I asked my team today about a policy and it just so happened the CEO of my company overheard my question. This lead to a conversation about why we had the policy in the first place. The simple answer to the question was “I was always told that this was the policy”. So instead of letting the issue go, the CEO answered “but why? Why is this the Policy” and that lead to the story of the two crock-pots.
I’m paraphrasing from memory here, but here’s the basic story- A woman had a recipe for roast and her recipe included cooking the roast in two crock-pots. When asked about why she used two crock-pots, the woman replied “That’s the way my mother always did it”. One day she was curious and asked her mother why she used two crock-pots for the recipe. “well”, the mother replied “the crock-pots I had were too small and I couldn’t fit the roast into just one of them”. The woman’s crock-pots were larger than her mother’s and she could fit the roast into one crock-pot.
After this story was told, which basically causes one to think and ask “why” or “what is the root cause”, our team ended up finding out what the root cause was, took action, and ultimately changed the policy.
It’s always important to ask “why” whenever approaching a policy or even a system. Why is this policy in place? Why are you using this system? Once you find out why, you may be surprised. The reason may be something arbitrary or out-dated. Maybe someone long ago decided on a whim that what they thought was important is something that everyone should do. You may also find the opposite, where a policy or system is in place, because of an important reason you didn’t realize. Either way it’s good to know the root of these things.
More important than asking “why” is taking action if action is needed once you find out “why”. In our case we found out the “why” was because of a system issue and a process issue. We found that by talking through the process we could make changes to improve the policy. However we needed to fix an issue with our system – which we accomplished by creating a work around. Sometimes you have to be creative in order to make a change.
Once you find a problem work at it until it gets resolved. This is how great companies and great systems are created.
Thanks for reading!