Have you ever noticed that sometimes, we like to make problems out to be people problems — when they’re really system, process, or technical problems? 

Your coworker keeps making mistakes at work. It’s easy to say they’re lazy, disengaged or incompetent. But isn’t it more likely, or at least possible, that they don’t have some necessary knowledge or training to do their work well? Perhaps if they got a better process, better tools, or better education — might they have more success? If my wheels are not aligned in my car, there’s no way I can drive a straight line, no matter how hard I try. Forces will always be working against me, and the moment I’m distracted or tired, I drift. But it might, from the outside, just look like I’m not really trying.

In my experience, whatever looks like a people problem is more often than not a framework problem. It’s a system problem. It’s a support problem. It’s something other than that particular person.

If you start with a person problem, ask yourself: what is the real problem? Sue keeps making mistakes.  Hmm, I wonder why?

“Sue, can you help us understand what’s causing you to swerve a lot?”

“Yes — the car keeps pulling hard to the right!”  

Adjust your system, and you’ll adjust the problem. Blame the people, and you’ll accomplish…well, nothing. 

Which sounds better to you?