Why Are We Doing That?

I drive past a school on my way to work. The school zone lights flash and the speed limit is 15. This is good. I prefer not to have any small children run over. However, during spring break, the school was not open. Still, the lights flashed and we drivers dutifully tooled along at 15 mph.

I started to think about why we were doing that. But, that was the wrong question. We drivers were going 15 mph because it was the law. We had to. The real question was why the sign was still flashing?

Well, because it’s programmed for Monday-Friday during the school year. That’s why. No one changed it, just because school wasn’t in session.

The next week at work we (meaning my department) spent 2 full days (9 people at a time) stuffing envelopes that contained individualized information for each manager. Back in the dark ages, this was the only way the managers could get this particular tidbit of information. But now, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, this exact same information is available to each manager who bothers to log on and enter their password.

Why were we stuffing envelopes? Because we do every year at this time. Like the flashing school lights, they should have been turned off when the situation changed. But they weren’t. We’ve always done it, so dang it, we’re going to keep doing it!

And we tool along at 15 mph rather than saying, “Hey, circumstances have changed. No one is going to get run over! My car is capable of going 45 mph, let’s do it!”

What is your company still doing that they really should give up?

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9 thoughts on “Why Are We Doing That?

  1. Dear Evil:

    As a provider of web-based employee and manager self-service applications – we see this all the time. Companies continue to send out paper rather than sending out an email with a login link embedded.

    I like to think of it as “enabling”.

    I do recommend a transition period between all paper and all web – but it should be limited.

    Tom O’B

  2. Nope. Keep using paper. It’s the only way I’m ever going to have a pension. (Said the now-laid-off former employee of not-so-big anymore paper company.)

  3. We are moving from paper personnel files to electronic over the summer and I am so glad that we are mandated to manifest and box up each and every record and ship away. It is not our option to keep them on site – If it was, we would never get away from the paper!

  4. Ditto to Tom O’B

    Sending out paper when folks have access to the web is a primo example of organizational co-dependency at its finest!

    I am thinking about inserting little clues in emails, and the 14th caller gets a prize – a new PC for the home!

    robert edward cenek, RODP
    Uncommon Commentary on the World of Work

  5. Not just paper/electronic repetition. I’ve seen companies that ask team members to fill up the same information in multiple formats, simply because different senior people “like” to see them that way, each one with his/her own preference. And it continues to be done that way, because, its always been done that way!

  6. We just instituted a “records retention” policy dictating that any emails of more than passing interest (i.e. “the meeting has been changed from room 126 to room 204”) must be printed out and filed for safe keeping.

    Apparently, nobody here has heard of “backup.”

  7. I encourage clients to make a “To Stop” list and use it to prune unproductive activities.

  8. Apu–that is so like my company. The funny thing is, no one actually asks the Sr. Management if they are okay with getting information in a different format–they just assume that because we’ve done it that way we must do it that way forever.

    It’s a strange culture.

    Dean Dad–that made me laugh out loud.

    Wally–come work for my company. I have a huge stop list.

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