We have always done it that way

It is holiday time. This time of year is ripe for various rituals and traditions among the best of us. I am Swedish and in my family we have all grown up with my grandma’s Swedish rye bread at every holiday… if we were lucky, it would just appear at other times of the year. The traditions had to be passed on through the years. My mom also made it and passed it on to a few cousins and me. We compare notes and techniques with every baking.

The secret recipe

It isn’t really a “secret.” The recipe is available to anyone who has a Garden Club cookbook (page 71 to be exact). Actually, my Gram didn’t create the original recipe. We recently found Esther Hideen’s recipe from back in the day, Gram just made it long enough to make it her own. It probably helped that Esther was a long time ago, and somewhere in the Midwest. My grandma did add a few distinct nuances to the bread that don’t show up in the old recipe. Her various variations (I meant to write that) were the addition of anise extract or caraway seeds in some batches. The most distinct thing about Ruby’s bread was the cylindrical shape to the bread. She used old juice cans (the tall tomato or grapefruit juice cans). You see she would make about 5 loaves in a batch. I would guess that she didn’t have enough loaf pans, and juice cans were cheaper to buy. Recycle, reuse, repurpose…or just plain economics. So to keep the tradition you HAVE to make it in juice cans.

That aint right

Recently my cousin made a batch and her “yeast went crazy.” She ran out of juice cans and had to put the extra into a loaf pan, she text me a picture of the final product. I text back, “nice! But that one isn’t going to taste right.” She text back, “I know right! I thought of that too!:)” We have friendly disagreements that it aint right if you don’t mix the dough by hand. You cannot use an electric mixer. To be true SRB you have to follow the recipe to the letter and method. That is just crazy right?

Don’t get all-wild and change anything

Change is a scary thing. It creates a new process. It modernizes things. It questions the status quo…it just…well…it just changes things. Why is it that as people, systems and organizations we have a problem changing things? I mean, if it aint broke don’t break it, but there are times when we might want to question, improve and change things. There are times we might just want to break it too.

What is change?

The word change comes from an Old French word changier that means alter, exchange, or switch. I also found the Latin word, transformare, which is to change the shape. In theory, the idea of change seems to be a natural go-to when we are looking at strategic planning or long-term goals. Change is something that an organization wants to happen. The people in the organization might agree that the new person, or the leader (sometimes called a manager, and vice versa) should instigate a change process. How will we change as an organization and/or as a person? Or better yet, how do you envision change and approach the management of change? It is a great interview question, eh?

“We do not describe the world we see, we see the world we can describe”

That heading is a quote by Rene Descartes. It make sense right? We see the world we can describe. Our description has some limits – our worldview, our experience, and the vocabulary words. This change concept can meet some dissent, at times A LOT of opposition. It is something we (the collective) might agree should happen; in fact, evidence may provide some metrics to say it has to happen. The how, when, why might come from different points of view. But, how do we move the CHANGE concept into a world we can see from a unified front? I have been involved with, or watched a few strategic planning processes as they unfold. They seem to follow a typical pattern. Definition about the overall goals followed by a schedule of events to gather data, analyze and present the plan. Some participate in the process, some ignore it, and some miss the message. Regardless, the plan is in motion.

Stop – Wait for it – Start

I have written before about Bridges and his comments on change – (1) you have to stop the old first. (2) Then, outlast the confusion and neutral zone before you can (3) Re-start and re-establish the change. Another guy, Kurt Lewin, has three similar phases. He says you have to UNFREEZE, then TRANSITION, and finally (RE)FREEZE. It is that big thaw at the start that seems to start the slippery slope (pun intended…of course). Then the transition time can be more like whitewater and the rapids in a river, depending of course on the amount of change. And then we refreeze, re norm, or we find a new normal. After a while, the refrozen becomes the glacier of “it has always been that way.” Just ask Esther Hideen about that little phenomenon. J

Change and Change Management are connected to leadership and the act of being a leader. To change a company, a department or a system really has to start with the people within. To guide this process we often look to the leader of the group as the change agent, instigator, and project manager. The rate at which this process occurs is how we rate or evaluate that person’s effectiveness. Every journey is a series of small steps and incremental change. Every journey! If the scenery isn’t changing you probably are not moving. There is a foundational book, Leading Change, by Harvard Management professor John Kotter. He presents his eight steps that include some sense of urgency, proper communication, celebrating the small steps, and establishing anchors.

The leadership is about HOW we approach the changes. Leadership is what we do WITH people to create or recreate. Management is keeping the steps in order, maintaining the communications, planning the work, and working the plan. We have the ability to change, it just takes a little bit to understand the WHY we need change, WHAT the change will provide, and HOW to approach the changes.

Really?! Does practice make really make perfect? Or is that line of reasoning just something we have come to say/accept rather than question its use? Let’s think for a minute if our practice has a flaw or we don’t have the correct form, then our results will be perfectly flawed rather than miraculously perfect.

Now, you do not have to change your holiday traditions. Those are like comfort food and memories. But what could you change to make things a little easier for yourself, your team, or your company? What could you UNFREEZE?

Leave a comment

Filed under Leadership

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s