As you’ve probably come to realize, I think there are a lot of things that are broken in the business world that we just keep doing because, “that’s the way things have always been done.” From messed up meetings to hiring gone wrong, there’s a lot to choose from but for me, the real failure comes when we use history as a reason to continue doing something that we know is not working. “That’s the way things have always been done” can take a long walk off a short pier.
I grew up in a rather anecdotal time. I grew up when people said things like, “stats? You can make stats say whatever you want” and people just nodded and continued on. I grew up in a time where you couldn’t go to the Internet and ask it a question. And you definitely couldn’t ask your phone. Instead, you had to ask people and after years of working in every level of management, here’s what I’ve learned…people are full of shit.
Not ALL people. Some people are wrong. Others are misguided. But a lot of people, some of the most successful people, are full of shit. These are the people that won’t say, “I don’t know” and haven’t tried to better themselves in any way because, “they’re doing just fine thank you.”
That era, the era of trusting people just because they say so, is over. We’ve moved into an era of numbers and facts. Sure, there are still millions of people spouting off on social media about what works and what doesn’t. There are still stupid people. There are still wrong people. And not surprisingly, there are still a lot of people that are full of shit. But now we live in a time where you can kind of call them on it. We live in an era where I can say, “no…that’s not the answer…the answer is X…I checked…several sources.” So with that in mind, why do we still use “that’s the way things have always been done” as any indicator of what we should be doing?
Now we do some things the same way we’ve done them for years because they work. We know they work because we’ve seen the results. We’ve seen that data. We get it. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about refusing to consider change, solely based on fear, laziness or nostalgia. I can do without that.
So what? So who’s responsibility is it to change things when they notice something should change? Is it the leadership? Is it those people that are witness to the vision of the business as well as the actions and results of their teams? Probably. Is it managers? Is it the people who get feedback from their teams that something isn’t working or who see results that are less than equal to the sum of their parts? Maybe. Is it workers? Is it those people that are carrying out these ridiculous orders and seeing first hand that they don’t work? Sure. But isn’t that everybody? YES!
That’s the point. Every single person who sees that something is wrong and doesn’t do anything about it is the worst. I’m not even talking about BIG things. I’m talking about the people that walk past a piece of trash…over and over again…because they didn’t put it there. I’m talking about the people that watch a mistake in progress and know that it’s a mistake. THOSE people need to go.
We know, in general, what works and what doesn’t. We know that most of the things that business owners and managers told us for decades were made up and upon closer inspection, are bullshit. We’ve got data, so much data, that tells us what people think, what people do, what works and what doesn’t. Not using that data is like refusing to believe in evolution because “that’s not how we’ve always done things.”
“But Mike…I’m just a toothless wheel, spinning freely and ineffectually in the cog of business…even me?”
Yes. Even you. What you can do, immediately, is to start holding everyone accountable. But before you tell me that Jim in accounting doesn’t refill the water pitcher and Sally from HR refuses to recycle remember, “snitches get stiches.” Rather than starting out by telling everyone what they’re doing wrong, remember the words of the great philosopher Socrates who said, “you do you.”
Start by taking a look at what you’re doing every day. Is any of it PURELY out of fear, laziness or nostalgia? Yeah. Stop that.