Hiding Behind The Façade of Tradition to Avoid Change

May / 2021

How many times in your professional career have you been told, “Because that’s how it has always been done”?

Change is the inevitable morale killer that is necessary for businesses to survive and thrive unless leaders effectively manage that change and lead through it. However, what is worse than avoiding change? Hiding behind the façade of tradition. Merriam-Webster defines tradition as an “inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior.”

Whether an organization is in the public or private sector, understanding what traditions are can help guide leaders through necessary change without compromising the latter. For example, the military has long-standing traditions that are still customary today, however, the weapons, technology, tactics, infrastructure, and vehicles have changed or modernized to adapt to the growing world threats.

Old cannons

I will admit when asking about a military tradition I would often hear that dreaded phrase and be annoyed, but after reflecting on the past, present, and future, it is fitting for those military customs. It is not, however, fitting for the evolution of warfare.

These principles are no different in business. Without managing change, change will manage the business, and probably not in the way one would hope. So what questions do leaders ask to take to break down this façade?

What are the traditions that an organization wants to keep?

A city may want to stay in a small town but what does that mean? Population? Natural aesthetics? Commercial or residential growth? Or are they events put on every year that brings together the community and the region to enjoy? A small-town feel can be maintained through traditions such as events without compromising the inevitable growth of a small town.

Do these traditions impact or inhibit growing the business?

An organization may love Windows XP but your industry hardware and software requires Windows 10. What cost is the organization willing to go through to keep the status quo?

When responding to “because we have always done it this way” what first comes to mind?

Is doing it this way a process, procedure, policy, or resource that impacts workflow efficiency, that if changed would improve outcomes?

What are competitors doing?

Do they share this same industry standard across the board? Is your organization the only one with this “tradition” that may impact the bottom- or top-line? Who is leaving the industry? Where are they going and why?

Organizations cannot get caught in the status quo for the sake of tradition. It is a garbage excuse that will ultimately lead to an unanticipated change that is not productive for the organization or the talent working there.

3 Simples Steps To Take To Thrive Through Change

  1. Do market research: Be aware of what is happening around you, your industry, analyze trends,
  2. Communicate with your team: Seek different opinions on the same issue and be open to a friendly discussion.
  3. Be ready to quickly change priorities and paths accordingly.


In fact, changing behaviors and culture is central to changing business models. If you and your company kept the same traditions as always, how would you have thrived in our Covid environment? If you did not change your behaviors… your business is probably not in its best shape. Take for instance the example of previously worldwide renowned companies such as Kodak, Blockbuster, Blackberry… how are they doing now? 

While culture provides the foundation for organizational and industry stability, it is also the force that keeps leaders stuck in their old ways of conducting business.

About the author

R. Dalton Rice
City Manager at Morgan's Point Resort | More From the Author

Dalton is the chief executive for the City of Morgan’s Point Resort in Central Texas leading a diverse team of 36 spanning 3 enterprises that serve over 5,000 residents.

After a notable 5-year career as a Paramedic, he led performance improvement initiatives for a $20 million primary care and specialty physician group with 40 physicians and 135 employees.

Dalton’s passion for serving is highlighted through his 13-years in the United States Army as a Green Beret having served throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. He has a BS in Business Administration and Law and a MS focusing on change management and organizational development. He is active in multiple International and Local City Manager organizations focusing on mentoring and coaching, professional and personal development, and ethics in the workplace.

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