Baked HamPosted: August 2, 2012
The story has made the rounds for years. Basically, every time a woman bakes ham for her family, she trims a sizable amount off and bakes it in a separate pan.
When her husband (finally) asks about her strange process, she says “That’s how you bake a ham. That’s how my mom did it.” A call to mom reveals that her mom baked ham the same way. The couple calls grandma to ask why baking a ham requires two pans. The answer: “I never had a pan big enough to cook a whole ham!”
This story has become my code for processes that could have changed for the better, but didn’t because “… that’s how we’ve always done it.”
One classic baked ham is the QWERTY keyboard. This common layout for keyboards was patented in 1878 by C.L Sholes. Sholes placed common pairs of letters (th, st, etc.) in different type-bars in order to prevent the machine from jamming. The layout was not intended to slow down typists, but it was based on the internal mechanisms at the time.
In the early 1930′s Dr. August Dvorak redesigned the keyboard so all of the vowels and the five most commonly used consonants were arranged on the home row. Although the design required a typist to alternate hands to type most words, with the Dvorak keyboard, a person could type approximately 400 of the English language’s most common words just by using the keys of the home row. Dvorak spent years trying to prove his design was better. To no avail. He later said “Changing the keyboard format is like proposing to reverse the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, discard every moral principle, and ridicule motherhood.”
Over the years I have collected baked ham examples from businesses. Why is that desk blocking that door? “Oh, that’s always been there” (turns out it placed there by a mover when the business moved in). Why do you mail a CD with this month’s sales figures to the other offices? “We have always done it that way. I guess we could email it… “
So take a look at your day-to-day processes. Do you have baked ham? Is there something you do just because “That’s how we’ve always done it?”
Change just to change is not good. But C.L. Sholes might be amused that the keyboard layout he designed over 130 years ago is used on something as sophisticated as today’s smartphones. Imagine what he would have done with “a bigger pan.”
Shameless self promotion: We’re good at making sure your business has the right pan.