How to #1 Deal with “Always Done It This Way”

A consistent, persistent, and dangerous theme has resonated throughout my 43 years of directing quality systems and process improvements, it is simply the opposition to change.  I can honestly say I haven’t worked with a single company where I didn’t hear “We’ve always done it this way”. 

According to a pioneer of computer programming and highly decorated Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, this comment “is the most dangerous phrase in our language”.

I’d like to share a story, it’s not my story, but that of a woman calling into a radio station years ago sharing her story of “always done it this way”.  The caller explained, she and her young daughter were preparing their annual Easter-Ham.   First step was to cut off the tail end and toss it.   The little girl was puzzled and asked her mom “why did you cut that piece off and throw it away?”  Mom’s response was that she didn’t know, her mother had always done it that way.  So, they called grandma to ask her why.  Grandma’s answered with surprise in her voice, “well I don’t know, my mom always did it that way; you should call great-grandma and ask her.”  The call was placed to great-grandma, the little girl posed the same question to great-grandma who responded with this, “well honey that was the only size pan I had.”

I am certain you see where I am going with this. From a process improvement standpoint this would be considered an unnecessary process-step that generates waste year after year.  The logical action would be to either buy a larger pan or change the recipe to cook a smaller ham.

Asking these questions provides us with the opportunity to Get-Out-Of-Our-Own-Way and visualize the possibilities;

  • Why have we always done it This-Way?
  • Is This-Way relevant today?
  • Does This-Way provide value, or does it generate waste?
  • Is it time to stop doing This-Way?

Something to think about…I will be back soon with the next installment of a six-blog series where I will uncover 6-aspects of change management, drilling down into each one, and show you a New Way of Thinking.

  1. Planning for change (assessing effects on the system and the people)
  2. Convincing your team of the need for change (minimizing resistance)
  3. Effective continuous communication during the change process (accepting feedback & eliminating confusion)
  4. Managing the scope of change (maintaining control)
  5. Implementation & Training (building awareness)
  6. Validation Review & Recognition (evaluate, making corrections & adjustments, celebrate successes)
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