The sadness of “It’s always been done this way.”

18 08 2017

“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

I feel like I’m settled in enough into the new job to restart my daily habit of sending out a quote, some leadership story/advice, and a comic at the end so you’ll be motivated to read the 2 short paragraphs in between.  I try to tie the quote to some lesson I’ve learned in leadership, and then the second paragraph is a bit more general, and hopefully you’ll find something useful in it at least once in a while.

During my side-by-sides and in other meetings at the new job, I have asked “Why?” when told something that doesn’t make sense.  Sometimes I get a good answer, but often I got “No idea, it’s always been done this way.”  Those words are the death of innovation and creativity.  Every time I hear them, I get a little sadder.  It’s true, though, with the nationwide push to do more with less, many people don’t know why something is done.  So I always ask for forgiveness when I meet with different team members, and try to get to 5 levels of “Why?” (asking why until the root cause is uncovered)  If, after all the digging, there’s still nobody here who knows why we do a repetitive, tedious task, I may ask one person to stop doing it, and see what happens.  If nothing bad happens, then “the way we’ve always done it” will likely be changing for the better.  More to come as I dig around in our processes.  Please enjoy the comic from my friend, Leigh Rubin.

Speaking of responsibility…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.




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