Tradition and Change

Contributed on september 7, 2021 by Cheryl Viola, Executive Director, MBA

Every person, every society, and every culture have traditions. Traditions are wonderful; they are a critical piece to our cultures and form the structure of our families and society. Tradition, reminds us of history, defining our past and shaping us who we are today. Tradition reinforces values like freedom, faith, integrity, personal responsibility, a strong work ethic, and selfless service.

In the workplace, we cannot hold to tradition. Each new generation becomes the majority in the workforce and is influential and the catalysts for change. With the exponential growth in technology and innovations, our businesses need to adapt and balance traditional and nontraditional practices in the workplace. Covid-19 is a great example that everyone was forced to change from tradition. We had to adapt to working from home, to zoom meetings. Everyone had to adapt to new ways to deliver the same goods and services.

Tradition offers some great benefits:

  • Stability
  • Structured communication
  • Central authority & decision making
  • Professionalism
  • Uniform hours and dress codes including arriving on time to work and looking professional.
  • Employees in traditional work culture are typically highly efficient and productive.

There are benefits to both traditional and nontraditional workplaces. When tradition stifles growth and prevents change then it is time to let go of some tradition. What worked 5, 10, or 20 years ago may not work today.

In a Harvard Business Review article, the author Jeanie Duck said: “For change to occur in any organization each individual must think, feel, or do something different.” Leaders must win each employee one by one, which means that corporate change is difficult and frustrating.

The key to managing change is connecting and balancing all the pieces. It starts with managing the conversation and managing the emotional connection to the tradition. Change is about feelings and emotions, to be successful with the change you need to connect directly through values, beliefs, and feelings.

To be successful with the change you need to:

  • Provide appropriate resources:
    • Power to allocate resources to make things happen.

Recently I purchased a new dining room table. I paid in full and was told it would take approximately six weeks to arrive. I tried to negotiate to purchase the floor model and ended up having to wait six weeks. As the expected arrival date neared, I stopped in the store to check on the status of the furniture. Imagine my surprise to learn that it would be another 6 weeks. As you can imagine at this point, I was an unhappy customer. The employees did not have the power to correct the problem and kept referring me to the unavailable manager. Employees need to have the authority to make things happen and solve problems.

• Power to kill projects that are no longer needed.

Just as important as it is to have authority to solve problems businesses need to recognize when projects that are no longer needed are terminated. The fax machine is a great example. One of the radio hosts I spoke with mentioned how they still pay for a fax line for a fax that isn’t used. With all the different forms of communication, businesses need to recognize when some things become antiquated and need to be removed.  When I lived in North Dakota there was a community event that had run for 34 years. Each year that I was involved with the event less and fewer vendors participated. It was becoming clear that the event had run its course and that the vendors were using other channels to sell their products. It took some convincing to finally get the board to agree to end the event. We were able to bring in a successful new event.

  • Coordinate and align projects
    • Align projects into building blocks. They need to fit together and communicate. People need to know how the pieces fit to see the larger picture.
  • Provide opportunities for joint creation.
    • Idea sharing
    • The best leaders know that collaboration and brainstorming from all employees produce the best ideas for growth.
  • Provide continuous training.
    • With the constant change and development of technology, there is always an opportunity for training. Do not forget to include in the training continuous customer support training so that as in my situation with the table the employees are trained to know how to unexpected and challenging circumstances.

Change is inevitable and is going on around us: in our personal lives, our community, our nation, and the world. When we let go of tradition, we open the door to opportunity.