I’ve repeatedly seen this admonition in corporate literature that you should focus on the problem and not the people when attempting to find solutions. I’ve also heard it asked, repeatedly, what do you do when the problem is the people?
I’ve gone back and forth, over the years, regarding how valid that question is. There are certainly times where it has looked or felt like the person was the problem. I’ve moved away from that some for the same reason I dislike expressing a position’s time utilization as a percentage; no two people are necessarily equal in ability. I have done assembly work that was only around 70% utilized for me, but was upwards of 95% for my neighbor. It wasn’t a lack of effort, oh how she tried. Day in, day out, no matter how hard she tried, how much advise, suggestions, and help we gave, she simply could not perform at the same level. Not her fault, it’s just how it is. Different people have different skill sets.
This leads me back to the idea that the problem, then, would be where and how you’re using that individual. A simple mismanagement of matching skill sets to job demands. There are still additional problems though. Sometimes a specific employer simply doesn’t have a task really suited to a particular individual’s abilities. Some people just don’t take well to the sort of repetitive manual labor found in a manufacturing environment. Some people are just generally slow. When I worked at Subway back in the day we had ` ‘;l 7=
someone like that. Slow as molasses, but reliable, and I’ve often found reliable ends up being more valuable.
What do you do, then, when all you have are fast jobs? The obvious answer is to try and rearrange work so that one particular job is more suited to their abilities but this can quickly go down a rabbit hole of “that’s not fair, you made their job easier and my job harder,” which is technically true. Alternatively you could hire additional labor and make everyone’s work load a little lighter, but this is an expensive proposition. It’s essentially doubling labor cost for that position, which may not be affordable. Could also have the whole “I don’t think this is going to work out” moment. It’s possible to have a situation where there’s nothing suited to a particular individual and the only workable option is to let them go. I wouldn’t say that the person is the problem in that case. Could be the hiring and onboarding process needs work, but sometimes you just can’t really know these things until after the fact.
Maybe the whole point of the thing is to discourage people in leadership positions from looking at someone and telling them that they’re the problem. To encourage them to look for alternative solutions first.
I don’t know, I don’t really consider myself a particularly good manager anyway. It’s way easier to sit here and talk about it than it is to actually do it.