Pescatarian Muffins

10th Dec 2020

When we follow the process blindly we can totally miss the point.

Last week in a workshop we were served pescatarian muffins. Well, technically just one pescatarian muffin, because there was only one labelled like that. There was a whole other tray of muffins which looked just the same as the solo pescatarian one. I had to assume all the others were full of red meat.

I know the staff at the catering company were just following the process. And they did it well, to the letter in fact. No pescatarians were harmed as a result. What was the result? A bunch of people taking the mickey out of an unnamed catering company, followed by a rich discussion about how when the process trumps the purpose, it can miss the point completely.

How often have you had to fill in a form, stand in a line, or go through some other ridiculous rigmarole just because there’s a single blanket rule designed to cover all possible circumstances? And no apparent consideration for shifting contexts?

How often have you been the overseer of rules like that? (Think of kids and screen-time rules, parents!)

Making rules up is easy. Thinking about how to achieve an outcome while building in flexibility is harder. It requires empathy, trust and a systems-thinking lens. It requires us to ask different questions, like “what are we actually trying to achieve here?” and “what’s the wisest approach to take?”

Whenever you come across the effects of a ridiculous rule, take a moment to think about how you might do it differently.


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