4 Ways to Reinvent and Rethink Your Business
One day a mother was preparing to put a pot roast in the oven as her teenage daughter sat nearby and watched. She placed the vegetables and some water in the bottom of the roasting pan. Just before she put the roast into the pan, she cut about 1 inch of meat from each end of the roast. The daughter, eager to learn how to cook herself, asked, “Mom, why do you cut the ends off of the roast?” The mother replied, “I don’t really know, my mother always did it, so I do it too.” This answer wasn’t good enough for the daughter, so she gave Grandma a ring. ”Grandma, when you cook a pot roast, why do you cut the ends off before putting it in the pan?” ”I don’t know,” said Grandma. ”My mother always did it, so I do it too.” Luckily for all, Great Grandma was still around and smart as ever. ”Great-Grandma, I hear that when grandma was growing up, you always cut the ends off before putting a pot roast in the pan. Why?” Great Grandma began to laugh heartily. ”Because, she said, my pan was too small.”
How many of us are running our businesses like these women made roast? Doing what we always did (or what the guy before us always did) and solving problems that no longer exist? Here are a few easy ways to stop the insanity and rethink your business.
1. Ask Why
You should be able to identify a clear business reason for every policy and procedure. You should understand the desired outcome and be able to access its effectiveness. Why are we putting a fax cover sheet on our TPS reports? Why are we doing TPS reports at all? Who does it help, how does it improve productivity or customer satisfaction? Are the results worth the effort? Asking why is not an insult to the person who instituted the idea. In fact, there may have been very good reasons for it, but things change and you must understand the impact of the procedure today. A good place to start is with weekly reports and weekly meetings. Are you getting value from them? Do they result in a clear action plan or are you doing them just because its something that companies do? If so, this is a great place to start rethinking. (There’s no law that says you have to have a weekly meeting. I looked it up.)
2. Encourage Constructive Disagreement
Does every member of your team feel empowered to question how things are done? If not, you are wasting your company’s most valuable asset. The best ideas don’t always come from the most senior managers or even from the impacted department. If you are serious about rethinking your business, you will develop a way for employees to make suggestions and ask questions. You’ll actively encourage them to do so and, most importantly act on those suggestions from time to time. When people see that their input is making a difference, they’ll become more candid and more open to change themselves.
3. Don’t Penalize the Whole Class When One Person Acts Up
Hubspot has an amazing presentation on company culture. One thing that stands out is their policy for almost everything, “Use Good Judgement.” Vacation policy? Use good judgement. Travel policy? Use good judgement. Work form home policy? Use good judgment. Certainly this won’t work in every case, but it is brilliant in its simplicity and implied trust. It turns out that if you treat people like thoughtful adults, rather than unruly school children, they’ll generally behave that way and if they don’t, you don’t want them working for you anyway. (Bloomberg BNA went the other way, threatening to take snacks away from everyone because a few employees were abusing the pantry.)
4. Feel Free to Fail
Truly rethinking your business is fraught with peril. Sometimes you have to break things in order to make them work better. Many of us continue to cut the ends off the pot roast, so to speak, because we’re simply afraid of what might happen if we just stopped. Motivational speaker Denis Waitley, put it well when he said, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
So, take a minute to step away from the pot roast. Don’t let your company’s memory hold you back. Instead let your vision drive you forward.