It’s always about the people

Recently, someone asked me what I thought to be the biggest mistake of a manager. I believe that managers can get so caught up with processes that they forget about the people. People are what drives an organization. People are not machines, they are emotional. A manager needs to be able to sense the emotional response of the people around him, then respond in a positive way that helps the person stay on track while working within their process. Behaviour of the workforce changes whenever there is a significant emotional event…good or bad. You’ll see it at work a lot. Someone is going through a divorce, their work product is impacted. Someone gets engaged, also impacts their work product. As a manager myself, I have found my job to be less about the processes I am responsible for, and more about the people reponsible for carrying out the work. When I think of servant leadership, this quote comes to mind…”I work for my people, but I report to my boss.”

Comments 6

  1. tonyjoyce

    Right on target. I wholeheartedly agree although when thinking of managing I find a slightly different quote comes to mind: R E S P E C T, from the song.

  2. michael cardus

    This is often a complaint I hear from people about 6S
    that it ignores the people side of process.
    I tend to challenge that thinking, and often I understand their concern.
    With 6S practices people are usually really great a systems focus within a statistics, VOC, metrics, 5S, etc… bubble.
    When the information is passed to the front line (many times they have limited to no 6S knowledge, especially not the same the black belts) the details and people side gets lost.

    This is where leadership balance of knowing your audience and creating an absorptive capacity for change and improvements is vital.

  3. tonyjoyce


    In conversations with leaders and executives, does the need to "create an absorptive capacity for change and improvements" equate to "building some slack into the [human] system?" Or is building slack a technical concept like statistics and VOC and thus not understood in these conversations?


  4. jeff

    I would argue that it’s the other way around. Your people are only as good as the process/system allows them to be. You can have an amazing group of employees, trying to achieve amazing results, yet they are stuck in a dysfunctional process that keeps them from achieving those results. In return, you’re left with people who were once excited and motivated but are now jaded and disgruntled. Our organizations are only as good as our weakest link. You could have 5 employees doing amazing work in a process, only to be disappointed by one who is holding up the show. We need to focus on our people, but it will be a lot more effective once you remove the roadblocks that keep them from being successful.

  5. Norbert

    (1) Billy, absolutely correct.
    But there is a difference between management and leadership. management is more about delivering results, Leadership is even more about engaging people. So, what should leaders to do?
    My Leadership Quote: "Leaders have conversations!"

    (2) Jeff, also correct.
    Deming also stated "It’s about the processes and not the people … when customer requirements are not fullfilled".

    And who defines the (weak and efficient ones also) processes at the end?!
    Answer: People!

  6. Jeannie LeDoux

    I agree completely with both Billy and Jeff. I see them working together and not competing. My goal is to be a servant leader. After many years of management my job is to make their’s better (the associates). I do this by: listening to them, make them feel like they are heard and their opinions count; to be the fall guy if needed, to be the encourager, a mentor, coach and boss – all within boundries. Because of this approach my quality standards are higher, customer satisfaction better and loyality one could only hope for. AND because they feel supported they are free to adjust the process and procedures that we often are ruled by. This is especially important in our healthservices as the name of the game is constant change – which is exciting!!

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