People vs. systems
On Monday, Jamie Notter wrote a post titled "Working with Other Humans Is Not Optional." He included a rather funny (in a soul crushing kind of way) comic, "The Cycle of (Time) Suck," which makes light of having to endure endless email and lengthy meetings in the workplace.
The comic raises this question in my mind: If you're buried in inefficient email and meetings, is your problem caused by email and meetings as tools or by the people using the email and running the meetings?
My answer to any question like this, about people versus systems, is always that people are the more important factor. People might not be the ones to blame, per se, but their influence is always greater, which is why I liked the title of Jamie's post. Whatever you do, however you do it, humans—with all their strengths and flaws—will be involved.
I'm not a systems guy. I might be jaded, though, by so many plans for new systems and tools that aim to solve all of our problems but somehow never take into account how normal human beings might interact with them (or that assume people will quickly change their normal behavior when they use them).
Even the best system won't work without people who are happy to work in it, but I believe competent people can still get a lot of work done without a great system in place. (Jim Collins was on to something when he said "Get the right people on the bus.") Of course, having both efficient people and efficient systems in place is ideal, but if I had to choose one over the other, I'd always go with the people.
For associations, the volume, variety, and constant churn of people in our work make this doubly important. Any problem you have is a people problem, and any system you build should be designed with real people in mind, first.
I know some of you out there are systems thinkers. Is my perspective on this missing something? Or am I just stating the obvious? Curious for your thoughts.
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