Why Have We Always Done It THAT Way?
Doing More with Less
As you’re continuously challenged to achieve more with fewer resources, at some point you start to wonder if you’re trying to squeeze blood from a turnip. While it may not be possible to get vegetables to bleed, there are always opportunities to find a better way. But you do need to know where to look.
What keeps us from pursuing better ways? Sometimes conventional wisdom can get in the way. So let’s take a closer look at some of this so-called wisdom to see if it still serves your purposes.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” or “We’ve always done it that way.”
These beliefs were developed and reinforced in times of abundance when we had the luxury of ignoring opportunity and clinging to the status quo. Do these luxuries still exist? To what degree are your current needs being served by embracing these beliefs?
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
While this may be true for old dogs, it doesn’t have to be true for your people. Humans are capable of learning and adapting at any age, given the proper motivation and development. While people who are most capable of flexibility and adaptation are more valuable than ever, age is not a determining factor of these key attributes.
As with any belief, as long as you embrace it, you will be right. Do you really want to be right about this? Only when you begin to believe in your people’s potential (at any age) will you allow them to validate your faith in them.
“Old Habits Die Hard”
Of all the axioms listed, this one gets to the crux of the matter. It is potentially your biggest obstacle to change needed to drive significant improvement. The old habits must die when they no longer serve our purposes. While behavioral scientists tell us that it takes a minimum of 21 days to establish a new habit, you must be patient and aware of the time it can take for old habits to be replaced. The operative word is “replaced”. Remember habits can not die on their own without being replaced by another behavior. For that, most all of us need some help.
“Necessity is the Mother of Invention”
If you now find it necessary to challenge the status quo and the conventional wisdom of the past, there are ways to improve that are easier than trying to bleed a vegetable. Every business is comprised of interrelated individual processes. To name a few, you have processes for hiring, quoting, communication, marketing, sales, order entry, billing, collection, production, shipping/delivery, firing. All of your business processes contain opportunities for improvement. The longer your business has been around, the more likely you can find golden opportunities where “we’ve always done it that way.”
Isn’t it time that you ask “why?” Why are we doing it this way? Or: Why are we doing this at all? Would our customers notice if we suddenly stopped?
When asking “Is it better to be more efficient, or more effective?” The answer is “Why do you have to choose?”
I’ve come to believe that effective business process improvement needs to be led by insiders as opposed to outside efficiency experts. Its about your people driving your processes, not the reverse. Its about instilling ownership and accountability. Look no further than my favorite model organization, Southwest Airlines. Their people drive the improvement of their processes. Through thick and thin, they make a profit and retain their employees. They’re working with a different set of beliefs. Is it the right time for you to examine yours?