Need to make BIG changes fast? Take the “Ritual Route”

In our last post we talked about how inertia at an institutional level may be the biggest barrier that keeps you stuck.

After all, you can’t make the crucial decisions needed when no one else is on board.

As a result, the small window of opportunity that every crisis gives you slams shut because everyone’s frozen in place.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this when you pitch an idea you think is necessary or game-changing…but everyone’s eyes glaze over. Or when your team or organization actually implements the idea…but the results aren’t what you expect. 

In both cases, institutional inertia sabotages the entire operation from behind the scenes. The problem is that during a crisis you can’t afford to have either of these things happen.

So how can you break out of inertia at an institutional level?  Dr. Josh Packard has a counterintuitive answer…

He explains that it all comes down to our RITUALS.

Dr. Packard (and many other sociological experts) have observed that just about everything we do follows a set of patterns.

And as it turns out, everything our organization does effectively comes down to the rituals we use on a daily basis.

This includes things like:

  • Our standard operating procedures
  • Our incentive systems for motivating and rewarding staff
  • The way we interact with clients and customers
  • The way we communicate through emails and meetings

And these rituals can be our best friend or worst enemy.

On one hand, these same rituals allow us to operate at scale. We can do things more effectively because once we figure out what works, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

But on the other hand, these same rituals also keep us stuck when we can’t afford to be. They can reinforce flawed or outdated ways of thinking. They can encourage inefficient processes or operations. And they can lead to serious blind spots when we decide on a plan of action.

Companies that continue to ignore this often never notice the harm they do to their bottom line by doing so. Or they set themselves up for a fiasco that could have been avoided entirely.

This is because once people are used to doing things a certain way, this then becomes their new comfort zone. 

Threaten to disrupt this comfort zone and you’ll immediately be met with resistance. Go against what people believe and watch as they raise their shields and gather their pitchforks to fight against what you’re proposing.

The fact is that once your team or organization gets comfortable with a certain way of doing things they become much more resistant to change. And telling them to change everything on a dime only leads to confusion, misunderstanding and even resentment.

That’s why stamping your foot down and commanding everyone to get in line won’t work. Without the proper buy-in from everyone your plan of action will go astray – for seemingly no reason at all.

The solution? 

Dr. Josh Packard explains that if you want to make a big change in your organization, you need to make sure your new values are in line with your operations.

This happens when you change your actions at the MICRO level to reflect these new values. 

To do this, the #1 question you need to ask yourself is:

What are NEW rituals that will allow us to enact these new values on a daily basis?

You need to come up with new patterns that align everyone around this new way of doing things.

One way this can be done is through a shift in what you track or measure. 

A simple change here can align everyone around a new goal in a way that feels natural. And by rewarding people for hitting these new milestones, they’ll feel motivated to continue doing so without any inertia slowing them down.

For example, instead of thinking about things in terms of ‘How can we minimize our cost or time investment?”, some useful reframes are:

  • How can we maximize value for our customers during this time?
  • How can we show them that we’re here for them – that our actions revolve around THEIR needs and wants
  • How will our actions set us apart from competitors who are doing the bare minimum?

Lastly, this can be done through how you approach relationships within your organization.

And this last method may be the most important in both the immediate and long-term. It can lead to improved performance…increased morale…and an entirely new culture built around the new direction you’re heading in.

We’ll reveal how this can be done in our next post, so stay tuned.

Till next time, 


P.S. Before you make any relationship-based changes in your organization, you need to first make sure you aren’t suffering from broken or damaged trust. This can be the way members view you, other key members, or management as a whole. The worst part is that this broken trust is often unspoken…but the damage it causes is very real.

To make sure this doesn’t derail your plans going forward, read this article by Chip explaining the symptoms of broken trust (and what you can do to fix it):

>> Need to Repair Broken Trust? Here’s How