By Michael Gunther

I was talking with my bookkeeper friend Debbie, and she told me a story about one of her clients. This client performed some laborious accounting processes, like completing multiple forms to write one check, which only worsened an already time-consuming task.

When she asked the business owner why this system was necessary, he looked puzzled and replied that he wasn’t sure, since a former employee instituted the process many years ago. She then asked if he ever referred back to any of the information on the forms, and he said no. That’s all it took for him to realize that there really was no purpose for the forms, and he ended the process on the spot. It was one of those systems that they kept simply because they always did it that way.

This reminded me of the story of a family’s turkey tradition at Thanksgiving. A little girl was watching her mom cut off the turkey legs and wings prior to putting the turkey in the oven to cook. The little girl asked her mom why she cut off the wings and legs, and the mom replied that it was a family tradition and it was the way her mother had always cooked the turkey.

The curious little girl then asked her grandma about this family tradition. “Why do we cut off the turkey’s legs and wings before we cook it?” The grandma told her it was a family tradition that her mother had started many years ago.

Still not satisfied with these answers, the little girl approached her frail great-grandma to ask her about this mysterious turkey carving tradition. As the family matriarch listened to the child’s question, a wide smile spread on her face and she began to giggle. “There wasn’t really much meaning to this tradition,” she told the little girl. “It started because many years ago, my oven wasn’t large enough to hold the turkey, so I had to cut off the legs and wings in order to make it fit in my tiny oven.”

This story makes me ponder all the traditions or processes that we may have within our businesses – those that were created out of necessity years ago, but may no longer be relevant or needed today.

You should encourage your team to question the ‘why’ of the processes and systems you have in place at your organization. Are they all really needed? Are they relevant to completing a task? Is there a more efficient or effective method that could be deployed instead? If the process was put in place to remedy an issue, does that issue still exist?

I bet you’ll be amazed at what tools, processes, systems or reports within your organization may no longer be relevant. We tend to do things that have always been done without considering why we’re even doing them.

Bottom Line

Don’t follow the ‘turkey carving’ traditions methodology in your business. Encourage your team to ask the ‘why’ question with everything they do. You and your team will discover processes and systems that might need to end or be refined in favor of new or more efficient ways of doing things.

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