people vs. process
Dr. Deming once estimated that about 94% troubles belong to the system which is management responsibility, and 6% troubles are special causes which can be attributed to people.
Interestingly, the guest speaker Mr. Williams said sometimes in certain industries when they are doing good, they think they are smarter than the others. I was not too sure he was trying to imply the aerospace industry or the financial industry.
However, one of my friend, she graduated from Warwick with top grades a few years back. Naturally, she joined one of the biggest investment bank which always ask the best people. She was assigned to Asset Based Security, as they demanded the best out of the best. Just before the subprime mortgage are making a crack in the industry, she moved from the London office to Hong Kong, but a different bank. Friends asked why, she replied, limited opportunities in mature markets and too much pressure from the top. Recently, thru her blog I read, her boss told her the following "we demand more from you".
If I was told the same thing a few years ago, I would agree with her boss. However, now I take it from a different view. What her boss might not know is the level of significance of individual effort under the current circumstances. (Sure, she might be slacking a bit, which is unlikely based on what I knew her from the past.) You do not need to be an expert to realise the situation with the financial industry is rather caused by the system than any specific reason, do you? However, it seems people who have been there and had their own merit bet on the line, are often trying to think otherwise.