The most difficult and lingering problems that arise within organizations do not result from lack of some commodity such as money, machinery, materials, time, ideas, or expertise. If we follow a particular problem back to its roots, we often find that it is actually a "people problem". Somewhere along the line, somebody is angry, resistant, needy, passive, unthinking, obstructive, or in pain.
The problem stems from the ineffective way that this individual (or group of individuals) is dealing with feelings, conflicts, and stress. Many organizations try to solve their "people problems" by manipulating commodities (buying a new piece of equipment, putting on an extra shift, adding or dropping a product, and so on) rather than by paying attention to what is going on with the people in the organization. In short, they treat the symptom rather than the cause.
If manipulating the commodities happens to make things go better for the people involved, the problem may be solved; if it doesn't, the problem will persist, or worsen, or simply take another form. Clearly, it would be more efficient to first investigate the underlying "people problem" before investing time, money, and energy in a "solution" that may or may not bring the desired results.
Many of these "people problems" are quite subtle. Few subordinates are willing to be in open is agreement with their supervisors, and fewer still are overtly obstructive. Instead, people "make mistakes", "have accidents", "misunderstand", "can't", spin their wheels, waste time, get sick, fail to cooperate with one another, and so on. Supervisors often cope with stress in these same ineffective ways, and many are unwilling to confront the inappropriate behavior of their supervisees.