Four Pillars: People Are Good

For those who practice the Theory of Constraints (TOC), there are Four Pillars which represent a series of mindsets. Each pillar is representative of an attitude which helps individuals overcome challenges and reach breakthroughs. This is the final instalment to our four-part series, although each article provides its own value and can be read as a standalone piece. Click here to read the other articles in this series: ‘Every Conflict Can be Removed’, ‘Never Say I Know’ and ‘Everything Is Connected’. The fourth pillar assumes the inherent goodness of people.

In our working and personal lives, we often come up against difficult situations, and we often blame these difficult situations on ‘difficult’ people. However, if we are honest with ourselves, people’s motivations tend to be good – usually they are trying to protect themselves, you or the system they are working in. With employees, the sad irony is that when you can’t change the mind of a person or get them to change their ways, you feel the need to remove the person doing the job (if you can’t change the person, change the person…). But often the problem will resurface. It is often the environment which causes a person to act in a certain way – people behave according to how they are pressured and measured. So, if your solution to a difficult person is to replace them with someone less difficult, then all you are going to do is run into the same problem with a different person later. It may manifest itself differently, as different people approach situations in different ways, but the problem hasn’t really gone anywhere.

Begin with the assumption that people are good. Stop trying to change someone’s personality or role and start looking for why the person behaves that way. If you have some questionable measures within your system, don’t be surprised if your people behave questionably. The ‘people are good’ mindset forces us to look for the underlying cause driving the difficult situations we are faced with. Identify the processes/policies/measures/behaviours that are driving an individual to act in a way that is unacceptable. If you look for the cause and effect, and understand the ‘why’, then you can do something about the defective process. This will not only make your life easier, but also the life of the person you are having difficulties with. It will improve the working relationship.

Goldratt UK uses rigorous cause and effect analysis to identify the defective processes/measures/assumptions in organisations that are driving behaviours that are the opposite to what management want. If you would like some help analysing the cause and effect in your organisation, send us an email to [email protected]

When navigating a difficult situation, we must make sure all parties are clear on what’s going on and why it’s happening. For this, we use the layers of buy-in as a framework. Generally, people process thoughts in a sequential order, so this is a good starting point for difficult conversations.

  1. Agree on the problem.

Align yourselves on what is the most important challenge to address. Make sure you are both talking about the same issue.

  • Agree on the direction of solution.

Get aligned on what good looks like; set the criteria before you start presenting your ideas.

  • Test the completeness of the solution.

Is this solution going to give you all the results you need? Are WE missing anything?

  • ‘Yes…but…’

When you hear this phrase, you might hang your head. It feels like another obstacle, another barrier, but if you think about it, you are quite far through a buy-in process by this point.

There are two forms of ‘yes…but…’.

  1. ‘Yes…but… there will be consequences’
    1. ‘Yes…but… we cannot do it without…’

‘Yes… but… there will be consequences’

Agree that you can deal with any negative consequences can be dealt with or removed.

  • ‘Yes… but… we cannot do it without…’

Agree that you can find a way to overcome the missing inputs/obstacles.

How do you get this implemented?

All a difficult situation is, is a good person trying to work out how to achieve the goal with you. At Goldratt UK we structure all our engagements around these layers of buy-in to make sure everybody understands the problems we are trying to solve, the best way to achieve it, that it will deliver the desired results and remove obstacles, as well as producing a good implementation plan and sequence which will take us from where we are today to the desired improvement.

When you encounter resistance in another person, you should know that the person is likely doing it for good reasons. They are trying to articulate why they haven’t achieved the goal yet and they are willing to work with you on it. You should be willing to work with them too.

By Phil Snelgrove, Lauren Wiles.