April 29, 2011

Are Your Rituals ... Royal?

Today's royal wedding is a good reminder about the role and importance of rituals.  They are imbued with meaning and rules that reflect and exemplify the values and customs of a culture.  Most frequently they mark transitions—birth, death, and unions—or celebrate significant achievements or remember and honor significant sacrifice.

Every organization or community has its own rituals that, if appropriately attended to, can knit together meaning, shared values, and connectivity across generations of members, customers, or stakeholders.  Most tend to do well with the big rituals, whatever their equivalent of the royal wedding might be.  We understand the importance of managing well the major moments, ensuring they appropriately reflect and inspire the right tone among those engaged in the experience.

But too many miss the opportunity to better communicate their culture through the more regular routines that nonetheless are also rituals:  hiring a new staff member, orienting new volunteers, welcoming first-time attendees to a conference.  Each of these events will be repeated over and over again through the years.  They can be dull, boring, and merely routine, or they can be infused (through greater attention and planning) with meaning and values of a more significant ritual.

Regardless of how they occur, they send powerful messages about what an organization or community believes in, cares about, and thinks is important.  We all should pause periodically and reflect on whether or not our rituals and routines tell the story we want to tell.

Additional thoughts:

PCMA Convene column: 
The importance of respecting conference and annual meeting rituals your community values.

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