The importance of rituals in co-creating Meaning and Purpose

by Didier Marlier on Friday November 1st, 2013

Engaging people at the Intellectual level requires that we co-create (create with them instead of broadcast) clarity, meaning and ownership about what we wish to engage them in. Several tools and practices exist and most of them have to do with creating a space where people can engage into a honest dialogue about the new direction they are requested to follow.

Recently, I was in Camaçari (Brazil), watching the construction site of a huge chemical plant. I was reported of a ritual which is apparently common in the chemical industry and I was rather fascinated.

Each morning, the employees gather in their teams for a 15 minutes After/Before Action Review. They start by reviewing the previous day happenings for 5 minutes, especially in light of the HSE (Health, Environment & Safety) themes. The next 10 minutes see an open dialogue take place on what could/should be changed and improved. The leaders are trained not to dominate the debate but truly facilitate it, show curiosity and interest and ensure it remains on track.

The session closes with a prayer where all participants, believers or not, will focus and mentally engage in ensuring an accident free day to themselves and to their companions.

I thought “What an interesting ritual and what a nice manner to reconnect people’s energy and refocus their attention on what they do and why they do it”. My mind started to create images of a similar type of Before Action Review with all teams in an organization. The key purpose of the organization could be reminded and a rapid review and analysis of how well we did compared to those could be organized, prior to a sort of “collective prayer”, a haka or this “holy moment” I still vividly remember prior to each ice hockey game (I was a goal tender) where, all gathered around the “goalie” we would listen to a few inspiring and focusing words of our captain and shout three times in order to get intellectual and emotional alignment prior to the “battle”.

What those leaders in chemical plants also demonstrate, in this way, is that there are simple manners to engage their people, whatever their level, into co-creating clarity, meaning and ownership about what they do!

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One Response to “The importance of rituals in co-creating Meaning and Purpose”

  1. Dear Friend Didier,
    Very nice an truly observation. As you know I worked for almost a year for a big Brazilian engineering and construction company. Visiting the construction sites in the north of the country I observed this ritual at the beginning of the shifts. It creates a team spirit where they commit one each other to protect their lives working safely. It is really amazing the energy and engagement this moment creates within the team. It is exactly as you described fully of emotion, faith and purpose. With this ceremonial they feel engaged and understand the importance of the work for themselves, their families, the company they work for and for the society. It creates a meaning for their job.


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