· software-development

Systems Thinking: Individuals and the environment

Something which I’ve become fairly convinced about recently is that the environment that someone works in has far more impact on their perceived performance than their own individual skills.

Given that belief I’ve often got stuck answering why some people are better able to handle a difficult environment than others - in terms of accepting the situation and finding a way of being productive regardless.

Does this mean that they’re better than people who can’t work in that environment as effectively?

That’s certainly a judgement that I’ve made previously but after discussing this with http://twitter.com/!/dtsato[Danilo Sato] over instant messenger and http://twitter.com/!/patkua[Pat Kua] & Esther Derby over twitter I can now see that I’m more than likely wrong.

Danilo pointed out that it doesn’t actually means that they’re better, it just means that they’re better at coping.

If we work on improving the system then perhaps we can allow everyone to work more productively.

Esther has a similar view:

@markhneedham Sure. ppl have different ways of coping. Why not improve the system so everyone can do better?

And Pat http://twitter.com/!/patkua/status/6405733037899778[adds] http://twitter.com/!/patkua/status/6405912939986944[the following]:

@markhneedham different strengths and interest at play. Emergent behaviour based on individual and environment

@markhneedham also people have different coping mechanisms and thresholds for tolerance/intolerance

Prior to this conversation I somehow hadn’t considered the benefits we can get from putting people in environments which allow them to play to their strengths.

I think we do this reasonably well when interviewing where one of the key criteria is to consider whether the candidate would enjoy working in the organisation’s environment.

Beyond that perhaps not so well because it’s implicitly assumed that whoever is hired should be able to operate effectively regardless of the environment.

Pat also pointed out that while it is good to work out how to get people into their optimal environment we shouldn’t forget that, as difficult as it may be, improving the system we’re currently working in can also be effective:

@patkua ok so it sounds like what you’re saying is we should look to try and place people in environments which are best suited to them

@markhneedham I’m saying that’s one possibility. Changing the system is another. We should be pursuing both strategies.

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