Are you sacrificing employees' fingers for the sake of tradition?

On our way to Seattle for a long weekend, my husband and I stopped in the airport bagel shop to get some bagelwiches for dinner. We got in line and two people were in front of us waiting to check out. The woman working the counter was alone and frazzled, seemingly due to the line. She asked us what we would like. I asked about the people in front of us who had not yet been waited on, but she said something indiscernible that implied it was okay and asked again what we’d like. We ordered and she hurriedly grabbed two sesame bagels (because sesame is obviously the best) for our sandwiches. She took the first bagel, laid it flat on the counter, took out a sharp-looking serrated bread knife and promptly cut into her finger instead of the bagel. She panicked for a second and then went into the back. A man came out a few seconds later and waited on us. The woman didn’t come back out during our time there.

I was thinking over the incident as we took our sandwiches back to our gate. As I was eating my bagelwich, I noticed the branded bag that had info about the bagel company and how they esteemed and protected their time-honored traditions. I couldn’t help but wonder if the bagel slicing style (of a hand-held knife vs. a commercial bagel cutter) was one of their time-honored traditions. I’ve worked in a bakery that served bagels and we used an automatic bagel slicer that we would drop bagels into and they would come out sliced. This was especially useful during busy times and kept me from touching a knife. The food industry is inherently fast-paced and mistakes are often inevitable when you feel rushed. It seemed like a foreseeable and easily preventable accident to me because a commercial bagel slicer could have been used instead of a hand-held knife.

Waiting to board flight 1774, I wondered if she was going to need stitches, how the bagel company was going to handle the incident and how much blame would fall on her. I wondered if the company would rethink their slicing technique, time-honored or not, for the sake of employees’ safety. And I thought about you and whether there are methods in your business that you may be holding on to for the sake of tradition that aren’t really worth it in light of the potential cost.

Remember, the best way to run your business is by creating an ever-changing perfect fit. Not by creating a stagnant business model, never to be improved. Also, if you sell bagels, make more sesame ones, there never seems to be enough.