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I know we should always look to the process and not blame people. However, when a person is not following the process, does that mean its a poor process that allows for it not to be followed or is there a time when it does come down to the person?

We tell people to focus on the process, because focusing on the process doesn’t happen enough. Is it sometimes a person? Yes, but then it is no longer a process issue, it’s a people issue…and process improvement tools and techniques may not help…Sadly.

This becomes more an issue for HR and management. But often we find it IS the process, and not the people. I have seen people on the verge of being fired, and when we did a Process Walk, they discovered he was the hero in the process…cleaning up everyone else’s mess!

There isn’t one root cause for why people don’t follow processes. It could be as broad as cultural barriers, or lack of enforcement by management, unclear or outdated process issues, etc. Before we blame people, look at the process, because most organizations don’t have perfect processes!

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.