Friday, April 7, 2017

Why Do We Do It This Way?

A good friend recently told me the following story: 

There was a young married couple, and the wife wanted to impress her new husband with a home cooked meal.  He liked ham, so she prepared a ham the same way that she had seen her own mother prepare it countless times over the years.  Her husband walked into the kitchen and noticed that she cut off the end of the ham before placing it in a pan and into the oven.  He asked her, “Why did you cut off the end of the ham?”  She paused, somewhat perplexed.  She responded, “Well, that’s what my mother always did.”  While her husband did not think anything more of it, she found herself pondering the same question. 

The young bride phoned her mother and asked her, “Mom, when you prepare ham, why do you always cut off the end before baking it?”  Her mother was similarly perplexed and responded, “Well, that’s what my mother always did, so I did it, too.”  By this time, the young lady was determined to get to the bottom of this conundrum.  She phoned her grandmother, certain that her sage wisdom would shine a light on this mystery.

The matriarch of the family was glad to hear from her granddaughter and listened intently while she explained her source of confusion about the ham.  After the question was posed, the grandmother laughed to herself.  She then responded, “Honey, the reason I cut off the end of the ham was simply because this was the only way it would fit into my small pan.”

Are there lessons for educators here?  Absolutely!  Effective business leaders will tell you that the seven most dangerous words in business are, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”  To be fair, sometimes there are perfectly good reasons for doing business a certain way for years, decades, or even centuries.  Sometimes, it simply works.  However, there is nothing wrong (and often everything right) with questioning, “Why do we do it this way?”  In fact, we grow in our profession by asking this very question.  Next time something seems a bit peculiar to you, I challenge you to dig a little deeper.  Does the tried and true method yield results, or is it just cutting off some perfectly good ham?