The song on "tradition" returns to me, again and again, and leaves me with nostalgia and a good feeling. Yet, if I stop and listen to the words, there is not even one sentence that I can see that I identify with. The issue folds in it a conflict: On the one hand, tradition produces feelings of a warm and friendly environment; on the other hand, as the Etnix band have sung: "tradition is the enemy of advancement and progress".
What is the place of tradition in organizations? Is it right to nurture it and how should it be done?
I am celebrating, these days, ten years of running my company. A decade. I have gone through a long journey and yet it went so fast, and seems rather short. Again, the conflict rises:
On one hand, there is so much yet to do. we came here to work, innovate, earn and lead a change. Why look at the past? Why spend time and effort on traditions and memories that take us back? What could it help?
On the other hand, I feel, both as a manager, and as a person, that tradition and memories do have their place in the organization and should be honored rather than swept out.
Tradition has clear advantages: It enables people to strength their belonging feelings, to feel part of the organization in another dimension: Not only part of some offices; not only tools and methodologies; and even- not only values. Tradition is something shared that passes in the air very simply. It makes us feel better. It makes us feel belonging to something bigger.
Tradition also crystallizes.
Tradition, so I hope, is another factor that makes people prefer and stay in the organization and not look for other opportunities outside the organization. Tradition makes the people, when they are part of the organization, deal better with daily difficulties (and we have no choice, difficulties always exist). Tradition makes them feel better. Tradition.
How does this stand in one line with "the enemy of advancement and progress?" We, as human beings, need probably both: both Tradition and revival; both anchors and stability together with the ability to change; both the feelings that tradition produces together with legitimization to create and fly high and far.
The challenge of tradition, therefore, is more complicated. It should enable, but not block; It should be part of the background but should not gain control. We have to remember that few are the organizations that survive due to tradition only.
How do we produce tradition in the organization? I will start from the bottom line: Money here is not the main issue. One cannot order tradition, pay for it, and mark it with a V sign. One must invest. Invest and be consistent. And after all these- wait. Time is an important part when speaking about tradition.
What and how? Hereby are several factors that produce and nurture tradition:
Holidays. Naama, one of the managers under me, taught me and insisted repeatedly, until I understood and assimilated that every holiday must be celebrated. I always came with a pragmatic attitude that every company meeting, and every minute in it, should be utilized: More methodologies, more teaching people, more professionalism. Tradition is important, so she always reminded me: It is important to eat an apple with honey together before the Jewish new-year, and we must finish eating together all the ""Hametz" before Passover. From year to year, the place of tradition in the company, based on celebrating Jewish events, grows greater. From two celebrations a year, we started celebrating more holidays, and in between, we find new opportunities for additional celebrations, from all kinds of types.
Tradition can also be nurtured through simple ceremonies and customs that are repeated from time to time. The ritual produces the tradition. Smoking breaks, of part of the people together produces tradition (in this case, tradition has also disadvantages). Tradition evolves through our monthly ritual of giving, every month, a symbolic prize as to something special he or she did the passing month. Tradition evolves only because it is done consistently every month, already for years.
Tradition evolves through building new memories together and speaking about existing memories. We see to it that in every company trip or company event, we take pictures (so easy nowadays), and in the last years it even turned more sophisticated as we make a clip after each event. It is much more pleasant to remember, and much easier too. In relevant events, we turn back to the past and share the memories. Share those who took part in past events, and share and explain to those who were not there yet. Share through stories, through pictures, through feelings. Build and strengthen the tradition.
I am celebrating, these days, ten years of running my company. I surely can say that we produced a company tradition. A tradition inside the company and a tradition in larger groups, both with our customers, both with the Israeli Knowledge Management community. We went a long way, but do hope that the main way is still in front of us. We hope we smartly combine tradition and advancement. We hope to continue marching in the pace, and making others follow. We hope to produce many more (good) traditions that make all feel belonging, feel sharing and feel good.
Sorry for being so sentimental today. I promise to come back to myself in the next posts.