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Improvement efforts should focus on systems, processes, and methods, not on individual workers

"The system that people work in and the interaction with people may account for 90 or 95% of [their] performance." W. Edwards Deming The idea that performance is contextual is not new. Management sage Deming wrote the above quote in 1988. However some 30 years later we continue to conduct performance appraisals around this time of year that focus on the individual. Deming contemporary Peter Scholtes says: "Improvement efforts should focus on systems, processes, and methods, not on individual workers. Those efforts that focus on improving the attentiveness, carefulness, speed, etc., of individual workers — without changing the systems, processes, and methods — constitute a low-yield strategy with negligible short-term results. Conventional problem-solving would ask such questions as: Whose area is this? Who is supposed to replace worn gaskets? We don’t ask “why,” we ask “who.” We don’t look for causes in the system, we look for culprits in the work force." Powerful and thought provoking words from Scholtes. Why or who? Causes or culprits? As a leader the choice is yours. Many thanks for sharing with me Stephen Lewis.

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