Leadership lessons often come from some of the strangest places. There are two stories about meat that stand out in my mind as helpful when working on organizational change or trying to build innovation capacity in your organization. The first is a story told in Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell, who ran Walt Disney World Resort operations for many years. The second is one I’ve heard told many times by various people, all of whom claimed it as their own. I’ll call it “grandma’s pot roast”.
Lee Cockerell’s Meatloaf
What’s the story? Many years ago, Lee was working on a significant change to organizational structure at Disney. He was preparing for a presentation to the management team, and was frustrated at trying to find the right things to say to engage their hearts and minds in the change. The night before his presentation, he came home for one of his favourite meals – his wife’s meatloaf. He loved his wife’s meatloaf, and she had been cooking it the same way for 25 years. The secret ingredient was some red Tabasco sauce to spice it up. This night, however, his wife had green Tabasco. At first, Lee refused to try it, but his wife insisted, so he did. He realized that it was delicious.
He used the story of the Tabasco and his initial rejection of it at his presentation, and started giving out bottles of green Tabasco sauce to Disney Cast Members who initiated and embraced innovation. His wife’s meatloaf’s green Tabasco became a symbol of positive change at Disney.
So what? Change is great until someone else makes it for you. It is important for leaders to remember this when they are implementing change. Is there a Tabasco story that can remind you?
Now what? What is your green Tabasco? Is there a simple recognition award that you could implement in your organization to celebrate and encourage organizational change and innovation?
Grandma’s Pot Roast
What’s the story? The Smith family’s pot roast recipe had been passed down for generations. It was delicious, and a family tradition. One of the steps in preparing it was to cut the ends of of the roast before putting it in the oven. Mrs. Smith had been following this family recipe for years, and one day, her young daughter asked her why she cut off the ends. Mrs. Smith wasn’t sure, it was simply how she’d been taught. They decided to ask her mother when she came for dinner. Over dinner, when Mrs. Smith’s daughter asked her grandmother about cutting the ends of the pot roast, she was told again that it was simply the way they’d always done it, and that there must be a good reason, but neither woman was sure what it was.
Weeks later, while the family was visiting Mrs. Smith’s grandmother, the question came up again. The elderly lady explained “my pan was too small for the full pot roast, so I always cut off the ends so that it would fit.” The family had been following the tradition for decades without realizing that it had no positive effect on the pot roast.
So what? There are often processes or rules at work that nobody questions, simply because things have always been done a certain way. These conventions get in the way of innovation and can stall growth.
Now what? Encourage people to ask why and why not in your organization. Coach leaders to be comfortable with people questioning tradition and even decisions they make. Recognize people for questioning, especially when it leads to innovation. Use a “fresh eyes” approach to everything – imagine you are new to the organization or look at things with the eyes of a child. What doesn’t make sense? What could be different? Do this yourself and encourage others to as well.
pic courtesy of flickr user randychiu