Jigsaw LLC


Challenge your rituals – Part I

— Culture & Observations —

I ran into a blog post about rituals last week and it was just enough to get my mind going – thinking about the things that I do in my personal life and the things that are part of our culture here at work that are …well, maybe not as necessary as we might think they are. It reminded me of a story – an old wives tale perhaps – of a young woman that cuts the ends off the ham as she prepares it to go into the oven for Easter dinner.

“Mommy,” the daughter asks, “why do you cut the ends off the ham?”
“Hmm, I don’t know sweetheart– I do it because that’s what my mom did. Let’s ask your grandma.”
“Mom, why did you cut the ends off of your ham?”
After some thought she said, “Well, I don’t really know, my mother always did that. Let’s ask your Grandmother.”
“Mother, why did you cut the ends of the ham?” “Because it didn’t fit in my pan,” she says.

Many of our processes, rituals perhaps, were born out of necessity at one point – but what about now?

My thoughts brought me to consider our weekly agency status meeting – here we just call it “Status” – with a capital S.  We haven’t had Status in months (gasp!) And here’s the crazy part: no one has died (well, not yet anyway).

But we’re not universally comfortable with its absence. There are ongoing discussions about implementing it again – but always with some hesitation. Is our Status the equivalent of cutting off the ends of the ham? I think it might be time for us to dust off our Business Process Management hats so that we can really be sure of what we should do.  Business Process Management (BPM) is a company’s ongoing (or semi-annual at least) equivalent to closet-cleaning, and it allows us to shed unnecessary process rituals in favor of newer, more efficient processes and (ideally) increased nimbleness.

I’m not talking about putting all the day-to-day work on hold and transforming ourselves into some sort of process scientists, with lab coats and safety glasses, punching numbers into gigantic IBMs to generate productivity graphs. Rather just a couple of hours at least of concentrated effort on process optimization in the interest of keeping things fresh.

It’s easy to get complacent and comfortable, no doubt! Questioning our rituals requires us to fight the rather trusted notion that if it isn’t broken, there is no need to fix it. And true, eventually things do break down and they are replaced by things that work better out of necessity. But a better/faster way can be discovered as soon as we are open to it if we push ourselves to move ahead for the sake of innovation – way before the necessity is actually realized.

And it’s not that hard. Even just a little BPM can go a long way to keep an organization from getting stuck in the ways of previous generations – or even in the ways of last month. Come back tomorrow for the second half of this post. I’ll share a quick and easy method for examining your business processes so that you can dedicate the most energy on the rituals that have meaning to your organization and do away with those that don’t.

You can read Challenge your rituals Part II here.

Posted by Jigsaw