People vs Process

It’s a false dichotomy.

Glen Alleman touches on several topics in a recent blog People versus Process

one of several I’d like to highlight  is the discussion of people versus process. He points out that one can focus on process, or instead on the people. If you choose to focus on people you can take a couple approaches, get “the best people”, the “A-Team” approach, or strive to improve your average performer “a rising tide lifts all boats”. The best organizations recognize this as a false dichotomy. Ignoring one or the other leaves gaps that cannot be readily overcome.

My go to example is how Herb Brooks assembled the famous 1980 Olympic hockey team that upset the mighty Soviet team. When criticized for not taking some of the best players,  he responded something to the effect “I’m not looking for the best players, I’m looking for the best “team”. By this he meant that he had a vision of what it would take to beat the Red Army Juggernaut. He had a system  (process) that required certain skills (speed, endurance, and tenacity) in addition to traditional hockey skills. Also, it should go without saying, was a willingness to play within that system so that the team could be greater than the sum of it’s individual parts.

This wasn’t the “A” Team, but they were perhaps  the “A^-”  or “B++” team, there were no free riders.

They went through a rigorous year of development (overall improvement) , and

They played a demanding system.

They had to get a bit lucky to beat the Red Army team, but were in a position to do so because Herb had employed all three elements implied by  using process to make the most of his people.

Watch the movie “Miracle” sometime and pay attention to the leadership and team building skills on display.





About Bill Nichols

PhD in Physics from Carnegie Mellon University I'm a software team coach and instructor with the TSP Team at the Software Engineering Institute
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