Ham Ends

Category: Processes Published on Sep 07 2016

You may have heard this story:


One year a young girl helps her mother to prepare the Easter dinner. As they are prepping the ham, the girl asks her mother: “Mom, why do you cut the ends off of the ham?”


The mother replies: “I don’t really know. This is the way my mother did it and I never thought to ask. Let’s go ask Grandma.”

When asked, Grandma replies: “Hmmm. I guess it’s just the way that my mother did it.”


So off the girl and her mother went to ask Great-Grandma. She answered: “Oh, I always cut the ends off of the ham because I didn’t have a pan large enough to hold the ham.”


In families, we have traditions that are handed down from generation to generation. Some of them are beautiful rites that add value and strengthen family bonds. Others, like cutting the ends of off the ham, are carried down mindlessly and add little to no value.


In business, we have these same traditions that are handed on from employee to employee and we call them processes. Some of them are wonderfully productive or provide opportunities to strengthen relationships. Others, like the ham, are counterproductive and yet no one thinks to question or change them.


Examples of these types of processes are:

 - Two people creating virtually the same report to send to two different groups.

 - Using an outdated standalone software system to track inventory rather than a system integrated with the accounting and sales software.

 - Entering data into a Word document and printing it out as a report for another person who then enters the same data into an Excel document.


What these examples have in common are processes that are touched by multiple people, are convoluted, and take longer than necessary. There is also frequently a great deal of unnecessary waste and duplicated effort.


So today, I encourage you to stop and think: How many hams do you or your staff cut the ends off of?