B = f(P,E)

Kurt Lewin (links related to Kurt Lewin’s work here) shaped modern thinking about psychology and groups dynamics and stated (pithily):

B = f(P,E)

Behavior is a function of the person and the environment.

Let’s assume that the Behavior in question is related to work performance.

A lot of the focus in organizations is on the Person — his/her knowlege, skills, characteristics. If we can hire the right person or impart the necessary knowledge, skills, and qualities, we’ll achieve the desired work performance.

I think this is very important and necessary (I’ll use this opportunity to plug Johanna Rothman’s hiring book again). AND, you can have the perfect person for the job, and if the Environment inhibits reasonable work, you’ll get minimal performance.

Roadblocks in the environment can be:

  • cultural norms
  • infrastructure (lack of supporting resources, tools, policies, management…)
  • infrastructure (presence of punishing policies, management, reward structures…)

    So as manager, you need to pick the right people for the job and then remove the environmental obstacles….as David Foster pointed out in a comment on this post.