AT the Boston University school of management, a transformation
is under way. Students will increasingly be graded not only as
individuals but also as members of teams.
"For you to succeed, the team must succeed," Dean Louis Lataif
tells students. Students must still pass individual proficiency
tests, but by next fall, 90 percent of the course work for a
master's degree in business administration (MBA) will involve some
kind of teaming, Mr. Lataif says.
For Lataif, a former vice president of the Ford Motor Company,
the growing emphasis on teamwork is part of a broad move to
implement the principles of "total quality management."
TQM, long a buzzword among companies struggling to regain their
competitive edge, can also work significant changes in America's
educational system, Lataif and other educators say.
"I think it's our greatest hope," says Seldon Whitaker, a high
school superintendent who for several years has been incorporating
TQM concepts into programs in the State College, Pa., school
Although the application of these management ideas in the
education world is still in its infancy, interest is "growing
exponentially; it is just booming," says Jonathan Fife, director of
the ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education, an information resource
center at George Washington University in Washington.
If this movement is to transform education, however, several
hurdles must be jumped. These include teachers' resistance to
change and the time and effort it takes to implement TQM.
The basic elements of the system espoused by W. Edwards Deming
and other management experts include a focus on "customer" needs,
measuring performance and trying continuously to improve it, and
creating a management environment (including pay and promotion
policies) in which everyone works toward common goals. (See story,
left.) Proponents emphasize teamwork as part of this effort.
To date, efforts to apply these management concepts in education
have been aimed mostly at administrative performance, rather than
at curriculum, says Lawrence Sherr, professor of business at the
University of Kansas and co-author of a recent book, "Quality:
Transforming Postsecondary Education" (George Washington
Many colleges, however, are trying to apply the ideas more
broadly, Professor Sherr says. These range from community colleges
to elite schools such as Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. A few
institutions are trying to implement the quality regime
university-wide. These include the University of Michigan, the
North Dakota university system, and Pennsylvania State University. …