Are people impossible?

If they’re not, why is it so hard to work them out?

I remember a quote I heard about 15 years ago, supposedly said by a COO who was referring to IT at the time. I paraphrase:
“hardware is simple, software is more difficult, and people are impossible”.

This resonated with me last week when I came across the subject of DISC profiling at two separate meetings. DISC is one of a number of analysis methods that will help you to understand a person’s characteristics and behaviours (others include Myers-Briggs, Keirsey, Belbin, TDF).

If people really are impossible, why bother going to all the trouble of analysing them?

Are people really impossible?

Hardware is built on logic circuitry at its most fundamental Boolean level. Software is logical too, but offers much wider scope for interpretation and, in the absence of infinite time for testing, imperfections. People, on the other hand, are a complex mix of logic and emotion. Everyone behaves differently; reacts differently; works differently. So how on earth do we get along?

Largely because of that “emotion”. We have a spectrum of tolerance that enables us to deal with all those foibles and idiosyncrasies. I tend to think of this spectrum as a Normal curve. When somebody has a behaviour trait that lies towards the edges of the normal curve we find it much harder to deal with. Extremes of behaviour tend to make us uncomfortable and the individual concerned probably has no idea they’re causing disruption. That’s when some people can become more impossible than others.

Understanding people types

If you work with people (and let’s face it, most of us do), I strongly recommend you take some time to do some of this analysis and figure them out – how they will respond, why they respond that way, and how you can get the best out of them. It’s essential if you’re a line Manager or a Project Manager, especially in the world of IT where the people tend to be very logical.

For example, you can apply Belbin analysis to help you optimise the mix of people inside your team. If they’re all “ideas people” and you don’t have any “completer-finishers”, that might explain why you’ve never got any projects delivered.

Above everything else, take some time to understand your own profile. You can influence behaviour change in others, but the only person’s behaviour you have direct control over is your own.

It’s worth investing some time to unlock who the real person is.

Which method should you use?

Sadly, I can’t tell you which method you should use. Remember what I said earlier, we’re all different. My preference won’t necessarily work well for you, and vice versa.

I’ve found that no one method on its own will give you everything you need. So, my advice is to look into the each of the methods mentioned in this article and pick the bits that make most sense to you.

Brian Lancaster is a Director of BLMS Consulting

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