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The Value of Project Team Rituals

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A couple of small projects happening in my neighborhood of South Melbourne, Australia have me wondering about the value of many of the trappings and rituals we use in our projects. Do they contribute value to the stakeholder community or not?

One project involved resurfacing a small section of road. The crew turned up with their trucks and road-making equipment, finished the job and left. For the two days needed to complete the job, the workers brought their own lunches or went to a local café.

On the next corner, a production company was doing a shoot for a segment of a TV cop show. They spent a day setting up tents, canteens and support vehicles. They brought a cast of hundreds, including security and canteen staff. Over two days, the cast and crew rehearsed and shot the segment.

The difference between the two worksites had far more to do with ritual-based traditions and stakeholder expectations than actual needs. The facilities provided for road crew were lean. By comparison, the facilities provided for the TV crew were luxurious but possibly necessary to attract the right "talent."

Rituals can certainly be very powerful ways to build identity and cohesiveness in a team. Many rituals, however, may have simply become time-consuming habits.

A good example is the monthly executive review of all projects that has never resulted in a single canceled a project. Another is the Thursday morning team meeting that is called for no other reason than because it's Thursday.

Take a look at the rituals associated with your projects and ask how many of the meetings and processes add real value to the stakeholders involved.

How many should be refined, redefined or altogether abandoned?

What are the most valuable rituals for you and your stakeholders?

See more posts from Lynda Bourne.

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So true, early in my career, was doing data entry for old government project. Would input information to a spreadsheet so we could round-file old documentation. I asked who was using the information from the spreadsheet, people started to realize that no one actually never used it. So we were able to save time/labor/cost that could be utilized elsewhere.

Other times since, have not been able to cancel a meeting because "it would throw off peoples schedules."

Great article.

Dear Lynda,

I find your post very interesting. I am currently doing a PhD research on the role of rituals in infrastructure megaprojects at the VU university of Amsterdam. I want to find out what kinds or rituals there are, what meaning they have for employees, and whether they can contribute to a megaproject's progression (such as through enhancing collaboration or workforce integration).

Right now I am writing my research proposal and will start my fieldwork period next year. I hope we can stay in touch about this subject. Thank you for your post.

I believe that the ritual a important as part of team building.

When you would want the team members to do the extra mile for the project, it would be much easier if there is a team spirit rather than a several individuals working on the same project.

The rituals are an important part of the team building but do not depend on them alone in order to build your team.

Ritual is always important. We are humans, and tribal humans to boot - we tribesman (and women) really like our rituals. Some may appear silly to "outsiders," and that is kind of the point. The ritual is one way we tell who we are.

"We meet on Tuesdays." "We do pizza for lunch on Fridays." "We finish on time." (Yes, that IS a ritual). These are the definitional underpinnings of ones individual group, team, tribe.

Wanna build a better team? Start by looking at your existing and non-existing rituals.

Project Rituals are necessary but not all are important. For us at Ritetrac Consulting, going through lessons learned is a good ritual we imbibe when carrying out future similar projects.

Wonderful article and reminder. It is good to question status quo to make improvements. However, you still need to consider enterprise environmental factors.

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