People Problem or Process Problem?

This is the second article of a three-part series. First, I discussed the factors that shape how we label problem employees. Today we are discussing, “People Problem or Process Problem?”

When a manager comes to me with an employee issue, the first thing I determine is whether the “issue is a behavior issue or a process issue? A colleague of mine pointed out one day that she does not believe people intentional fail, she believes that processes fail people. Process issues are relatively quick and easy to correct versus behavior issues which can take longer and require more work.

How do we determine whether the issue is a behavior issue or a process issue? The first thing I recommend doing is having a conversation with the employee. Discuss the issue and ask them to walk you through the process. This will help you to determine if the process is complete and effective. You may discover that steps are missing or the employee may be relying on another employee before they can complete the process, resulting in the delays. I have had situations where the company did not provide proper training or define clear expectations of the employee, which resulted in a “problem.”

If an organization corrects a process this helps everyone work more efficiently and effectively - it is a win for all. During this process, you may also create goodwill with the employee who is struggling. They will likely feel valued that you have taken the time and interest in them, aiding in their success. They may also be appreciative that they were included in improving a process.

If after all of this you determine it is a behavior issue then you will be having a different conversation.

My hope is that you take the time to determine whether it is a People Problem or Process Problem. Your staff, internal and external customers will appreciate it.

Stay tuned for part three: How to deal with behavioral issues.


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