When I first started out in my career, I heard a story that I continue to retell today. Of course, I have tweaked it as I have told it through the decades, but it offers an invaluable lesson.
There was once this little girl who was watching her mother make a Roast. As her mother prepared the Roast, she cut off both ends of the roast, and then began to season it.
The little girl asked her mother… “Why do you cut off the ends of the Roast?”
Her mother replied, “Because that is the way my own mother did it. I think it has something to do with allowing the juices to circulate and encrust the roast, so that the seasonings are absorbed better” The little girl thought about it and said… “That makes sense… I think” The mother then reminded the little girl that her Grandmother would be at tonight’s dinner… so she should ask her”
So that night, at Dinner, the little girl’s grandma was there to enjoy the feast. The little girl approached her grandmother and asked “Grandma… Why do you cut off the ends of a Roast when you make it?”
Her Grandmother smiled and said… “Well, that’s the way my Mother, your Great Grandma did it.”
“But why?” asked the little girl.
“I think it has something to do with the way it cooks. Allows more air to penetrate it, thus making it more tender on the inside. It’s a wonderful recipe, isn’t it?”
As the little girl grew older, she moved out of her house and got her own apartment. In order to celebrate, she invited her Great Grandmother, who was now over 100 years old, over for Dinner. She would make her Great Grandmother’s Roast.
When she served the Roast to her Great Grandmother, her Great Grandmother asked the girl “Why did you cut the ends of the Roast off. That’s the best part!”
The girl, now very confused, said “Mom and Grandma told me that’s how you did it. They were simply following you and what they saw. So, I did the same thing.”
The Great Grandmother chuckled and could not stop laughing… she said, “Silly Girl, I cut the ends of the roast off… because it would not fit into the only pan I had!”
The lesson: It never hurts to ask the question “Why?”
In life, people do things because that is the way it has always been done. Ask Why? There could be a legitimate reason for it.
In Business, ask why things are done certain ways. There might be newer innovations that can do things better. Newer tools. Maybe not. But if you don’t ask why… you will never know or improve.
In Government… always ask Why! Most of the time it’s because someone is making lots of money doing it one way… when there are better ways to do it. Follow the Money in politics and government… and you will soon get the real reason…. Why… things are done the way they are.
It takes common sense to ask “Why” and real courage to do things differently… when doing things, the way they always have been done… no longer works or makes any sense.