Project Management

The Risk and Reward of Organizational Rituals

Yasmina Khelifi is a French project manager with three PMI certifications. She has been working in an international environment for 20 years. She is a passionate volunteer at PMI and Professional Women’s Network. She is also a regular volunteer blogger on She is the host and founder of the podcast “Global Leaders Talk with Yasmina Khelifi."

I remember my first day on the job as a fresh graduate. My official desk wasn’t yet free, and I was in another office with the manager of another team. At noon, she went to eat and I waited at my desk, wondering if my new boss would pick me up.

I forgot to ask him how things worked at lunchtime. I finally found my way to the canteen by myself.

The Importance of Organizational Culture
An organization's culture consists of the practices, symbols, values and assumptions that its members share with regard to appropriate behavior (Schein, 1990). This broad definition encompasses so many influential factors to your projects, and in this article, I’d like to think about it through the lens of rituals.

Organizational culture is not an abstract notion, born out of a vacuum. It is grounded in:

  • the given country
  • the history of the company
  • the people who are part of the company

Organizational culture is steeped in tacit knowledge, the unwritten and unspoken rules. And yet, you need to grasp them and decipher them for two main reasons:

  1. Your projects will operate in this environment, so you need to understand the boundaries (i.e., what is and is not allowed).
  2. You need to assess your level of compatibility with the organization to thrive.

I’m not a big fan of tacit knowledge, but I can understand that writing down all the rules and …

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A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.

- Sam Goldwyn