Formality

The velvet rope unhooks
When we slowly bow our head
We seldom hope to look
Upon the face that we all dread
We walk along the carpet
A straight and narrow path
To talk or venture off it
Will kill our slender chance
We knock three times and wait
As we were told to do before
We hope we are not late
As we stand silent at the door
We hear deliberate footsteps
From the other side
We hold our breath, my goodness!
Is it finally our time?
The door swings wide and all we see
An empty space within
We lower our eyes towards our feet
An infant with a grin!

 

Formality can be taken to such lengths that it becomes childish in itself.

The simplest example of formality is one person being in charge of a group of people. In this situation, it is less important who is in charge and more important that someone is in charge. The formality is allowing more efficient delineation of responsibility. When that turns into the leader clinging onto power with a sense of superiority, believing only they can be in charge, regardless of their utility to the group, a change should be made. An honest leader is not afraid to follow someone else when it is more beneficial to others.

Process is good, but only when it is helping achieve a goal that is hampered by a lack of process. Each time complexity is introduced, it should be grounded and focused on the end goal it helps facilitate. The introduction of process for the sake of it should never be a goal itself. When formality is based on logic and has a clear goal in mind, it will be more widely accepted.

Furthermore, when the actions of entrepreneuring adults are stymied because of a strict hierarchy and rigid adherence to process, too much formality is in place. They should be trusted to follow the intent of a decision. They should have the flexibility to step outside the process if it allows them to more efficiently attain the primary goal at hand. This behavior, which in real-time allows experiments that produce better results, should be encouraged and rewarded, not dissuaded.

Dissent should not be punished, obedience in opinion should not be forced. Honest adults should be allowed to publicly disagree with a decision, while still carrying it out. It is insulting to assume an individual cannot make a distinction between their own reservations and the necessity to follow the order. Environments that focus on consistency of results, instead of homogenizing opinions, foster new ideas that move goals forward.

If there is no logical backing for an existing formality or tradition, it should be phased out. If there is a genuine push to make ideas better, everything should be on the table, even tried and tested formalities. Conversely, if it is a tradition that is simply making people happy and doesn’t have any negative consequence, it’s reasonable to leave it alone. Focus should be directed towards those that are having an adverse effect on an important goal. Often, symbolic formalities get too much attention and distract from what can lead towards an actual positive outcome.

 

Situational Questions

  • Are you trying to thwart the removal of a rule because its existence is beneficial to you? Is the rule based on any logic? Does it actually provide a benefit to others, or are you reaching for justification because of the comfortable situation it maintains for you?
  • Do you enjoy joking around, being on both the giving and receiving end? Or does decorum cause you to condemn and avoid humor? Are you so self-conscious that you aren’t able to roll with the punches?

 

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