Edward Deming famously said that 85% of a worker’s effectiveness is determined by the system that he works within and only 15% is attributable to his own skill.
Yet I continue to see owners and managers focus all of their time and resources on the 15% and ignore completely the 85% where the real returns exist.
The natural consequence of owners and managers focusing on perceived staff shortcomings without proper consideration of the system they work within is employee dissatisfaction, low morale, and high employee turnover… not to mention suboptimal customer and business outcomes.
It also fosters what I call learned mediocrity.
Here’s an example… I came through the university system where the focus was on scientific principles (the scientific method, reproducibility and reliability of results etc). In all of the health clubs, that I worked in, where owners and managers had come from the university system there was a reasonably strong adherence to the science i.e. proper equipment regularly maintained and calibrated, appropriate protocols, procedures etc.
However, owners and managers that I worked for who did not have a university background tended to ignore the science by using inferior equipment, employing staff with poor technical skills, loosely following protocols etc. Not only did I feel like I could not do my best work I felt like I was actually being actively discouraged from doing my best work and, over time, I stopped trying to do my best work.
I learned to become only as good as the system would allow… and that wasn’t nearly good enough.