Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

Service of Humiliating, Harmful Strategies to Get Paid: Lunch Shaming

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Photo: canadianfamily.ca

Photo: canadianfamily.ca

The headline alone of Bettina Elias Siegel’s article in The New York Times, “Shaming Children So Parents Will Pay the School Lunch Bill,” is enough to sink hearts and for readers to scream: “What are they thinking?” To embarrass a child in front of others for something they have done is horror enough but to do this over something over which the young one has no control is unthinkable. Adding injury to insult is that it involves an essential life-sustaining activity, eating, and it is fomented by school administrators who, of all people, should know better. Further, there’s a huge element of waste involved.

I wrote about school lunches four years ago in a different context: Service of Equality: Free School Breakfast, Lunch and iPads.” In that post I wanted NYC to pay for breakfast and lunch for the children whose parents couldn’t afford to buy them but thought that giving free iPads was a bit much when there are viable, far less expensive tablet options.

Recently Siegel wrote: “On the first day of seventh grade last fall, Caitlin Dolan lined up for lunch at her school in Canonsburg, Pa. But when the cashier discovered she had an unpaid food bill from last year, the tray of pizza, cucumber slices, an apple and chocolate milk was thrown in the trash.”

What’s the strategy here: It’s better to toss good food than give it to a hungry child? That’ll teach a parent who isn’t there who may not have the money to pay in the first place.

Photo: thebalance.com

Photo: thebalance.com

News in the rest of the article doesn’t get much better. Siegel further described “lunch shaming,” as the nasty approach is called. “The practice is widespread — a 2014 report from the Department of Agriculture found that nearly half of all districts used some form of shaming to compel parents to pay bills. (About 45 percent withheld the hot meal and gave a cold sandwich, while 3 percent denied food entirely.)” Instead of a real lunch some are given two pieces of bread with a thin slice of cheese.

Photo: money.usnews.com

Photo: money.usnews.com

Siegel described a cafeteria worker in Pa. who quit when forced to take away a child’s lunch. A child in Alabama went home with a stamp on her arm: “I need lunch money.”

There’s no free lunch and there’s the lunch bill to pay. What to do? Some qualify for a federal free meal program though others are afraid to apply because of their immigration status. Communities ask for “random acts of kindness” and organize fundraisers and GoFundMe pages. A Texas-based 4th grade mentor, Kenny Thompson, paid the bill when he saw the lunch lady refuse food to a child whose mother, he knew, was in the hospital. Next he founded “Feed the Future Forward,” and through fundraising events and donations hopes to wipe out over $50,000 in debt. To qualify for the refund money, however, Thompson makes schools sign a pledge that they won’t give children with unpaid bills a meal different from the other kids.

Lunch shaming is nothing new. Siegel quoted a mother whose son won’t eat peanut butter as the result of an incident two decades ago. How did it catch on and why do communities permit it? What gets into the minds of administrators who lose sight of their clients—children—when addressing a problem? How can parents permit such cruelty in a place they entrust their children?

Feed the Future Forward

Service of Plan B

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Photo: shiftonline.org

Photo: shiftonline.org

I’m a Plan B kind of person. If a project isn’t rolling out the way I’d like, I develop contingencies and options so as not to let an unanticipated glitch get in the way of a project’s success.

Turns out that most are like me and we’re all wrong, according to recent research reported in the Wall Street Journal by Rachel Emma Silverman. However, I’m not convinced by the experiment she cited that the conclusions are justified.

Silverman explained why you’re better off without a Plan B from findings published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Jihae Shin, assistant professor of management and human resources at the University of Wisconsin’s business school and Katherine Milkman, a Wharton associate professor, co-authored the results of a series of studies.

participantsSilverman quotes Shin: “Simply contemplating backup plans make you want to achieve the primary goal less, which makes you put less effort into it. As a result, you have lower chances of success in your primary goal.”

The reporter described one of the experiments in which “participants were asked to unscramble sentences and told that if they performed well, they would receive a free snack.” Some were told they might not win a snack and to think of a backup plan of other ways to get free food on campus.

snacks“Researchers found that participants who were prompted to think of a backup plan to get free snacks did significantly worse on an assigned task than those who were simply told to do the task with no additional instructions.” The key word is prompted. That action skewed the results, in my opinion because the researchers distracted some and not others so they weren’t equally concentrating on unscrambling the sentences.

Silverman wrote: “When people anticipate that they’ll feel really bad if they don’t complete a task, they will work harder, Dr. Shin said. But if they have thought of a Plan B, they might feel more comfortable slacking off.”

I think that what is significant and relevant is the timing of when to think of additional strategies. You wouldn’t make a Plan B at the start and you might not do it at all if your plan is going well. Actually, in the next quote, Dr. Shin agreed with me, therefore watering down his theory: “You might first want to do everything you can to achieve your primary goal and really focus on that for a period of time, before you develop a detailed backup plan.”

While the research focused on individuals, Dr. Shin suggested that team leaders might want to have a second team develop a Plan B, leaving the first team to work on the project.

Wouldn’t having teams work at cross-purposes impact enthusiasm and morale? Do you start a project thinking of alternate strategies or do you follow a strategy you believe in before thinking of alternatives? Does the setup of the experiment seem flawed?

timing is everything

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics