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Good Systems or Good People ... yes.

"A bad system will beat a good person every time." - W Edwards Deming

A lot of investment is placed in Talent Acquisition as well as Learning & Development. Human resources are a valuable resource in business because they are an expensive resource. I don't aim to challenge that, but I do ask if we are investing as much effort into our processes and systems.

I have personally experienced situations that disrupt the business from within:

  • a process that breaks down when a key person leaves

  • top-down changes without engaging the workforce

  • leadership changes that upend the management philosophy

  • rewarding heroics and firefighting behavior

These actions serve to subordinate the focus on processes and systems as business assets.

  • If you can work around the process to save the day, good on ya'

  • If you are required to make a process work, you are valuable (that's security)

  • If you are a leader you need to change things to leave your thumbprint

  • If you implement broad, sweeping best-practices (without diagnosing the problem) you are visionary

This behavior and the culture that it creates is one of fits and starts. As resources move in the company they reset as new talent moves in and learns the business and their own workarounds.

Processes should be improved. To improve, they need to change. But change shouldn't be driven by leadership fluctuations it should be driven by problem solving. Process stability is something to be elevated as it reduces variability. Variability in outputs, variability in execution, variability in training and onboarding. And process stability comes when they are managed in a system. A Management System defines key processes and monitors them.

And here is where we return to Dr. Deming's quote. I don't believe anyone comes to work and wants to do a bad job. But even the best employee's efforts can be tamped down by system that does not value process and manage interfaces.

Should we recruit and develop good people, YES!

Should we invest in process and systems to support those people, YES TOO!

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