I hesitate to take myself back to this memory because I’m afraid I’ll start to smell the smell all over again.

Several months ago, I came downstairs to one of the most horrific odors I’d ever smelled in our house. I honestly thought something had died somewhere. I began searching in our basement and then inside cupboards and all over.

I didn’t find anything so I started to try to see where the smell was strongest. Amazingly, it wasn’t in the basement. It filled most of our main floor, but seemed to be concentrated in the kitchen.

Now, we’ve had four kids who have all gone through nasty poop diaper stages. And I’ve personally had my daughter throw up on me when she was sick one time. Both just disgusting smells.

But this one. This one was at least on par with those.

And I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t able to find the source.

So I kept searching.

Eventually, I decided to… unfortunately… look in the dishwasher.


Just opening the dishwasher door unleashed a deadly waft of unholy air into my nostrils.

“What in the world could possibly be doing this?” I wondered.

I scanned the few items inside and finally found the culprit.

It was a visually innocent looking lid to a tupperware container. No visible residue but a smell that could drive back a small army.

But why in the world did it reek so badly?

Well, eventually the story came out. One of our sons had found it under his bed. Who knows what had been in there but it had been there… for months. Amazing chemistry experiment to be sure.

And we tried and tried to wash that thing in any way imaginable and just couldn’t get  rid of the smell. So, it had to go bye bye.

In short, it failed the smell test.

You know the smell test. We use it for milk to make sure it’s not going to kill us even though it’s passed it’s best by date.

Best by dates are good. They give us a ballpark of how long we should expect that certain food product to be good for.

That said, they are also merely a guard rail for us.

It’s still up to us to employ the smell test to see if they are still usable or not.

And today, I want to propose that your processes in your organization are the same way.

Our processes should all have best by dates of some sort. Something put in place that tells us, “hey, when this date comes up, do a smell check on this process to see if it’s still good.”

Unfortunately, most processes I’ve seen (and many that I’ve personally put in place) are put out into our organizations as a permanent instruction or guide, never to be challenged or reviewed again. Destined to live happily ever after in the land of business make believe.

But that won’t happen without a best by date. Things change. Technology advances. People come and go. New ideas and philosophies come along. And if we’re not willing to do a smell test now and then, our processes will grow stale and stanky, like that tupperware lid.

And then one day, you’ll open up that proverbial dishwasher door and realize that your processes are outdated, inefficient, and need to be either tossed or refreshed.

But just like in my situation, you’ll need to be brave to do your process smell check. Especially if you are the one that created the process in the first place.

In the long run, though, it will be worth it and keep your organization fresh and productive.

So take some time this week to review some of your processes and do your own smell check. It can’t be worse than what I found on that fateful day… dang, I can still smell it!

Thanks for listening to today’s episode. You can shoot me an email at shawn@shawnwashburn.com.

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