Culture and Organizational Change


The concept of culture is particularly important when attempting to manage organization-wide change. Practitioners are coming to realize that, despite the best-laid plans, organizational change must include not only changing structures and processes, but also changing the corporate culture as well. (www.carla.umn.edu/culture.html) accessed 10th March 2008.

An effective organizational culture aligns with the business strategy to ensure that the company meets its long-term goals, writes Vinita Gupta. Corporate culture has a major impact on employee morale and productivity. It is not about just being a good employer, but about having employees committed to the vision and the strategy of the organization, and possessing the will and the means to make these a reality.

Creating and sustaining a healthy, vibrant culture requires reinforcement of the culture through daily and proactive conversations and communications. The failure to discuss the values, purpose, and rules within a group often leads to a culture that is at cross purposes with the stated intention of the group. Poor communication creates a lot of confusion and often a crisis of meaninglessness. Retrieved from evc.msh.org on 15/3/2008

Culture change is difficult and time consuming because "culture" is rooted in the collective history of an organization, and because so much of it is below the surface of awareness. In general, the process of culture change must include the following steps, Herbert (1976):

• Uncover core values and beliefs. These may include stated values and goals, but they are also embedded in organizational metaphors, myths, and stories, and in the behaviors of members.

• Acknowledge, respect, and discuss differences between core values and beliefs of different subcultures within the organization.

• Look for similarity between conscious and unconscious beliefs and values and resolve by choosing those to which the organization wishes to commit. Establish new behavioral norms (and even new metaphor language) that clearly demonstrate desired values.

• Repeat these steps over a long period of time. As new members enter the organization, assure that they are surrounded with clear messages about the culture they are entering. Reinforce desirable behavior.

The culture of a group can now be defined as: A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems. (Schein 373-374)

According to Edgar Schein, cultural analysis is especially valuable for dealing with aspects of organizations that seem irrational, frustrating, and intractable. He writes, "The bottom line for leaders is that if they do not become conscious of the cultures in which they are embedded, those cultures will manage them." (Schein 375)

Forces that act as a stimulant for change, Robbins,
(2001):
1. Changing nature of the workforce - almost every organization has to adjust to a multi cultural environment. Human resource policies and practices have to change in order to attract and keep this more diverse work force.

2. Technology - the substitution of computer control for direct supervision is resulting in wider span of control for managers and flatter organizations. Many jobs are being reshaped because of this.

3. Economic shocks - economic problems within the country the organization is operating in or other countries it has links to may lead to a need for change of strategy.

4. Competition - Global economy means that competitors are likely to come across different borders. An organization needs to change to be able to survive with the new competition knocking at its door. Development of new product or improvement on existing ones may aid in this aspect.

5. Social trends - attitudes towards something e.g. attitude towards smoking, popularity of products for example sports utility vehicles.

6. World politics - for example, opening of markets in china lead to new potential customers to global organizations, Black rule in South Africa caused a restructuring of organizations to be able to accommodate all races in equitable proportions.
Change, Its Culture Bound, Robbins (2001)

Culture and its environment
Culture varies in terms of belief about their ability to control their environment. In cultures where people believe that they can dominate their environment, individuals will take a proactive view of change. In cultures where people see themselves as subjugated to their environment, they would naturally take a passive approach towards change.

Culture and time
A culture’s time orientation can help with change. Cultures that focus on the long term will generally tend to show patience while waiting for positive outcomes from change efforts. In cultures with short term focus, people expect to see quick improvements and will seek change programs that promise fast results.

Culture and change resistance
Resistance to change is influenced to a society’s reliance on tradition. Societies that dwell on the past will generally resist change while those that focus on the future aspects of life will be more open and will readily accept change faster.

Culture and its influence on change efforts
Power distances can explain this further. In high power distance cultures, change efforts will tend to be autocratically implemented by top management. In contrast, low power distance will value democratic methods. Participation from low power distance cultures will be greater due to the democracy of the organization.

Culture; Teamwork and Innovation
The importance of corporate culture is growing as the result of several recent developments. Companies are encouraging employees to be more responsible and act and think like owners. They are also encouraging teamwork and the formation of teams as a strong culture is one in which they work together effectively, share the same values, and make decisions to meet the organization’s primary goals and objectives. A company must cultivate a creative corporate culture that transcends the ability to capitalize on emerging opportunities, and begins to create and exploit opportunities in the global marketplace

Culture and Human Resource
While corporate culture is not necessarily the responsibility of HR, the people who are hired and the training and cultural imperatives placed on the business are done through HR, hence it can have a big impact on whether or not the firm is culturally attuned to innovation. Over time, one can argue that innovation is a sustainable competitive advantage, and that businesses that attract and retain creative, innovative people and implement a culture that sustains innovation, will possess a strong competitive advantage. If so, HR will have a huge impact on that company and its culture
To answer the question of whether organizational change is good or bad, we will look at the advantages of change and the disadvantages.

Whichever outweighs the other is the answer to our question.

ADVANTAGES OF ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE
1. Sharing of ideas;
In case of mergers there will be an increase in talent and new ideas will emerge from the different bits that individuals bring to the table. With this, you are able to come up with more products that may be enticing to your consumers.

2. Acquisition of new clientele
In some cases when an organization changes it is able to serve a much wider client base with more resources or even with redirection of the resources it is currently operating with. Change can simply enhance your appeal to more potential customers and may even sway customers loyal to your competitors.

3. Competitiveness
Organizations have to constantly change in order to keep up with the changing market and to be able to keep up with its competitors. This also provides a competitive edge against your competitors who will always be left guessing what you are up to.

4. Retention of employees
When an organization seems not to be willing to change the employees get bored with the monotony and will look elsewhere for new opportunities that seem more challenging. With a fresh venture, employees may feel that they are entering into a new chapter in their lives and will be more willing to work for the company due to the enthusiasm of a new venture.

5. Gender equality
Being a relatively new concept all organizations must work hard to give their employees equal opportunity according to their capabilities and not because or their sexuality.

6. New challenges
Employees get an opportunity to tackle new challenges that arise from organizational change. The organization will also tackle new challenges with the new or expanded market they are in.

DISADVANTAGES OF ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE
1. Cultural differences
In the case of mergers there will be a conflict in organizational cultures thus it is important for the organizations to agree on the modes that will be used to carry out decisions. This may hamper growth of the organization.

2. Loss of jobs
Some people become redundant when new technology is introduced or even mergers take place as they see it as a potential threat to their future. Many companies will tend to lay off these workers because training them will be expensive.

3. Communication breakdown
If there is consistent change in an organizations hierarchy there will be a communication breakdown because employees can not keep up with the demands of different individuals. With communication breakdown comes misunderstanding and conflicts may arise.

4. Loss of clientele
When some organizations merge or change their names, some clients are left out due to lack of information in the midst of all the confusion. Other clients may not be willing to be part of the change and may opt to go take their business elsewhere.
With the above advantages and disadvantages, we see that change is more profitable for an organization and an individual. In management, there is a strong rule of, “Change or Die!”

References
1. Stephen P.R. Organizational Behaviour. 9th Edition Prentice Hall, USA, New Jersey 2001
2. Theodore T. H. Dimensions of Organizational Behaviour. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc, New York 1976
3. Edgar H. S. Organizational Culture and Leadership.
4. http://carla.umn.edu/culture.html
5. http://books.google.co.ke
6. http://evc.msh.org

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