My favorite dessert is a German chocolate potato cake, the recipe of which has been handed down through four generations. Served on my birthday for several decades now, it’s a treat to which I always look forward.
That’s why I was surprised recently when my wife asked me if I noticed anything unusual after taking the first bite. I stopped chewing for a moment. Indeed, there was something different – but what?
“The recipe calls for brown sugar, but we didn’t have any, so I used molasses instead,” she said.
Molasses. I smiled – but not for long: I resumed devouring the remainder of the slice in front of me.
There are many ways to bake a cake. The expert baker can walk into any kitchen and use the ingredients available to produce an outcome that delights.
Teams that execute their plans effectively possess this same capability. They resist getting stymied by restrictions of repeated meeting agendas and processes that hypnotize many into thinking there’s only one way to get something done.
The recipe isn’t sacred. The ingredients aren’t a mandate; they’re a guide.
Worth adding: You likely have several bakers in your kitchen. Your spoken wisdom will likely never be heard as clearly as the questions you ask. Consider these:
- Where is there flexibility in our process?
- If we had to start from scratch, what would we do differently (and can we do that now)?
- The resources we need but don’t have – what could we substitute in their place?
- If the customer required this in half the time, what steps would we remove?
Your team has more capability than it realizes. (You can be certain it does.)
We must look at ourselves. Routines, meetings after meetings…our brain craves patterns, because they’re easy.
As well, most systems that people operate in drive a repeated, monotonous agenda.
And let’s also consider that we want people around us to be predictable; when someone does something different than they’ve done before – hey, that makes my work more difficult.
Am I demonstrating a change capability? And, am I demonstrating a productive response to others when they demonstrate their change ability?
It’s easy to believe we can’t because of them. With wisdom, though, and honesty, we tell our truth: I am the system. And I can change.