The End of Hamlet’s Ham

By: Jan Bolick

Tis the season for strategic planning and holiday cooking – a perfect time to re-visit this story as a reminder that a simple question can change the way we do business. Or the way we cook a ham.

A year or so ago, Terry Hamlet, President of S.H. Basnight & Sons, and I were working on a project, looking for a way to get different results.

As we explored, she recalled the day her mother, Dot Hogan Basnight was showing her how to cook a ham. One of the steps was to cut the end off of the ham before putting it in the pan.

Terry asked, “Why do we do that?”

Her mother said, “I’m not sure. That’s just the way my mother did it.”

So Terry went to ask her Grandmother the reason for cutting off the end of the ham.

Grandma’s response?

“Because it didn’t fit in the pan.”

Apparently Mrs. Basnight didn’t have a bigger pan, so making the ham smaller was a good solution at the time. One that became standard procedure for many years – even when there were smaller hams and larger pans in the kitchen.

Terry’s simple question changed the way her family cooked a ham. And led to a new ending for the end of the ham.

Now Terry and I weren’t cooking a ham that day, but the question was important because we needed a different ending. Asking “why do we do it that way?” led us to several possibilities for new and improved endings.

And it left a jingle in my head:  “If you’re in a jam – just remember Hamlet’s ham.”

I share this with you because many people stop asking “why” after learning over time that the answer is usually something like “Because I said so” or  “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”   Even sadder – many people ignore problems and stop looking for better ways of doing things because – well – why bother?

They stay stuck in a jam. Or continue to jam a ham in a pan. Or maybe even cut off something useful for no good reason.

What if you could have a new and improved ending to the things that you don’t like about your business.  The mistakes that are made.  The things that take too long.  Or cost too much.  Or cause customers to go ballistic.  Or make people quit. Or  steal your good humor. If there are lots of them, start with the biggest.

Now – whatever it is – why do you do it the way that you do?

Because someone said so?  Because that’s the way it’s always been done?

Find a different answer and you may very well discover a new and improved ending.

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Quote of the Week:  The End of Hamlet’s Ham

Simple Question. New Ending

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