Is it the Person or is it the Process?

Employees and business fail every day. How often does the employee or business owner do a post mortem on the cause of the failure? Or does it matter? How do we learn from the past?

Having worked in both large and small businesses, I can say that business problems are not unique by industry or size. The business problems have basic root cause components. Not defining your purpose, hiring the wrong person for the position or a process that does not support the customer or employee are all cause for not being able to execute the plan.

Let me give you an example of how what might seem like one problem, was really something very different, when you asked questions designed to get to root cause.

I got a call from a client that an employee believed that he was being treated differently than other employees and therefore had been set up to not be successful. For this story we will call him Mike. Mike had worked for the company for four or five months, and was still learning what his role with the company looked like.  The majority of the time that he spent in the first few months were with his department peers and supervisor. Mike learned what to do from his peers and his supervisor reviewed the results.

When the company looked into Mikes concern that he was being treated differently, the discovery was rather shocking. It was true that he was not attaining the results expected. And he was being treated differently.

Here is why Mike was not delivering results and had not been successful. The tasks and duties that Mike was responsible for were not documented. They processes were informal and passed on to employees by word of mouth. During Mike’s orientation, he was not able to spend time in each department and understand how his tasks, duties and responsibilities impacted the other departments and their goals. It was also discovered that the employees with the company who were successful, “figured out” how to do their jobs on their own. Imbedded in their culture was an attitude that if you could not figure it out on your own, most other employees were not going to step up and help.

A couple of the initial ways we began to resolve these bigger issues, we developed an onboarding process. We also began to document the operational processes that each department followed.

The turnover rate in the company has fallen as a result of employees having a place to reference the “How To’s”.  In the future this documentation will also enable continuous process improvement. Employee satisfaction has also increased and so has productivity.

The next time an employee is not successful maybe it is the process and not the person?