Because we've always done it that way

November 27, 2007


How many times have you heard (or said, or thought) that?

I’m saying it to myself right now. See, I am in the process of moving. The last time I moved was 1999. We had a 60-day lapse in between closings on our homes back then and had to go into a rental. That involves moving twice in the course of two months.

I’m doing it again. This time with a 6-week lapse. A family of five & a household with eight years worth of ‘stuff.’ I’m asking myself why.

Not WHY in the ‘Sponge-Bob Squarepants to Patrick Starfish-way (the one when their balloon bursts) but WHY in the ‘Tom Hanks-to-Wilson the Volleyball-way (when their sail breaks off their homemade lifeboat). You know, I DON’T KNOW WHY!!!

Please tell me you do that too. Exhausted, do you look at yourself in the mirror and say WHY? It’s amusing because it’s mostly done after you’ve already done whatever it is you’ve always done stupidly. “Why didn’t I just…Why do I always…WHY?

Here’s an old story I’m sure you’ve read before…(via businessballs.com)

Apparently this is based on a true incident. A quality management consultant was visiting a small and somewhat antiquated English manufacturing company, to advise on improving general operating efficiency. The advisor was reviewing a particular daily report which dealt with aspects of productivity, absentee rates, machine failure, down-time, etc. The report was completed manually onto a photocopied proforma that was several generations away from the original master-copy, so its headings and descriptions were quite difficult to understand. The photocopied forms were particularly fuzzy at the top-right corner, where a small box had a heading that was not clear at all. The advisor was interested to note that the figure ‘0’ had been written in every daily report for the past year. On questioning the members of staff who completed the report, they told him that they always put a zero in that box, and when he asked them why they looked at each other blankly. “Hmmm.., I’m not sure about that,” they each said, “I guess we’ve just always done it that way.”

Intrigued, the consultant visited the archives to see if he could find a clearer form, to discover what was originally being reported and whether it actually held any significance. When he found the old reports, he saw that the zero return had continued uninterrupted for as far back as the records extended – at least the past thirty years – but none of the forms was any clearer than those presently in use. A little frustrated, he packed away the old papers and turned to leave the room, but something caught his eye. In another box he noticed a folder, promisingly titled ‘master forms’. Sure enough inside it he found the original daily report proforma master-copy, in pristine condition. In the top right corner was the mysterious box, with the heading clearly shown …… ‘Number of Air Raids Today’.

Yup. Patterns are a scary thing.

Make two columns and keep track of your patterns over the next week. Label one side ‘innovative’ and one side ‘stupid’ and see if you can break some unproductive, recurring, unoriginal habits. I’m going to give it a go.

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com/ Karyn Romeis

    Can I reciprocate with another allegedly true story?

    A newly married couple had invited the wife’s parents for dinner. The husband was proudly watching his new wife prepare a roast dinner. Before placing the joint into the roasting dish, she lopped a slice off the end, and placed it on top of the roast. Puzzled the young man asked why she did that. he had been well-schooled and carefully avoided saying “My mother never did it like that.”

    The wife explained that that was what one did: her mother had always done it that way. Over dinner, the young man asked his mother-in-law during the meal about this unusual practice. She thought about it for a moment and then explained that that was the way her own mother had always done roasts.

    Tactfully, the young man explained that he had never seen it done that way before and was curious about it.

    Fortunately, the grandmother was still hale and hearty, so she decided to ask her when they had tea together later that week. The grandmother looked blank when she heard the question. The mother-in-law went to great lengths to remind her how she had always done a roast for Sunday lunch, and had always lopped a slice off the end and placed it on top of the joint. Light dawned on the old lady’s face.

    “Ah!” she explained, “I had five children and a small oven. The only way I could fit a big enough joint into the roasting pan was to cut a piece off the end.”

    And there they were, two generations later, with larger ovens and smaller joints, still cutting the end off the roast, because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”

    The last cry of a dying organisation: “because that’s the way we’ve always done it!”

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com/ Karyn Romeis

    Can I reciprocate with another allegedly true story?

    A newly married couple had invited the wife’s parents for dinner. The husband was proudly watching his new wife prepare a roast dinner. Before placing the joint into the roasting dish, she lopped a slice off the end, and placed it on top of the roast. Puzzled the young man asked why she did that. he had been well-schooled and carefully avoided saying “My mother never did it like that.”

    The wife explained that that was what one did: her mother had always done it that way. Over dinner, the young man asked his mother-in-law during the meal about this unusual practice. She thought about it for a moment and then explained that that was the way her own mother had always done roasts.

    Tactfully, the young man explained that he had never seen it done that way before and was curious about it.

    Fortunately, the grandmother was still hale and hearty, so she decided to ask her when they had tea together later that week. The grandmother looked blank when she heard the question. The mother-in-law went to great lengths to remind her how she had always done a roast for Sunday lunch, and had always lopped a slice off the end and placed it on top of the joint. Light dawned on the old lady’s face.

    “Ah!” she explained, “I had five children and a small oven. The only way I could fit a big enough joint into the roasting pan was to cut a piece off the end.”

    And there they were, two generations later, with larger ovens and smaller joints, still cutting the end off the roast, because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”

    The last cry of a dying organisation: “because that’s the way we’ve always done it!”

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com Karyn Romeis

    Can I reciprocate with another allegedly true story?

    A newly married couple had invited the wife’s parents for dinner. The husband was proudly watching his new wife prepare a roast dinner. Before placing the joint into the roasting dish, she lopped a slice off the end, and placed it on top of the roast. Puzzled the young man asked why she did that. he had been well-schooled and carefully avoided saying “My mother never did it like that.”

    The wife explained that that was what one did: her mother had always done it that way. Over dinner, the young man asked his mother-in-law during the meal about this unusual practice. She thought about it for a moment and then explained that that was the way her own mother had always done roasts.

    Tactfully, the young man explained that he had never seen it done that way before and was curious about it.

    Fortunately, the grandmother was still hale and hearty, so she decided to ask her when they had tea together later that week. The grandmother looked blank when she heard the question. The mother-in-law went to great lengths to remind her how she had always done a roast for Sunday lunch, and had always lopped a slice off the end and placed it on top of the joint. Light dawned on the old lady’s face.

    “Ah!” she explained, “I had five children and a small oven. The only way I could fit a big enough joint into the roasting pan was to cut a piece off the end.”

    And there they were, two generations later, with larger ovens and smaller joints, still cutting the end off the roast, because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”

    The last cry of a dying organisation: “because that’s the way we’ve always done it!”

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Ha! What a riot you are!!!

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Ha! What a riot you are!!!

Previous post:

Next post: