It Has Always Been That Way

In the consulting business, it never made me feel good when someone said, “We have always done it like that.” It was the signal that a problem lived there. When that came up, we asked them to discover how the procedure came to be in the beginning. Procedures develop a life of their own after a while. They need to be examined.

To help clarify, we offered this story.

A young couple are preparing their first roast beef. The new bride takes the roast cuts an inch off the end, puts the remainder in the roasting pan with the slice at the side and prepares it for the oven. The new husband asks, “Why do you cut the end off the roast?” New wife replies that her mother does it and that is how she learned.

On next visiting mother, son-in-law asks about the roast trimming. Her reply is that yes she always does it that way and her mother taught her that way.

A visit to grandmother clarifies everything. “Yes I used to do that. When we first came here from the old country, I had only a small roasting pan and the neighborhood butcher was a stubborn old guy who would only make roasts a single size. That size was about an inch too long for my pan so I cut the end off.”

People are generally pretty good at killing off obsolete products and some legacy systems. Sometimes though, procedures and thought processes are harder.

Every procedure that was ever designed was made to work in a particular context. If the context changes, consider amending the procedure.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

Follow on Twitter @DonShaughnessy

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