We're all creatures of habit. When something we do seems to work well, it eventually becomes an unconscious habit. Sometimes that's good-sometimes it's not. With the onset of a new year and a recovering economy, perhaps it's a perfect time to take a look at some of the tactics used to generate business, the processes in place to reach and serve the customer and the philosophies by which internal customers-our employees-are recruited and treated. Review each of these areas and then ask yourself: Why? Why am I doing this, this way?
Ann Hambly, CEO of Prudential Asset Resources tells a simple story to make the point of why it's important to occasionally reflect on what we're doing and ask, "why?".
A young woman, who while watching her mother prepare a ham for holiday cooking, asks, "Mom, why do you always cut the ham off at both ends?" "Well," the mother replied, "I've never given much thought as to why; that's just what my mother always did because it's what her mother did."
"So, there's no particular reason for doing that?" the daughter asked. After pausing for a moment the mother added, "I tell you what, your grandmother will be here soon. Why don't you ask her?"
When the grandmother arrived, the young woman said, "Grandmother, why did you and your mother always cut the ham off at both ends before baking it? Does it have something to do with the way it cooks?" "Oh, no," replied the grandmother. "We've just always cut off a little of both ends of the ham so it would fit in the pan."
Unfortunately, we all fall into the trap of doing certain things the same way year after year. Not necessarily for any specific reason, but because we've always done it that way. By failing to ever ask why, we miss the possibility that there may be a better way. Here are some tips for examining why and challenging yourself to some potential new thinking:
- Ask a relatively new employee why they think a particular process was established? If they can't give a good reason, perhaps there isn't one. Perhaps it's time to review how the process really works and how it might be improved.
- Ask yourself why you always pull together the same people to set goals? Maybe some fresh faces from different parts of the company would see things that the regulars don't.
- Ask why you follow the same hiring process year after year. Have you ever benchmarked the job? Are you sure the job criteria is all about education and experience and have you tried competency testing or behavioral interviewing?
- Ask why your whole organization isn't focused on marketing. Is it because you've confused sales with marketing?
- Ask why your collections fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Could making those calls a priority increase your current cash flow?
- Ask why you are still selling that old product that merely takes up inventory space.
- Ask why your company letterhead and brochures still look like they did ten years ago. Does your dated image have a subliminal effect on your bottom line?
- Ask why your financials are two or more months behind because you allow your CPA to convince you that's normal.
- Ask why you have continued to let that one negative employee continue to demoralize the rest of the team.
These are just a few of the questions I've had to ask clients over the years. While they may not seem critical, they are exactly the kind of questions that eventually lead to uncovering major problems which stand in the way of growth.
Whether you are responsible for the whole company, an area of the company, or your own individual results, it can be very enlightening to take a look at what you are doing and ask, "why," to see if it's hindering or fostering important growth.