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By Jan Bolick Jan Bolick is Founder and President of Business Class Inc which specializes in working with leaders to build positive, productive, results oriented service culture.

Simple Question. New Ending.

By Jan Bolick Posted December 7, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Tis the season for strategic planning and holiday cooking – a perfect time to share this story as a reminder that a simple question can change the way we do business. Or the way we cook a ham.

A year or so ago, Terry Hamlet, President of S.H. Basnight & Sons, and I were working on a project, looking for a way to get different results.

As we explored, she recalled the day her mother, Dot Hogan Basnight was showing her how to cook a ham. One of the steps was to cut the end off of the ham before putting it in the pan.

Terry asked, “Why do we do that?”

Her mother said, “I’m not sure. That’s just the way my mother did it.”

So Terry went to ask her Grandmother the reason for cutting off the end of the ham.

Grandma’s response?

“Because it didn’t fit in the pan.”

Apparently Mrs. Basnight didn’t have a bigger pan, so making the ham smaller was a good solution at the time. One that became standard procedure for many years – even when there were smaller hams and larger pans in the kitchen.

Terry’s simple question changed the way her family cooked a ham. And led to a new ending for the end of the ham.

Now Terry and I weren’t cooking a ham that day, but the question was important because we needed a different ending. Asking “why do we do it that way?” led us to several possibilities for new and improved endings.

I share this with you because many people stop asking “why” after learning over time that the answer is usually something like “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”
Even sadder – many people ignore problems and stop looking for better ways of doing things because – well – why bother?

They stay stuck in a jam. Or continue to jam a ham in a pan. Or maybe even cut off something useful for no good reason.

Whatever it is that takes too long. Or costs too much. Or makes people mad. Or makes people quit. What if we stop and ask or welcome the question, “Why do we do it that way?
If we then push past typical answers, we may very well discover a new and improved ending.

Do you have a similar story to share? About a time you or someone else asked “Why do we do it that way?” and the answer revealed a new, more efficient, more cost effective way of doing things? Please share your story in the Comments section below or send an email to Jan@chapelboro.com.

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