Last year I was invited to my old high school to present on the topic of entrepreneurship.  It was a very interesting experience on many levels as I had a chance to see all the various developments the school had made since my graduation.  Perhaps the most interest aspects of this visit was what did not change within the institution.  My presentation was part of morning assembly and as tradition holds in the school, the students kicked off the event with the school song.  While I was a bit surprised that I remembered the words to a song I had not heard in such a long time, what got me really thinking was why in the world educational institutions such as my high school force everyone to learn a song.

I was reminded again of this more recently when I watched a classic movie, Lean on Me, which is the story of a high school principle who is charged with transforming a school in New Jersey.  In the movie, the title character played by Morgan Freeman insists on students learning the Alma Mater as part of this transformation effort.

The scene in the story helped me better understand why something that seems so trivial such as a school song is a very powerful tool in shaping minds and transforming organizations.  I recognized that the school song is an important uniter that brings students together and reminds them that they belong to a group with a common mission.  While this might not seem so obvious as teenagers, I believe that there is a long time effect that is similar to subliminal advertising here.

Several years ago when I joined IBM someone mentioned that in the “old days” the company used to have a song that employees were expected to sing every morning before work.  IBM is a 100 year old company and this requirement must be really old as I don’t remember the exact year.  However, it is a strong reminder of the power of this type of tradition in organizations.  Human beings like to belong, to be part of something greater than themselves. This is a tool that helps achieve this.

These days there are other activities such as training and education that fulfill this requirement.  In project management, practitioners need to consider how they can build teams in a cohesive manner.  Once the team feels united they are better able to achieve their desired goal.