Let's talk about Team Rituals.
🤔 Why you should care about it
"It is the set of regularly repeated actions that make up the cult that stimulates the feelings of joy, inner peace, serenity, and enthusiasm that, for the faithful, stand as experimental proof of their beliefs." - Émile Durkheim, French sociologist, in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life.
Rituals are a very effective tool for team leaders to shape their organisational culture and ensure newcomers adopt and embody the team's values without micro-managing them.
It isn't easy to scale the founding spirit —> when a team grows, founders and team leaders can no anymore make sure that every newcomer behaves according to values and expectations.
Processes slow down organisations —> while being the norm to control team growth, processes inhibit innovation by removing initiative and ownership, and they increase communication overhead to receive approvals.
Organisational culture is hard to change with words —> invisible beliefs and assumptions account for far more than grand culture decks.
The frequent repetition of actions in team rituals allows newcomers to appropriate to the company's culture more easily. They also help bond team members and make them feel safer and more trustful. Examples of rituals for engineering teams include:
- Agile ceremonies (Sprint Planning, Daily Stand-Up, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective)
- Celebrations (release in production, zero bug commits, negative code merge request)
- Project status (demo day, post-mortem, fail-con)
- Team bonding (happy hour, weekly teaching)
💡 Key Concepts
Organisational culture —> the collection of values, expectations, and practices that guide and inform the actions of all team members.
Formative experiences —> experiences that have a significant and lasting influence on a person's character and attitudes
Transparent social integration —> it's hard for group newcomers, especially with diverse backgrounds, to blend into a group if its rules a not transparent.
"Rituals are meaningless and take up too much time for nothing" —> the definition of a ritual is that it should be meaningful. If it feels useless, the ritual needs to be updated to suit the current team members and environment better.
"Rituals prevent spontaneous and relaxed communication" —> if all communication goes through rituals, it probably means that there are too many rituals. To retain their "sacred" attribute, rituals should be scarce.
"Rituals are biased and can can segregate employees" —> rituals are more effective when designed and edited by their participants. Ideally, you should constantly update your rituals to represent the team's diversity better.
📚 Top book
Rituals for Work: 50 Ways to Create Engagement, Shared Purpose, and a Culture that Can Adapt to Change - Kursat Ozenc, Margaret Hagan
⚙️ Top template
Ritual Reset Template - Atlassian (Mural template)
📝 Top content
📝 Rituals for Engineering Teams - Charity Majors --> a list of (fun) rituals the author encountered during her career.
📝 Team Rituals: How to create trust and alignment through inclusive tradition - Shane Snow --> a deep dive on how to design team rituals.
📝 The Big Four of Making Culture Visible: Actions, Rituals, Symbols and Stories - Ozan Dağdeviren --> a guide to making your culture more visible, including how to use rituals.