People, as the saying goes, are the most important asset of every organization. But so many improvement efforts from Knowledge Management to Theory of Constraints to take-your-pick focus so much on the process of the work. But if the efforts don't equally focus on the people in and around that work, then it's just as likely that the change will not be sustained.
This came up today in listening to the Business901 podcast with James Franz, Sustaining Lean using Continuous Improvement: The Toyota Way. I don't have the exact quote, but it was along these lines: If you don't help the people become problem solvers, your process changes will not last.
I juxtapose this thought with another quote I've seen recently: You can achieve brilliant result from average people with the right processes in place, whereas you can only achieve mediocre results from brilliant people when the processes are broken (paraphrased from Womack's Lean Thinking, p 336 - my review). In my mind the "right processes" here have to include the people.
In your efforts to improve processes and make your organization more like a "well-oiled machine," don't forget the people who run the machine. Given the opportunity, it is the people who will be continually making things better.
[Photo: "something's missing" by Leo Reynolds]