3 Reasons Why Your Team Needs Rituals

Morning ritual by Nathan Borror

It’s the same every morning: you get up and grab your morning coffee. No matter whether you brew it at home or fetch it on the road, your morning coffee is a ritual you never want to miss.

A ritual is a practice everyone knows how to do. It’s conducted regularly or on well defined occasions. Rituals help to create an identity for a group of people: nations, sports clubs or teams. How can rituals help form a high performing team?

Rituals Act as Social Glue

Rote repetition of team tasks creates a feeling of togetherness. Often you see teams invent their own, sometimes secret, rituals to more closely bind the group. Executing well known procedures together synchronizes people and strengthens the common ground on which to build trust. If you’re building a new team, or have issues with mistrust, introduce a few rituals like daily stand-ups or weekly planning meetings. Social rituals like team celebrations help as well.

Rituals Pace Your Work

They create a rhythm which structures your work week. You get used to having a daily stand-up every morning at 10 a.m. You know exactly that the next demo will be on Thursday afternoon – no surprises here. Adapting to changing schedules depletes energy, but rituals become second nature to everyone and create an environment where work can flow without friction. There’s no need to constantly watch out for last minute changes in schedules.

Rituals Help Keep Your Discipline

If you haven’t built rituals out of important meetings like retrospectives, it’s very likely you start to skip them. There are always reasons not to do what you should, but, if you make a ritual out of the important things, chances are better that you’ll do what’s needed. Following rituals is deeply embedded within humans. By using rituals, you tap into that deep, human power – the basis of which forms our communities.

But Our Work Environment Changes Too Frequently to Build on Rituals

I hear that a lot. In some work environments you hardly know what you’ll be doing in a few hours. How can you plan for a regular “ritual”? In such cases, it helps to introduce them based on events instead of time. A simple example is celebrating the birthday of a colleague. Make sure every birthday follows a certain ritual: bring everyone together for five minutes, blow out a candle and give a gift.

Another ritual which helps structure your day are daily stand-ups. Come together every day at a fixed time. For a few minutes, talk about what you did yesterday, what you’re doing today and whether you’re having problems. This ritual helps synchronize the team and creates a shared understanding of what’s happening.

One of the Biggest Mistakes is Skipping a Ritual

If you’ve agreed on a certain ritual, stick to it no matter what. People come to expect that the ritual will happen, and they’ll be disappointed if their expectations aren’t met. That’s the power of rituals: people rely on them.

Rituals act as social glue, help pace your work, and foster discipline. Like your regular morning coffee, they give your team structure and stability in an ever changing environment.

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