A bad system will beat a good person every time.

94% of all failure is a result of the system, not the people.’

That’s quite a statement from W Edwards Deming – a pretty revolutionary thought-leader on management and productivity back in the day.

So is he right?

How easy is it for your people to get it right, first time, every time?

I was talking to a supermarket delivery driver the other day, discussing the varying standards of ‘fresh’ fruit and veg (as you do), and he was bemoaning the standards of some of the ‘pickers’. 

They wouldn’t have got away with that when I was a supervisor. There are some who just chuck anything in and others too busy talking to their mates to concentrate on the quality of what they’re picking.”

We’re so busy we’re just taking anyone on and no one is checking up, there’s no one in charge, no one making sure that people are doing things right…getting that consistent quality.”

Many business owners would say, “well it’s down to these people, they just don’t care enough” …but is that true?

Or is it down to 

the hiring system – hiring people who share the business and team values; 

the training system – teaching people how to do the job well, showing them how to achieve the high standards expected; 

the systems of good, sound, people management, like feedback, communication and so on.

If you don’t tell someone the standards you expect, show them how to achieve those standards, and then give them feedback, both when they do it right, and when they need to do better – they’ll believe that the way they are doing it must be ok. It’s that old adage,

“You get the standards you tolerate.”

When you come across a problem in your business – poor standards, mistakes, people not getting it right first time – look at the system first before you jump in and blame the person. Ask ‘why’ a mistake happened – dig deep to find the root cause and then fix it.

Look at your managers too – what development have you given them – do they have the skills to develop your team, and keep them on track?

Food for thought as we head into another new year.

Do one thing: think about your manager(s). What plans to you have for their development in 2021?


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Marianne Page

Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)


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