This past week my wife and I went to see Fiddler on the Roof as part of the Broadway Series in Cincinnati. We love seeing live theater, and this is honestly one of my favorite musicals ever !! This version did not disappoint either. It had your attention from the moment the lights went down until the cast was “walking” out of their town of Anetevka to end the musical.
If you’ve never seen this great musical, I would highly recommend it. It has a great story line and the songs are all very memorable. The show starts with the powerful song “Tradition” where the various members of the little town in Russia during the turn of the 20th century all sing about their designated role. The main character, Tevye, is both narrator the one who carries the torch of tradition for himself, the townspeople and especially his five daughters.
During the opening song, Tevye has a line that says, “You may ask, ‘How did this tradition get started?’ I’ll tell you. I don’t know.” That seems to be the case with most traditions whether they be ones you have in your family or those within organizations. Even though we may not know the origin of traditions, we follow them fully just as they do in the show . . . at least for a while.
You see, I think there is value in tradition. Many people get this mixed up with the practice of doing things the same way because that’s “the way things have always been done.” If you come across this type of stagnation, then you have to challenge it and/or change it in some way. There is a natural change that happens in companies just due to the fact of the passing of time and the addition and deletion of people. Any time you get new folks involved on work and projects, change occurs simply because they aren’t the people who were involved in the past.
Traditions have their place in companies because they can give you a picture of what has worked in the past. Remember, you can always learn from the past. You just can’t constantly dwell in it. Traditions are an essential part of a company’s culture. They give flavor, distinction and help shape the fabric of what your company offers. These on-going facets are those that critical components of retention. Traditions can be a very positive aspect if they are healthy, living and inclusive.
The key movement in the musical is also a great lesson for us as HR professionals in organizations. Tevye wants to desperately hold on to the traditions of his past that you assume happened for generations. His daughters challenge him in every way and break with tradition by choosing a spouse when spouses had been traditionally agreed upon by the father and another family. He reluctantly gives in on the three who choose a partner because he sees all sides of what the change will bring. This includes the hope that his daughters would benefit from breaking with tradition.
We should look around within our companies to see what traditions need to be tweaked or altered all together. One reason for this is that making changes will allow for diversity to be present on purpose. You can seek the input of others and make sure the voices of everyone have a chance for input. The goal would be for them to benefit from the changes that happen.
Traditions are all around us and we can benefit from having them personally and in our companies. The key is to make sure they are current and relevant. Know why and how you have the traditions that make you great !!