Challenge the Process

With the spring semester upon us, it is a great time to stop to consider why we do things the way we do. At this point, maybe ideas or methods have gone stale, and you want to change something up! I’m sure that at some point in a student council meeting, honor society meeting, or class, you’ve wondered, “Why do we do [blank] this way instead of that way?” If you ask, more often than not, you’ll get an answer that leaves you more confused than before. “We’ve always done it this way,” seems to be the most common response. If you receive an answer like that, then you’re in luck; you have a perfect opportunity to challenge the process.
    When you look to change up how your council operates, you should attempt to identify the good aspects of the current model instead of tearing down the bad parts. Ask, “What are we doing right?” instead of, “What are we doing wrong?” When you come across an idea that does not seem to make sense, attempt to find out why it is done the way that it is—understand the background. For example, there might be a very good reason why students aren’t allowed to climb ladders to set up for Homecoming. However, if there does not seem to be a decent reason for a current procedure, try change it. 
To bring this point home, and tie in my personal connection to this piece, I’ve included a quote that has hung on my wall since middle school. This Rob Siltanen quote, more frequently attributed to Steve Jobs, embodies challenging the process. 
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Do not “challenge the process” just for the sake of challenging something. Before someone takes this advice or guidance, identify a problem that you hope to change. “Challenging the process” should not be misconstrued to allow an act of direct disobedience or encouraging disorder. Instead, try to think differently.
    In the end, what do you really have to lose? The model that I have just proposed is similar to what I provide to the people who I am charged with leading at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. If, after all of your hard work, nothing changes, then you have not truly “lost” anything. The worst that your advisor can say is “no,” and you will have spent a few hours becoming a subject matter expert on the topic, in turn making yourself a better leader. Do not be discouraged if the outcome is not what you anticipated. If you are successful, then follow-through with the model that you have proposed to change.
Have a great school year, and don’t be afraid to challenge the process. You might end up surprising yourself!
The views expressed in this blog post solely reflect my views and, in no manner or form, reflect the views of the United States Naval Academy, the United States Navy, or the Department of Defense.