Team & Culture - Adopting Collective Rituals

Updated: Oct 26

Since the beginning of community / tribe forming, groups of people have created a common explanation of how the world operates and supported it through mindsets and rituals that bring individuals together and help them develop confluence.


One of the explanations for that is Dunbar’s number. It suggests that humans are able to form and maintain strong personal connections with about 150 individuals, meaning that communities below 200 individuals can be maintained through social cohesion.


Communities larger than 150 individuals require “more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group”.


Although this number is typically associated with tribes and communities, it can also be used to look at organizations. As soon as companies grow past a certain size, they start to see the cracks forming. Examples of these cracks are: duplicate work, new team members that you’ve never met or heard of, spending more time on internal politics than on defeating the competition, etc.


With the added “social distancing” no matter what the size of the organization the need to bring clarity to a company’s mission, processes, and values is more pressing than ever. This includes individuals who are not newcomers.


The best way to reinforce a company’s purpose is to truly “live it out” day in and day out. This is not just the managers’ job. Everyone in an organization plays a role in creating cohesion and a common sense of purpose, by creating and participating in rituals.


One ritual from my childhood was the Sunday family lunch. No matter what was going on, it was expected that all the members of our family would join for that lunch. Unlike my other friends, if I wanted to do something else on Sunday I had to explicitly inform my family of my absence. This signaled the importance of family and quality time.

Marilyn Zakhour Ritual Family Lunch

If a company is focused on employee development, it is likely that they have created various rituals to enable that (ex: a demo-day for employees to share their knowledge / experience, recurrent trainings that employees can take part in, sending employees to conferences as a reward for performance, etc.).


If a company is focused on sales and profitability, it is likely that they have created various rituals to enable that (ex: daily sales pipeline review, monthly results review, KPI dashboards visible in common spaces and offices, etc.).


Rituals are different from Habits or Routines in the sense that participation in them is far more deliberate and present.


Can you list the rituals that your company has developed? As a team member or manager, is there a ritual you would like to create now that people are not in the same space?


We made a worksheet in partnership with Shayne Smart, Principal Consultant at workshop.design, to help you create rituals that can work for your own team, family, and any group/community you belong to or are coaching. Click here to download it for free, and share with us your stories!