As change managers we (inevitably) have to deal with cultural, group dynamic and personal behavior patterns again and again. This is usually also clear to many in the organizations and companies. What is only very, very rarely or not at all taken into consideration is the intensification form: the ritualized business behavior!
In order clearify this before: a ritual, thus a fixed proceeding, which always remains after a certain order resembles, must be per se nothing negative. Especially if this is used consciously, e.g. to prepare for something in a kind of “inner contemplation” or “inner focus”, to tune in or to use it as a “lucky charm”. Especially in sports, be it soccer or other sports, there are numerous (success) rituals to support the winning process.
If this is used very consciously, it can indeed be very helpful, be it for the individual or for a team. Unfortunately, in my experience, there is little to no (more) of these positive, free “stimulants” in the business context. Pandemic times have not made this any better.
A simple example: I still know a very nice ritual from my banking days. Almost every Friday, the branch manager had personally “visited” his teams, interrupted only by vacation and illness. As the North German says, he came by for a “Klönschnack” (engl. chat). Sometimes it was just a brief “hello”, a short personal exchange of words, sometimes it was 10 minutes or more. The effect was gigantic for motivation and team spirit. Sometimes he gave an advice, a help in a case or in a personal matter. Online meetings, appointment calendars that are filled from bottom to top, often double-booked, with hardly any time between two appointments, which make these rituals null and void: unless you commit to it!
In contrast, one aspect has become increasingly noticeable to me in recent years. The unconscious rituals, especially in teams, even up to the highest level, are increasing. These unconscious rituals almost always have negative connotations. It resembles sometimes the ritualized courtship behavior of birds, whereby some bird species have probably the most complex courtship behavior in the animal kingdom. Who is interested in it can take a short glance at the following link of National Geographic: (Spectacular courtship rituals: Moonwalk, death spiral and wondrous watercourse | National Geographic | National Geographic)
This happens today, similar to the animal kingdom, especially at interfaces, where it is a matter of putting oneself and/or one’s field in the best possible light. Or where interesting career-oriented posts are at stake, which are rather scarce. This also takes place more often when especially larger corporations with matrix organizations have a rather decentral managed structure. Sometimes, however, all of the above reasons come into play, and even more. It is always necessary to look at the individual case to see what has been unconsciously ritualized. Common to all is that mostly in this special situation of the “ritual behavior” hardly to nothing goes forward. As well, if each one is busy to put himself/herself in the foreground. Then no more dialogues take place, little to nothing runs smoothly and in the best case one agrees on the alleged smallest denominator.
To make one thing clear once again: There is a big difference between routine and ritualized behavior. A routine can be changed easily. A ritualized (negative) behavior requires a lot of work and, in my experience, can no longer be resolved by those affected without external help!