Because We’ve Always Done It That Way

By | Nov 20, 2009

I don’t know about you, but those words are the bane of my existence.  Part of our job as administrative professionals is to design office processes and to improve on old ones.  The first step in improving an existing process is to understand why it’s being done as it is.  That’s when the dreaded words appear. “Because we’ve always done it that way.”

The Pay Stubs From Hell

Let me tell you a little story.  I went to work for a large corporation in Houston, and my first week there I was delegated the task of delivering pay stubs to the employees in our department.  Almost 700 pay stubs.  I had to get the already sealed envelopes from payroll, sort them to the appropriate floor, and deliver the envelopes to the admin on that floor.  The really bad part?  Nowhere on the stub did it have the person’s floor, and we were growing so fast, people were moving every month or two.  It was a nightmare job, and took me about 4-5 hours every 2 weeks.

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When I asked why we did it this way, the answer was the dreaded, “We’ve always done it that way.”  No one had any idea why we still did this.  The admin I’d inherited the job from inherited it from someone else who inherited it from someone else.  Payroll didn’t know; no other department in the company did this.  Mail services didn’t know.

So I put together a proposal to mail the stupid stubs to each person’s home address, since they weren’t actual checks, just the stubs. Almost everyone had direct deposit.  I showed that the number of hours we spent sorting and delivering pay stubs was much more costly than mailing them first class mail.

It Never Hurts To Ask

By now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Is there a point to this story.”

Absolutely.  The point is, never take “because we’ve always done it that way” as a reason not to update a process.  Always investigate the reason for a process, but when no one can provide a coherent reason for it, go ahead and propose changes.  Sometimes there’s a perfectly good reason it’s always been done that way, but you won’t know if you don’t ask.

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Oh, did I mention that  we started mailing the stubs, and I got a bonus for saving the company money?  While improving processes can be it’s own reward, the rewards can sometimes be more tangible.

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3 Comments so far
  1. Sabrina (5 comments) November 20, 2009 8:04 pm

    OMG I would think you worked for my old company except our Texas office was in The Woodlands. They did it that way for years no matter how hard we tried, they wouldn’t mail anything. A couple of years ago they went to a paperless system. You didn’t get a physical stub and anyone with a paper check had it mailed to their home. I danced a jig that day.
    .-= Sabrina´s last blog ..Hamburger Review: Applebee’s =-.

  2. Jodith (189 comments) November 22, 2009 1:27 pm

    *laughs* My company was in West Houston, just off the outer loop. Yeah, the other admin and I who put the proposal together were so happy not to have to deal with it, as was the mail room. Turned out they were having to hand deliver all the other stubs across the company.

  3. Richard Rinyai (4 comments) November 23, 2009 7:37 am

    Hi Jodith,

    This is great news! We had the same problem, but I wasn’t the person responsible for distributing the 700 pay stubs to all employees. We actually use Ceridian now and have all of our pay stubs to view online by each employee. This saves the company even more money.


    Richard Rinyai
    .-= Richard Rinyai´s last blog ..Make No Mistakes With Meeting Request Attachments in Outlook 2007 =-.

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