Are You Cutting the Ends Off the Ham?


If you’ve heard this expression before, you probably already know where I’m going with this. If you haven’t, you’re probably asking what hams have to do with credit unions (trust me, they relate). But don’t worry, for those who fall into the latter group, I’ll explain.

A frustrating process

I was recently at a credit union doing an “Imaging Solutions Tune-Up Engagement,” which is an onsite visit where I walk around and look with a trained eye to see what needs improvement as it applies to the credit union’s electronic document imaging solution and workflow. I talk to the staff to learn what’s causing them grief and what they wish could be done better.

On this particular visit, one staff member, a young teller, was charged with posting deposits the credit union received in the mail. She shared, “After I enter dozens of transactions then hit the post button, the system starts generating electronic receipts, one after the next, for each transaction. If a member walks up, I need to finish saving each receipt individually before I can help them, so they need to stand there and wait.”

I then asked her if the receipts were necessary, since they were not given to the member that mailed in the deposit. She wasn’t sure. I said, “Hmm, sounds like we may be cutting the ends off the ham here.” Everyone, except the older manager who was familiar with the expression, immediately looked at me like I had three heads! So, I explained.

Cutting the ends off the ham

A young girl was watching her mom cut the ends off a ham before placing it in a roaster and asked, “Mom, why do you cut the ends off the ham?” Her mom, a bit bewildered replied that she wasn’t sure, it’s just what her mother had always done.

The little girl then asked her grandmother the same question, to which her grandmother replied, “My dear girl, I used to have just a little tiny roaster, and the hams wouldn’t fit, so I needed to cut the ends off.”

Thus, the mother, not knowing why she had been doing so, was needlessly cutting the ends off her ham.

Now, back to my teller and her receipts. She had been saving them not because it made sense, but because that’s how it had been done before her. After a brief discussion with management, the decision was made not to keep these receipts, and within a few minutes, we had changed the system to no longer create them, removing that inconvenience for tellers and members.

Reassess your methods

So, if there’s one takeaway for you in reading this, it’s to go back to your day-to-day routine, evaluate, then ask yourself if you’re cutting the ends off the ham. That is, are you doing things that are inefficient, frustrating to yourself or members, and costing resources just because that’s what’s always been done? If so, challenge it! Understand why you’re doing it, and ask if there is a better way. Technology and requirements change daily. You need to be constantly reevaluating your methods and techniques. Avoid falling into ruts and becoming zombies doing tasks for no apparent reason.

If you conclude a task is indeed necessary and for good reason, but it’s horribly arduous and inefficient, reach out to the experts and ask if it can be improved! If you’re a manager reading this, consider engaging experts for a tune-up engagement to take an overall look at what you do. You don’t know what you don’t know, right? Maybe there’s a better way. This brings me to another mantra I preach during my tune-up engagements (which I must admit I ripped-off from the TSA): “If you see something, say something.”

If something isn’t working, seems overly cumbersome, or just doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. Say something, don’t suffer in silence!

I’ll give you an example.

During this same tune-up engagement, there was a scanner that was broken, and no one was using it. I asked the staff if they could show it to me, and after a couple minutes of calibration, it was fixed and working properly. There was even a button within the software for this purpose. They weren’t aware they could do this and were excited to have the functionality back on that workstation. Had someone spoken up, they could have repaired it much sooner.

Keep trying, keep improving

So, I’ll conclude with this: challenge everything, call out things that don’t seem right, even if you’ve challenged it before, because maybe today is the day “no” becomes “yes.” Maybe new technology crept in to help and you missed it. Maybe, just maybe, no one can come up with a reason for why you’re doing that process, and you’ll find that all this time, you’ve been cutting the ends off the ham!


  • Matt#1

    October 4, 2019

    The first picture of ham looks incredible. Does the author have any advice on making or getting such a ham?


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *