June 13th, 2011

Welcome to my turkey paradigm

The way we were. Throughout my career, I always seem to find myself in business process review and implementation. As I am very comfortable questioning…well…everything, I end up …er…helping people let go of the “way we used to do things”.

It’s hard work. Mainly because people really love their paradigms. Here are some of the business process paradigms that I have come up against:

What they say to me… What I wish I could say back…
The only way to tell if a document is controlled is if it’s signed. In ink. Document control can be done by software. Which runs on a computer. Welcome to the 90s.
I need to approve this form so that I can know what is going on. You can subscribe to the RSS feed so that you’ll be informed each time the form is generated. Welcome to the 90s.
It only takes me 15 minutes so why worry about that step? It happens 300 times a year, which is 4500 minutes or 75 hours. That’s the equivalent of a 2 week vacation that’s wasted on…nothing. Don’t you keep saying you’re too busy to (fill in the blank)?
Transferring costs from one budget code to another takes no time. Why worry about it? But there are 100 of you generating requests for transfer which keeps an entire team busy for one week. That’s about $100K a year spent on…nothing. There, now we can afford that new expert I keep telling you we need to hire.

I, of course, have no paradigms. None whatsoever. Because I am perfectly open-minded and never resist change.

Except when it comes to turkey.

Welcome to my paradigm. During our planning meeting for our Christmas 2010 Turkey dinner, my Dear Husband (DH) brought up some process improvement ideas. During our post-mortem of last year’s dinner (what? you don’t do a post-mortem on all of your projects?), we noticed that we were still spending too much time in the kitchen in that crazy period when the turkey comes out of the oven and it is time to get everything on the table. In an effort to improve on this madness, DH suggested that we do as much cooking as possible either the day before or even the morning of the dinner: the gravy, the cranberry sauce, the tourtière and even the mashed potatoes. Our resulting schedule was a complete re-engineering of the Christmas turkey dinner and I was onboard for every single change that he suggested and even came up with some myself. Because, as I mentioned, I am completely open-minded to change.

But towards the end of our planning session, DH made one more suggestion. He kept it to the end for a very good reason. Because he knows me.

“We could also make the turkey one day ahead.”

Say…what?

“I was talking to this woman at work, she loves cooking just like you do, and she makes the turkey in advance, then cuts it up, puts it in a shallow roasting pan, pours homemade chicken stock over it, covers it with aluminum foil, pokes some holes in it, then just heats it up in the oven. This way when the guests arrive, they smell the turkey but you get none of the hassle of carving it to serve it…”

I looked at him, absolutely horrified. Cut up the turkey? When you take it out of the oven, it’s in pieces? Chicken broth?

It has taken me this long just to be able to write about such a travesty.

Welcome to my turkey paradigm.

Shifting paradigms and other MBA crimes. Before we get into my turkey paradigm, or any of the paradigms that I encounter in my business life, we need a common understanding of what exactly is a paradigm. In simple terms, a paradigm is a thought pattern or a framework of ideas, a set of rules if you will, that is accepted to be true. The term was originally coined to describe a set of practices that define a scientific discipline at any particular period of time, but it has now suffered such abuse at the hands of MBA-wielding professionals that it has almost lost its meaning. (Ooops.) But for the sake of this discussion, let’s consider it as “the box”, as in, when you think “outside of the box”, you move outside of your paradigm or what you accept to be true. Because we haven’t killed that analogy enough either.

Dilbert.com

These days, paradigms are shifting all around us. (Double oops.) Here are examples of paradigms that I see everywhere, as well as the challenges to those paradigms which will cause them to shift. (See? I can’t stop.) I plan to write a blog post on each one of these subjects…eventually.

The paradigm The shift
A book is something that you hold in your hands with real pages that you turn. I will NEVER read books on an e-book reader. I named my new Kindle “Never say never”.
There is no place for democracy in a company functioning in a capitalist framework. Yes, there is.
We need Wall Street and Bay Street for our economies to function or else the universe will explode. That’s the reason for the 2008/2009 bailouts. No, we don’t.
We need to pay CEOs $50 million / year so that they’ll continue to do a great job. CEOs have become the new monarchs. They earn their salaries no more than Kings and Queens do.
Performance reviews help employees to improve themselves. Performance reviews don’t work.
If we give access to all employees to the wiki, they’re going to delete important information. Right. Because Wikipedia doesn’t work.

It’s my paradigm and I’ll cry if I want to. So as you can see from the above table, I am not afraid to challenge any paradigms. This is because I am a very open-minded person who embraces change.

Except when those ideas are totally ridiculous and silly. Like cooking a turkey one day before, cutting it up, putting it in a shallow roast pan, and pouring chicken broth all over it.

Because everyone knows that there is only one way to prepare a Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey: you brine it the day before, you stuff it, you roast it in the oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, you take it out of the oven, you put it on the table so your guests can “ooh” and “aah” how perfect it looks, then you carve it and serve it.

Which brings me back to my Turkey Paradigm.

We all resist change. Every single one of us clings to set of ideas and principles that we just can’t let go.

Even me.

I’ve always done it this way but for a good reason. According to John Fisher’s transition’s curve, which describes the process for personal transition, I ran off the curve at Disillusionment in my Turkey Paradigm when I decided that “this wasn’t for me” after surfing the web for about 15 minutes and (thankfully) finding nothing about advance cooking and cutting up of turkey. According to Kotter’s 8-step model for organizational change, I certainly saw no urgency in trading off the beauty of presenting a roast turkey against the questionable convenience of this cook-cut-reheat approach. And, sure, when it comes to roast turkey, I’ve “always done it this way”, but I have a much better reason than, say, the reason for the “0” on this form.

Christmas Turkey 2010

Not the greatest picture but I was a little busy

Never say never. Our re-engineered Christmas Turkey Dinner 2010 was a huge success. We were able to enjoy time with our guests and still pull off a full-course turkey dinner, complete with homemade tourtière, made-from-scratch Christmas Log cake and cookies, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes and green vegetables.

As for that turkey?

It tasted as delicious as it looked when it came out of the oven in its glorious roasted splendour.

Whole. In one piece.

Will I ever cut up a turkey to save time and hassle?

Never.

But then, I also said I’d never read books on an ebook reader, didn’t I?

1 comment to Welcome to my turkey paradigm

  • Yvan

    I really enjoyed reading this article, Elisabeth. :) The open-minded approach is clearly a necessity in this fast paced technological world. I’m only 29 years old and have to push myself to stay on the ball. Integrating new methods through 22 minute meetings, work place democracy and good old common sense sounds like a plan to me. After all, the turkey needs to be received with ”ooh”s and ”ahh”s.

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