On my Team: the Traditionalist

“We have always done it this way.”

“That’s just the way it’s done.”

We think of these phrases as the killers of innovation. And, unchecked, they are. If we hear, “It’s how we have always done it,” and stop, questioning no further, we do a disservice to the organization as a whole and everyone in it. But if we ask, “Why have we done it this way?” we learn things we may never have discovered otherwise. This is why the Traditionalist is someone I am interested in having on my team. Not a whole team of Traditionalists, of course, but one or two? Most definitely yes.


Tradition! Tradition!

I love working on process improvements. I love finding ways in which we can do things just a bit faster or a little more accurately, or even, with the same speed and accuracy, more consistently. I love building tools and systems that enable individuals and teams to do their jobs more efficiently, therefore freeing up time for more strategic work or more personal development.

That said, such tools/processes cannot, and should not, be developed in a vacuum. In order to change a system for the better, we must first understand the system that was in place before and the reasons for each component of said system. Otherwise, we revise a Benefits process to make it easier for the Benefits Administrator without realizing that the step which seemed so meaningless was vital for accurate payroll processing.

This may seem extremely similar to what we discussed regarding the Old Guard, and in your team, the Old Guard and the Traditionalist roles may be held by the same person. The distinction here is that the Old Guard is on our team because they have organizational memory. They know what is meant when someone refers to “Sarah’s* Prom.” The Traditionalist may be of the Old Guard, but they may also be someone who is newer to the organization and lacking in cultural memory, yet has deep knowledge of and loyalty to the processes and procedures which are currently in place.

*Actual reference, with name changed, for obvious reasons.


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