Who, or what should be blamed for poor performance? Should we blame the system or the people? The first problem here is blame. Nothing good ever came from blaming.

Let’s think logically about the problem.

It seems to me that we should focus on supporting people (not blaming them) so that they can improve the system. For the most part, people are smart and know how to adapt. If you give then the right environment to problem solve and support them to implement their solutions you will get improvements.


The benefit of focusing on systems is that we get efficient use of resources. The most obvious efficiency comes from the fact that the people in the system are not interrupted from working in the system.  Continuous Improvement people from outside the system like this because they are the ones working on the system not in it. Seems pretty efficient (they end up on a different budget line 😉).

If we improve the system and we get efficient use of resources then we improve the use of resources. It all makes sense.

Why is there an arguement?

Why are there camps who argue for focusing on people and other camps who say “No” we should focus on systems? There is a tension here.

There appear to be three assumptions that hold this conflict together.

  1. The “people” and the “system” are different things.
  2. It is not very efficient to have the people in the system working on improving the systems.
  3. Improving the use of the resources is about being efficient.

What would happen if:

  1. You treated the people as the system and helped them to improve.
  2. You had the people who know and use the system better than anyone else focused on improving the system while they are working in it.
  3. Instead of focusing on efficiency you focused on flow.

I would guess that there would be no more arguement.

There is someone who worked this out.

His name was Taiichi Ohno:

“The Toyota style is not to create results by working hard. It is a system that says there is no limit to people’s creativity. People don’t go to Toyota to ‘work’ they go there to ‘think’.”

He is known as the grandfather of the Toyota Production System.