The individual soldier may fight well. But he too will march into the valley of death if the general’s battle strategy is bad. So it is in mining. The individual miner may be skilled, but he will fail if the mine is badly managed.
We too often overlook the system as we focus on the individual. Both are important.
My favorite example of a good system that enables even the most unskilled to succeed is Disneyland. Everything is standardized so that the youngest and most inexperienced can run the ride and we can enjoy the experience. Yet it is not mechanical or inhuman. You still feel the interaction with people.
It is probably not possible to replicate the Disney management system at most mines. There is still too much need for individual skill and decision making in the face of the uncertainties that make mining what it is. And yet I wonder.
Yesterday I was involved in a situation where the project went wrong. Project failure was not the fault of the individuals. They were skilled and worked very hard. Yet the wrong solution was selected, it was badly constructed, inappropriate decisions were made in response to the actual conditions encountered, and nothing has worked properly since.
The system by which the project was conceived and managed was just wrong. The system failed to account for individuals and their quirks. There was no opportunity to stop and think, to question, to deliberate. It was full-speed ahead under the direction of a young, aggressive, and ambitious leader. He led them into the valley of death with energy and enthusiasm.
So next time you plan a project, spend as much time on the system as on the people. You owe it to the people.