A book I recently read about Change, called “Switch” by brothers ‘Chip and Dan Heath’ mentioned some research they had encountered in relation to popcorn - discussing how the size of a popcorn bucket influenced the amount a person would eat, even if the smallest quantity was more than enough; and more importantly, even if the popcorn was old, stale and horrible.
The conclusion was that it was not people and their popcorn eating habits that ought to be targeted in an attempt toget them to eat less unhealthy food, but the size of the bucket.
It was not, the research concluded, a people problem, it was a system issue.
People or System
Recently I encountered a similar situation. A venue had been established wherein an event would take place that required people to enter, and after a few minutes to complete their business, leave again.
A track had been set up that didn’t work. Staff were required to constantly redirect existing customers to the approved exit, (about 85% of those entering tried to leave in a fashion contrary to the established path). Signs and barriers were amended and moved and added to - all day. It was the opinion of the staff that the people were not very smart if they couldn’t figure it out.
Not A People Problem
In my opinion, it was not a people problem at all. It was an issue of incorrectly allocating the exit and entrance doors.
If they had been swapped around, customers would have been able to move into the area and after doing their business continue to circle to the right (we are predominantly a right-handed society – so this is how we often would go) and then leave by the nearest pathway to the outside. As it happens, the way they all tried to exit anyway, but this time there would be no need of staff to redirect wayward clients, because the normal, natural way to leave would be the way they all chose by default.
It would have appeared in this case then, that almost all people were very clever and were following the signs/barriers erected to help them.
The reason given for the ‘preferred’ pathway, was that it had a ramp for wheelchairs. A great thought, but only 3 wheelchairs entered and left (through the same allocated entrance/exit door) during the whole time the venue was open, but staff were required to direct the errant exiters all day.
Once again, a system issue not a people problem.
Life – Change – System Issue
It started me thinking about myself and how I go about my life. Am I making my life all about me (the person) and ignoring the system? Perhaps the process is wrong? Maybe it’s not a problem with me at all? Am I feeling guilty when it’s actually not my fault, not personally at least?
What do I mean by this?
Perhaps I have set my goals too high? Maybe I’ve not taken the action required to achieve these goals? How am I going to reach this point, make changes I think are necessary for my life? Of course, there’s more than this, but it’s a start, isn’t it?
What Do You Think?
Is a consistent failure to achieve goals a people problem or a system issue? In my case, I use excuses, procrastination, other priorities, lack of time, lack of money etc to stop the progress. Most of the time. What do you think?