Balancing People and Process

A useful tool for understanding people’s approach to management and teamwork is the grid developed by Robert Black and Jane Mouton in 1964.  Essentially, it plots people vs process.  Of course, some of us can tend to be relationally-focused while others are more task-oriented, but this is a little more complex.  It is about recognising that both elements are needed, sometimes in different blends in different situations. Neither is right or wrong. 

This is an important consideration because I can’t, for example, justify slackness in managing administrative and strategic responsibilities just because I like spending time with people.  I also can’t justify building relationships to such an extent that I don’t focus on the productivity that those relationships need to enhance.  On the other hand, I can’t be so driven to generate great systems and procedures that people feel like mere cogs in the wheel of some industry. Consider the numbers of people who have felt used or been sacked at workplaces without any consideration for their personhood, their well-being, or their unique value.   Sometimes, it just ain’t right!

We all have our strengths and weaknesses.  It is useful to consider how outr strengths can enhance a team or organisation without spending unnecessary energy on addressing weaknesses in areas in which we may simply not be gifted, but it is always handy to look at the blind spots and see what harm they can do to overall goals when we are not performing well in an area.  For example, high value placed on people with a correspondingly low value placed on process can be great for enhancing a fun and inclusive atmosphere (‘the country club’) which is sometimes needed, yet this doesn’t usually generate sufficient progress on group goals and achievement. Team accountability for progress may even need the input of a caring team member ‘leading up’ to see changes in individuals when no-one else is addressing the matter.

The fact is, that people’s value is enhanced when accountability and process is a part of facilitating their growth.  And great policies and procedures are only valuable to the extent that they facilitate the needs of people for whom they are produced.  When the greater good of a team or an organisation is compromised by any one individual’s performance or behaviour, then the protection of such policies and procedures can be vital.  Yet when an individual cannot sometimes ‘feel the love’ of people who can, in a moment of time, appreciate their needs and listen to their heart, then the whole reason for a group’s existence can get a little lost in the wash.


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