People Are The Problem

[The title seems odd. Needs a tweak I think.]

There are only two ways a manager can manage:

1. One in which the people are the problem, so when a problem is discovered, someone must be blamed and fired. See FearCulture.

2. One in which TheProcessIsTheProblem, so when a problem is discovered, the process is at fault and the true causes of the failure must be understood and somehow fixed, usually by simply changing the process. Number two also requires that people are willing to change the way they work, to accommodate to an ever-changing process. Every work product must be reviewed continually, so that when a problem is discovered it can be traced back to the true cause of the problem. If people are not willing to change the way they work, they could be fired as in the first case. The problem with TheProcessIsTheProblem is that a bad manager can complicate the process so much that it would be impossible to know what went wrong. Also, he would not listen the developer when they say that TheNewProcessIsTheProblem?.

-- GuillermoSchwarz

3. There are problems with both people and processes. This is the most common situation, since no person and no process is perfect.

-- EricHodges

Well yes, nothing is perfect. Even if you succeed, both you and your process are not perfect. The idea is here is that changing the people won't make a difference anyway, because there is not enough time to understand the process. People are fired when they become competent and start to suggest that there is something wrong. This is the same as don't ShootTheMessenger.

-- GuillermoSchwarz.

Changing the people makes a big difference when the people are the problem. You seem to be assuming that people are never the problem. -- EH

I don't. I just question how we differentiate the scenario. For example if people are not willing to change the way they work, they must be moved somewhere else, and even fired. But please take into account that if the manager makes the process a mess, people naturally would complain. So it depends on the scenario. -- GuillermoSchwarz

The problem with ThePeopleIsTheProblem is that you must fire them from time to time, before they are allowed to BecomeCompetent.

If both the people are the problem and the process is the problem, you will not solve it by jut changing the people: You need to change the process. That's why methodologies are so important: If you keep changing the people, they will never learn from their mistakes. If you keep changing the process, incrementally, people will learn new solutions to old problems.

-- GuillermoSchwarz


Okay, what about when TheManagerIsTheProblem? That is, when he puts people in positions in which their strengths aren't utilized or their weaknesses are maximized, or asks them to do the impossible, or fails to congratulate them when they do do the impossible, or undermines them because he didn't think of it first? (And so forth and so on.)

-- TimKing

That's just a particular case of ThePeopleIsTheProblem. If a manager gets in the way, his subordinates should let him know. If he does not change, his manager should be told. That is solve the problem by following a procedure, do not just change the people.

If the procedure does not make a change in the way the boss works, then the problem is not the boss, but the procedure. Find the right procedure. It will change the way the boss works, or it will change the boss. Because he is no longer your boss. Because you or him were removed from their positions.

-- GuillermoSchwarz


If it was not for stupid people, there would probably be less jobs. Many jobs are created to fix or work around messes created by idiots.


It's often the case that ThePeopleIsTheProblem; but TheSackIsNotTheSolution?. Most people "problems" are curable with training, a good chat with the boss, or other non-punitive techniques. Sometimes termination is the correct solution to a people problem (especially if you have a worker who is intransigent, or consistently fails to meet expectations despite numerous attempts at correction) but usually it's not.

Big problems occur when punishment occurs for a single failure (SomeoneMustBePunished), rather than a consistent string of failures. (By "failure", I mean a project being late or some other circumstance that can often be expected in a normally-functioning enterprise, not acts of gross insubordination or misconduct. If someone is found to be be stealing laptops from people's desks; they ought to be sacked right away with no second chance).

EditText of this page (last edited July 2, 2005) or FindPage with title or text search