“Because that’s how we’ve always done it” is a cringe-worthy statement. It’s worse than sharp nails running down a dull chalkboard. It allows us to get trapped in a pattern of mindlessness. It leaves us stuck in ineffective traditions.
The story below highlights what happens when we stop asking questions about effectiveness - and mindlessly engage in work 'because that's how we've always done it':
Just prior to World War II, a military officer was visiting an overseas counterpart to study and learn from his maneuvers. It was a reconnaissance mission. The two officers looked on as an artillery battalion deployed from their trucks and prepared their cannons for a mock attack. The visiting officer leaned toward his counterpart and asked why seven men were assigned to each cannon.
It was clear from the arrangement that there were only six active cannon positions—the seventh simply stood at attention. The host officer quickly shared that there had always been seven-man teams, but he was not sure why. He promised to look into it the next day.
The next morning, the two were enjoying breakfast together when the host officer reported his findings:
"There have always been seven-man teams because the seventh member was responsible for holding the
horses," he noted.
The visiting officer let out a disbelieving chuckle. “But we don’t use horses anymore…”
When we stop asking questions about effectiveness, we get trapped in a pattern of mindlessness.
How often do we pause and reflect on our current processes and practices? How many of us have that 7th Man or Woman standing at attention—not assisting in any meaningful way? Leadership is about taking these Because-that’s-how-we’ve-always-done-it moments and transforming them into opportunities for change.
LiDER is a start-up non-profit leadership institute that provides training, resources, and mentorship to students, women, and entrepreneurs.
the LiDER Blog provides updates, insights, and reflections on leadership and our programs.