To me it is not people versus process or even process versus people. People choose the process they will follow and choose how closely they will follow it.
The choice of process should be based on issues, problems, and concerns that need to be confronted. This is a basic thought of all of the Maverick papers I wrote years ago.
As the choices are implemented, the implementers (the people), watch to see if the issues are being corrected. If so, they continue forward, if not they re-evaluate and re-implement.
These implementers are the founders and early adopters.
From this point there are many paths that can be taken, one path of evolution is that there are those that come after the founders and early adopters and these people are the ignorant believers.
These ignorant believers become dogmatic and assume they are the guardians and defenders of this newly founded ministry. This is an opportunity to roust those that have held the power, those with which many feel were the cause of some problem. Any failure of the previous regime will be used as a reason to oust them and adopt the new methodology with it's new set of leaders.
Once the new authorities have taken charge they must institute a means of policing actions and judging conformity. Here is were Process versus People begin.
Now the rules have been established and the means of judging conformity in place the next thing is to rank people according to their compliance. Decisions are made on actions to be taken if someone poorly complies. These are known as the consequences.
Now the authorities have the power to fire, with-hold rewards, reward, and promote.
There are those that come in even later. They do not understand why the process is the way it is. They do not understand why the people who are in charge where chosen to be in charge or how they got to be in charge. Others of these new-comers seem to fit in and thrive, while some fit in and perform with mediocrity.
If an employee refuses to follow the process then the machinery that has become the process will act upon that employee.
Most likely there will exist some employees who seem to have an almost magical ability to fight the process but never seem to reap the consequences. I have seen this many times. Usually two or three people can project the reasons why they do not conform in such a manner that they are not punished.
At some point a group of individuals will sit down and analyze the current situation and list a set of problems, issues, and concerns. They will use their experiences to devise a plan to address the issues and they will create an opportunity to put those plans into play.
[GoTo: Label: 1]
If you are not the creator of a new process then you should study the processes that are in practice. As you study them you should try to "fit" the process to the ways you choose to do things and they ways you imagine things should be done. Then you should try to work somewhere that uses that process. This will allow you to fit in, to understand, and most importantly to imagine the next step in the evolution of that process. This notion of the gathering of people based on some common ground has often been attacked. It has been said that this idea limits diversity. That is a statement that has not been proven true. Once you gain experience and seek understanding in the underlying goals of a process and the problems, issues, and concerns being addressed then you can build on a solid foundation.
If you choose to be a mediocre participant then be prepared for the process to "grind you up and spit you out". If you choose to halfheartedly do your job, put in your eight hours, do as little as you can to avoid work and to avoid consequence you will eventually find yourself facing situations of poor performance rankings and you may not even know why and did not even see it coming. If you assume that your co-workers are not studying and experimenting on their own time you are mistaken. There are those that seek to gain knowledge and experience on their on time and dime.
As you study on your own do not become another breed of the dog-matic (get it, dog breed). Do not bring the latest thing you have read about into the work place and shout, "We should do this now!" First experiment with it, use it, and understand the problems, issues, and concerns it addresses. Then do a gentle analysis of your work and see if these problems, concerns, and issues exist. THEN see if the current process has methods to address these issues. Often there exists a way to address the issue and no-one is doing it. If there is no current way of addressing the issue then look at the current system and figure out how to create an interface to use to plug this new method into place. Do not be a bull in a glass/china shop.
Some say that people are never the problem. My level of enlightenment is not sufficient to see things that way. Maybe some day I will see it that way, or maybe not. Maybe I am ahead of them already. The problem is there is no way to know for sure!
At this time I believe this: People make the choices, and people enforce the consequences. (I am not talking about people choosing to break physical laws but people choosing to break impositions.) People choose their response to the consequences. People choose how to judge and they do so inconsistently and imperfectly and therefore the results vary.
(This was originally posted to the Extreme Programming Users Group)