Wednesday, April 9, 2014

We've Always Done It This Way

By Angela Childs

I saw this picture posted in LinkedIn.  “The most dangerous phrase in the language is “we’ve always done it this way.”  In this tiny picture you can’t tell but the quote is attributed to Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.  She was a US Naval Officer, serving from 1943 to 1986, an early computer programmer, and the first to say, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission” - which I may have used a time or two.

She also said “You manage things, you lead people.  We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership.”  

Challenging the status quo is all leadership.  Not change for change’s sake but thoughtful steps toward the future, whether they be big or small.

We help our clients do this, challenge how they work, and we also turn that focus inward and examining how we do things.  Periodically we get a team together and divvy up IOS’s back-office functions, those non-revenue/non-customer focused activities that we have to do to keep the business running and we observe.  We watch step by step and ask “why that way”, “why then”, “why by that person”.  Then we automate what can be automated and streamline where we can remove bottlenecks.  It’s not an indictment of a person or process, it’s growth.  Things change, tasks creep into processes, you get duplication of efforts over time, and the people on the ground, so to speak, are unaware of or unable to implement technology, can’t effect cross-department change, and don’t have the view of the big picture company wide.  

They’re working “in the business” and following the lead from the top.  From the top, you can learn if there’s technology to benefit the business, you can see where there are duplication of efforts, and you can change how departments work together.  You just have to decide to make it a priority.

The April issue of Inc. has an article 35 Great Questions listing questions suggested by business leaders that you should ask to move your company forward.   Danny Meyer offers “How can we become the company that would put us out of business?”    Chip Conley poses “What counts that we are not counting?”   From Gary Hamel, “Are we changing as fast as the world around us?”  All of these call for introspection and for challenging the status quo.

The eye rolling and sighs that follow “We’ve always done it this way” are completely understandable at the process level, but from the top?    That’s where we need to replace management with leadership.

Next time you hear “we’ve always done it this way” and get ready to cringe, roll your eyes, sigh, whatever the impulse, just give us a call.

Go ahead, give us your biggest problem.

With offices in five states, more than 500 installations and document scanning facilities that convert over five million pages a month IOS knows what it takes to solve your document challenges.

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