Getting Stuck on the Flagpole

by on Dec 12, 2019 1:26 PM

we’ve always done it this way

Addressing the “But we’ve always done it this way” mentality can be difficult, especially when employees are well trained to follow a specific business process.


One of my favorite movies to watch during the holiday season is “A Christmas Story” about a young boy’s experience growing up in the 1940’s. The most memorable moment of the film for me is when, during recess in the schoolyard, Ralphie & his friends “triple-dog-dare” classmate Flick to stick his tongue on a frozen flagpole. Guess what happens next? Just as Flick realizes that he’s stuck, the recess bell rings. Frantically, Flick calls for help as he sees his cohorts fleeing the yard. Ralphie turns to Flick, shrugs his shoulders, responds in a serious tone, “But the bell rang!” and then trudges back into school. Poor Flick is left all alone in the schoolyard stuck to the flagpole.

Ralphie and his schoolmates were so well trained by the bell that they couldn’t see what was happening in the moment. Best expressed by Ralphie, they didn’t realize that the extraordinary situation in front of them countermanded the common rule.

This comical scene reminded me of business situations in which the “But the bell rang!” response could have easily been translated into “But we’ve always done it this way.”

In companies, more likely in the Finance, Operations & HR departments, we sometimes get stuck in our processes. How many opportunities have been missed or innovative ideas squashed because of people’s gut reactions due to rules or set procedures? Moreover, how many times are we oblivious or even indifferent to unique circumstances that should prompt us to take a step back, assess, and adjust our thinking? Perhaps my most intriguing question is, how many times are we just following blindly?

In this ever-evolving era, businesses can’t afford to run away when the bell rings. Playing it safe doesn’t always mean better. The next time you hear someone or catch yourself muttering, “But we’ve always done it this way”, I challenge you to think of Ralphie & Flick. Now might be the time to get unstuck. If you’d like to learn more, Contact Us for a consultation.

About Andrea Grubb

Andrea Grubb is the Chief Integrator Officer at Trilogy Partners. Trilogy Partners is an advisory & implementation firm whose mission is to help companies grow and transform.  We accomplish this by focusing on 3 critical business areas: Financial, Strategy & People