4  ̴  Ceremony has Purpose

Purpose: useful reason for which something is done.

We create ceremony to fulfill a purpose. The purpose of the Announcement Ceremony is to communicate information quickly and effectively to everyone working in a common space. The purpose of the Pretakeoff Ceremony is to successfully set the switches before takeoff, and not crash and die.

The more focused the purpose, the more effective the ceremony.

The results to be produced by a ceremony are clearly defined in advance. We know they are clear if an independent, third-party observer can confirm by the end of the ceremony that it has, in fact, accomplished its purpose.

A purpose may be as simple as communicating a message, as essential as preparing an airplane for takeoff, or as grand as setting a new strategic direction for an entire global organization. Your authors have implemented ceremonies to achieve hundreds of different purposes, a small sample of which follow:

Advertise products

Buy services

Communicate status

Design user interface

Evaluate vendors

Facilitate change

Generate new sales

Hire new staff

Interview stakeholders

Judge success or failure

Kill underperforming ceremonies

Launch a marketing campaign

Program computers

Prioritize work

Train staff

Verify sales funnels

List all of the work you regularly do to fulfill your mission. Every item on the list is a candidate to be significantly improved through ceremony.  Ceremony has a purpose. It actually completes an element of work during the ceremony.

A ceremony is not simply a meeting to describe work, a ceremony literally does the work.

  • A Pretakeoff Ceremony actually changes the setting of critical switches
  • A Wedding Ceremony actually marries two people
  • A Quilting Ceremony actually adds squares to a quilt
  • A Computer Programming ceremony actually writes lines of code

We took a job considered solitary and isolated—computer programming—and reworked it entirely using ceremony.  Our programming ceremony takes less time to write code, reduces bugs, and dramatically decreases the cost of maintenance.

To do this we turned the act of writing lines of code from a solitary activity done alone in a cube into a ritualized social interaction between two programmers sitting at a single computer. We designed the ceremony specifically to produce high-quality software. We changed the entire nature of the work. You can do this too.

Ceremony supports real people, in real time, completing real work.


Ceremony completes an element of work.

A ceremony is a ritualized social interaction to complete an element of work, requiring sacrifice, and rewarding the participants with positive emotional energy. Describing a ceremony is relatively simple. We include: Name—what we call the ceremony Purpose—a clear outcome, an element of work to be accomplished Participants—at least two people who interact in two…
ritual: a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. Ceremony is ritualized. It has a prescribed series of actions performed according to a prescribed order which the participants learn by rote. Three elements of ritual structure include: Opening—A clearly defined start, making it obvious to all participants that…

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