An American military officer, just prior to World War II, is visiting a British counterpart to review and learn from their maneuvers. The two watch an artillery battalion deploy from their trucks and prepare their cannons for a mock attack. The American leans towards his counterpart and inquires why seven men are assigned to each cannon when there are only six active positions - the seventh man just stands at attention without assisting the others prepare the cannon. The British officer quickly responds by sharing that there has always been seven-man teams. He follows by vocalizing that he is not quite sure why the seventh man is just standing at attention but ensures he will look into it.
Several days later, the British officer meets the American to detail his findings. "There has always been seven-men teams. The seventh was responsible for holding the horses."
How many of us, on our teams and in our communities, continue to engage in the same practices and procedures simply because 'that's how it has always been done'? In other words, the deeply-rooted culture has become so engrained in what we do that we mindlessly continue without thinking about the implications. How many of us have 7th men/women - standing at attention - that aren't assisting in any meaningful way?
Take a moment to think deeply about your team or organization. Where do you have a 7th? What can you do about it?