“But it’s how we’ve always done it!”

If you are *anything* at all like me, the saying “But it’s how we’ve always done it!” will make you want to tear your hair out in frustration, throw something through your monitor and find something sharp and pointy to hurt the person who could have said such a stupid thing.

I absolutely loathe the saying. I can’t understand how seemingly intelligent and otherwise capable human beings have this ability to shut off any other options because it’s different to how they (or someone else) has done it in the past.

I recently came across this in my work place – a user wanted to access a server. I was fine with this, they needed to access it, they needed some form of administrative rights over some services and applications. I went about creating them an ‘Admin’ account on the server – a special account that was to be used on this server (and others, in the future, if required) that was different from their normal user account so they could logon and do what they needed to do.

“But I wanted to login with my normal details, I didn’t want a new user account”. I calmly explained that this was not the right procedure and that if they wanted to have access to the server they couldn’t do it using their normal account. “But it’s how we’ve always done it! I’ve got access to other servers using my normal account, why can’t I access this one like that to?”.

Cue rage.

Just because it’s how you’ve done it in the past, doesn’t mean it’s the way you’re going to continue to do it in the future. Just because it’s “how we’ve always done it” doesn’t mean it’s been done RIGHT! In most cases, it’s being done WRONG! Hence the rage.

Trying to break this mentality is very, very hard. There are many things, in my specific area, that need to be change, including the example above. One of my tasks at the moment is to try and break people of the mentality surrounding the “It’s how we’ve always done it, it’s how we’ll always do it” mindset. This involves a *lot* (random side-note: not to be confused with an “Alot“) of explanations and detailed diagrams.

I’m slowly getting through. Some people are coming around to the fact that there are other ways of looking at things – and maybe that’s the bigger picture and the bigger thing to take out of it. The fact that they are actually changing how they view systems and processes, and thinking outside the box that someone else’s idea may *just* be a good one…rather than what’s been done for the last 10-15 years.

I’m hopeful. And at least now people are using admin accounts rather than their default user accounts to access my servers!

1 thought on ““But it’s how we’ve always done it!”

  1. Paul

    I’m often in a similar position at work. (In fact, I had to check twice that you didn’t just write about my day…)

    It’s important not only to educate the user on the change, but also /why/. Nobody likes being told they can’t do things “their way”, and in this instance I can see why the user is going to feel threatened.

    I’ve made a concerted effort in the last little while to not only correct the wrong behaviour, but explain why I’m doing so.

    (Of course, sometimes you just need to wave the stick of authority. But please, please exhaust all other avenues first…)


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