The People vs The System

The people vs the system


In the red corner:

“Our people are our greatest asset”.

“The people ARE the system”.

In the blue corner:

“94% of performance comes from the system; 6% from the people”.

Which is better? There’s only one way to find out…

harry hill

Or maybe not.

You see, both corners have merit. The people in any system are really important, and yes, they are part of the system. But so are other system conditions, such as behavioural norms, organisational climate, structures, relationships, interdependencies, culture, networks, informal and formal practices, processes, internal and external influences, environmental factors, and many more.

Let’s not get hung up on what the system is, where its boundaries are, which bits overlap with other systems, where sub-systems are positioned and so on. So much of this is impossible to define. Let’s not try and establish the percentage split between ‘people’ and ‘system’ when it comes to trying to understand where the greatest opportunities for performance come from.  In complex public service settings such as policing, it is difficult enough to define and measure outcomes, let alone figure out which bit contributed towards achieving them, or what proportion came from the people.

My view is that all those systems conditions contribute towards achieving the purpose of the system, including of course, the people. The two aren’t really in different corners.


The people can only operate within the constraints of the other system conditions. This multitude of system conditions must be conducive to enabling the people to achieve their full potential. Otherwise it’s like putting a world-class acrobat in one of these, and expecting them to perform well…

deep sea diver suit

About InspGuilfoyle

I am a serving Police Inspector and systems thinker. I am passionate about doing the right thing in policing. I dislike numerical targets and unnecessary bureaucracy.
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1 Response to The People vs The System

  1. Pingback: The People vs The System | Policing news | Scoo...

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