Heads, I asked them how were they dealing with this complexity? What were their daily challenges? I realised that complexity was not the problem, it was confusion. Why did they asking me for the same data again? Why now? I did not understand the meaning of the rows and columns. What was the correct sequence of the process? Who will use this information, for what purpose? And so on. As Don Norman remarked in Living With Complexity, “Forget the complaints against complexity; instead, complain about confusion.”
How can I reduce the confusion for School Heads? Perhaps club the processes into a few easy-to-recollect modules? Provide access to learning videos when a process needs to be executed? Can simple tools mask the complexity and make the steps easy to understand? Will it help if peers explained what needs to be done? Can repetitive tasks be automated? There may be many ways to help School Heads reduce their confusion so that they can help children reduce theirs.