There is one statement, or reason, that completely stifles progress, growth, and success. It is a statement that is said often without regard to what it encourages. This statement is mentioned often in leadership meetings, group meetings, individual meetings, etc. There is one question that usually leads to this statement or reason: “Why?”; “Why are we doing this?” or “Why do we do things this way?” The statement, or reason, that usually accompanies this question: “Because it’s the way we’ve always done things.”
People look for meaning and purpose to why they are doing something. The last thing that provides these two characteristics is the statement, “Because it’s the way we’ve always done it.” This provides absolutely no context, meaning, or purpose for why something is done. I am sure you can think of many examples in our society where this is the answer to, “Why are we doing this?” There are multiple repercussions when answering, “Because it’s the way we’ve always done it.”
Firstly, this reason stifles progress. Just because it has always been done a certain way doesn’t make it the right way of doing it. I believe it is our job as leaders and learners to reflect and make changes to processes or policies to encourage growth and effectiveness. If a policy or procedure is in place because it has always been there, we need to question the reason for that policy or procedure. We may find that our progress is being stifled because of something that has never been questioned.
Secondly, this reason destroys purpose and meaning. If you want someone to do something, they will need a reason to buy into it. Telling them that, “It has always been done this way,” will not establish meaning and purpose. In fact, it will show weakness in the company or organization. Again, it goes back to, just because it has always been done that way doesn’t make it the right or most effective way of doing things. If you want a well oiled machine, every policy and procedure needs to have context and meaning. If you find yourself answering “Why are we doing things this way?”, or “Why do we have this procedure or policy?” with, “That’s how it has always been”, then that policy or procedure should be carefully examined for its purpose, meaning, and use.
Thirdly, this reason shows a lack of growth. Growth comes from reflection and applying what is learned through reflection. To say, “It’s always been done this way,” shows a lack of a willingness to learn and grow. Thus, the company or organization is stagnant, stale, and not moving forward. How many policies and procedures are being followed that stifles growth all because “It’s always been done this way”? Every company, organization, leader, and individual should always look for ways to grow, to get better, to show positive change. Don’t fall for the destructive reason of, “This is what we do, because it’s always been done this way.”
- Question everything. Not in a divisive or destructive way, but rather to gain understanding, meaning, and purpose. If you are left with, “It’s always been done this way,” ask yourself if it’s helping or hindering progress. Is it encouraging an environment of growth? If not, scrap it or revise it.
- Give meaning and purpose for everything you do. As a father, I find myself telling my children, “Because I said so.” This is just as bad as, “Because we’ve always done it this way.” We look for easy ways to answer difficult questions. “Why?” is not any easy question to answer, unless we have a specific and meaningful answer already created. Think carefully about the reason for why things are done a certain way. If they have no meaning or purpose for why they are done that way, either determine its purpose or meaning, change it to have purpose and meaning, or get rid of it.
- Laziness hinders productivity. As I mentioned earlier, people want meaning and purpose behind why they are doing what they are told to do. If your answer to your team involves, “It’s always been done this way,” then don’t expect your team to buy-in to what you are wanting them to do and produce high levels of productivity..
- Make sure your team understands the “Why”. The “Why” is the most important aspect in what you do. The “Why” gives purpose, meaning, guidance, and structure for your team. It also gives purpose, meaning, guidance, and structure for you. Why are you doing what you do? If you answer, “Because it’s what I have always done,” then you are hindering yourself from being better than you are.
In all things, keep open communication and perspective when reviewing policies and procedures. If something doesn’t belong, don’t keep it just because. Change it or get rid of it. Remember, as leaders, it is our job to provide meaning and purpose to the “Why”. Do not get stuck in the rut of, “That’s always how it’s been done.” Break out of that cycle and make your company, your organization, your marriage, your work, your life, your etc. GREAT!