BPR and Organisational Culture
This chapter defines what organisational culture is, looks at some of the problems of measuring it, identifies its value and role within significant organisational change, and asks 'can, and should, culture be changed'.
Many of the academics who have studied culture and have often come up with rather narrow definitions. Others have taken these definitions and combined them into new, more embracing definitions. For instance, Schein has created the following definition:
"a pattern of basic assumptions - invented, discovered, or developed by a given group as it learns to cope with 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, 1985, p9)
This definition identifies that culture is to do with groups of people collectively (not individuals alone), who through their experiences together, day by day in the work environment, will build a picture of what the organisation is all about and how it undertakes its purpose, and that this picture is built through learning how to behave for survival and progression. Whilst the context part of this definition (i.e. how cultural is created and the group aspects) is generally accepted, whether culture is "patterns of basic assumptions" is open to debate.
Whilst others such as (Smircich, 1983) support similar hidden attributes of "beliefs and values" others would emphasise behaviour. Thompson & Luthans (1990) highlight the behavioural view of organisational culture, as defined for instance in the Social Learning Theory proposed by Bandura (1976, 1977), which is learning through both direct and vicarious (indirect) means. For example, employees seeing how they are treated by management and how they interpret management treating other people. In this theory, behaviour has two components: the norms which are internalised views of how one should behave and the patterns which are external visible manifestations of the internal views. This visible / invisible distinction applies to other non behaviour attributes of culture which many researchers tend to emphasise. For example, Deal and Kennedy (1982) emphasise the more visible "heroes, rites and rituals, legends, and ceremonies" (p14), because it is these attributes they believe shape behaviour.
Rousseau (1990), in his critique of researchers who concentrate on one or a few attributes, proposes a multi-layered model which he structured as a ring (figure 3.1 Layers of Culture, p158). Rousseau's rings were "organised from readily accessible [outer layers] to difficult to access [inner layers]". Rousseau's model is re-produced below.
Figure 3.1 Layers of Culture, Rousseau (1990, figure 5.1, p158) with additional annotation.
Rousseau's model appears to capture all the key elements of culture: "a continuum from unconscious to conscious, from interpretative to behaviour, from inaccessible to accessible". But whilst Rousseau asserts that "the layers of culture associated with values, beliefs, and expectations constitute the primary elements in organisation researchers conceptualisations of culture" (p159) it would appear from other critical researchers (see below) that in fact most research has concentrated on those more visible outer layers.
At this point it should be highlighted that many researchers use the same terms but for different meanings. Thus Schein's "values" are visible "dominant values espoused by an organisation".
Smircich (1985; p59) outlines a "typology for thinking about the various assumptions that different social scientists make about human beings and their world". These are summarised below in table 3.1
|Approach||Ontological Assumptions||Assumptions about Human Nature||Some Examples of Research|
|Objective||Reality as a Concrete Structure||Humans as Responding Mechanisms||Behaviourism Social Learning Theory|
|Reality as a Concrete Process||Humans as Adaptive Agents||Open Systems Theory|
|Reality as a Contextual Field of Information||Humans as Information Processors||Cybernetics|
|Reality as a Symbolic Discourse||Humans as Social Actors||Social Action Theory|
|Reality as a Social Construction||Humans Create their Realities||Ethnomethodology|
|Subjective||Reality as a Projection of Human Imagination||Humans as Transcendental Beings||Phenomenology|
Table 3.1: 6 perspectives (Morgan & Smircich, 1980, pp491-500)
Much of the popular writings on culture, especially in the eighties, has come from the objective end of the spectrum. Management Consultants such as Peters and Waterman (1982), and Deal and Kennedy (1982) emphasise the cultural elements of "business environment", "values", "heroes", "rites and rituals", and "cultural network". Organisational Development practitioners, such as Schein (1985), emphasise that culture is created by leaders who create organisational environments that employees respond to, and in the process modify their behaviour.
The more subjective end of the spectrum belongs to those that believe cultural to be a root metaphor, as Pacanowsky & O'Donnell-Trujillo (1983) put it, "organizational culture is not just another piece of the puzzle, it is the puzzle" (in Alvesson, 1993, p146).
A another related view of Smircich is mentioned by Thompson & Luthans who state:
"Smircich (1983) attempts to clear up the confusion surrounding the definition of culture by categorising three approaches to culture: Culture can be viewed as an independent variable (or external variable) brought into the organisation, as an internal variable within an organisation, or as a root metaphor for conceptualising organisations."
(Thompson & Luthans, 1990, p323)
and they later suggest that Smircich favours the latter meaning.
These three views are illustrated in figure 3.2.
Figure 3.2 Perspectives of Culture
It will be frequently seen in the following sections that researcher's and writer's backgrounds and perspectives shape their understanding and analysis of organisational culture and their "solutions", if any.
This section will briefly identify some models of cultural types as these are often linked to the way organisational culture is perceived to be created.
Harrison (see Hampden-Turner, 1990) defined a four quadrant model based on the twin axis of Formulation (high-low) and Centralisation (high-low) to give the four cultures of Role, Task, Atomistic (Person) and Power as shown in figure 3.3. Handy (1985) uses a similar model but names his 4 types as Apollo, Athena, Dionysus and Zeus respectively, after the Greek Gods displaying those characteristics.
Figure 3.3: Culture Quadrants after Harrison (1972)
Quinn & McGrath (1985) develops the idea of four types of organisational form (Hierarchy, Market, Clan and Adhocracy) based on 4 cultural types, (or "Transactional Expectations or Governing Rules"), of Hierarchical, Rational, Consensual and Ideological. These match closely to Harrison's and Handy's models.
Whilst the above examples reflect a structural view of organisations, others have a more action oriented view. Kono (1990) in his survey of 88 Japanese companies identified 5 culture types: Vitalised, 'Follow the leader and vitalised', Bureaucratic, Stagnant, 'Follow the leader and stagnant'.
Deal and Kenney's (1982) culture types reflect how an organisation responds to the market place. Thus, "companies that depend on for success on their ability to sell an undifferentiated product tend to develop ... what we call a work hard / play hard culture". Those "that spend a great deal of research and development money before they even know if the final product will be successful or not, tend to develop ... a better your company culture" (p13/14). Their "tough-guy, macho culture" represents "a world of individualists" fighting to gain big wins, whereas their "process culture" is one that "concentrate on how work is done - a possible bureaucracy" such that would be found in a less competitive market place (Chap. 6).
A third view is more behavioural. Alvesson (1993) uses a metaphor concept, believing they are "a crucial element in how people relate to reality" and that it "might encourage a deeper, more sceptical and reflective perception of what people mean by culture" and be more valuable than a pure scientific approach. His 10 main metaphors, based on the interpretation of the work of others, are cultures as: exchange regulator, compass, social glue, sacred cow, manager-controlled rites, affect-regulator, non-order, blinder, world-closure, and dramaturgical domination. Most of these reflect a culture of management direction, control or manipulation. Alvesson goes on (p118) to support "Ambiguity" (see later) and proposes a "multiple cultural configuration" perspective incorporating aspects of people's social life and not just organisational life as seen, even determined, by a "management-centric" world.
These differing models of culture types reflect the different underlying principles as to whether culture is something an organisation is (action view) or something an organisation has (structural view), or whether culture is primarily about people (behavioural view) rather than organisations. But as will be seen in the next section, others see cultural categorisation as being too simplistic, even a management tool for emphasising a single organisational perspective.
Researchers and practitioners from the more objective end of Smircich's spectrum take up a common theme of organisational development through a series of stages, whilst others place more emphasis on the context of change.
Schein (1985) identifies organisations developing through the three stages of "Birth and Early Growth, Mid-life and Maturity". Birth and Early Growth covers the formative years, when new organisations are "dominated" by the vision and drive of their founder. Here according to Schein (and others), "Culture is a distinctive competence and source of integrity; .. the glue that holds organisations together", and "Organisations strive towards integration and clarity" (p271). Handy (1985) see this phase typically being "power-oriented, politically minded, risk taking, and rate security as a minor element in their psychological contract" (p189). A culture where organisations "judge by results and are tolerant of means".
During the Mid-life phase, when "the sheer numbers of non-family members over weighs the family members" (Schein, p283), the original culture has become absorbed and unconscious and then "Cultural integration declines as new subcultures are spawned. Loss of key goals, values, and assumptions creates crisis of identity" (p272). This is Handy's "role culture, often stereotyped as bureaucracy" (p190). This culture works by "logic and rationality" embodied in rules and procedures, and "rests its strength in its functions or specialities". Handy refers to Weber's (1963) definition of a bureaucracy.
Finally, Maturity is reached when "the organisation is unable to growth because it has saturated its markets or become obsolete in its products" (Schein, p291). "Culture becomes a constraint on innovation. [It] preserves the glories of the past, hence it is valued as a source of self-esteem, defence" (p272).
Schein doesn't believe that progression through each of these stages is inevitable. Changing an organisation's culture is possible, even inevitable. He proposes various change mechanism for each of the stages and places great emphasis and responsibility on the leaders for initiating and implementing these, often using organisational development techniques. Only at the Maturity stage when decline and potential termination is likely, does he proposed more drastic actions, such as "Coercive Persuasion", "Reorganisation, Destruction, Rebirth", "Bankruptcy and Reorganisation" (p272).
Many, such as Meyerson & Martin (1987), have criticised Schein and others for being too integrative, that is suggesting that organisations have a single consistent culture at any one time that permeates the whole organisation. They go on to criticise those researchers who "focus on the espoused values of top management (e.g. Deal and Kennedy, 1982; Peters and Waterman, 1982)" (p624). In this "integration" paradigm Meyerson & Martin see change as being "traumatic, because it entails an organisation-wide collapse of a world view" (p636). They also criticise those who take a "Differentiation" view, which maintains that organisations have at any one time many sub-cultures, perhaps "with elements of a dominant culture" (p631) where "the primary focus of attention is inconsistencies and subcultural differences". Because these subcultures can reflect professional, project or country allegiances, Meyerson & Martin, assert that the culture changes are the result of "environmental sources of change" with the benefit of "encouraging localised [and incremental] adaptation and experimentation" (p635). Meyerson & Martin's third and their preferred paradigm is "Ambiguity" where "irreconcilable interpretations are simultaneously entertained; paradoxes are embraced" (p637). In this paradigm, culture change is continuous, with multiple cultures aligned to issues and being initiated by individuals (p641). Such an environment can undermine management because it is "relatively uncontrollable" but for individuals it provides "a heightened sense of autonomy, and that autonomy brings safety" (p640).
Handy (1985) actually advocates mixed cultures, but in a more controlled manner. Even new organisations according to Handy often exhibit a mixed power and task culture. Handy suggests organisations are best served if different functional specialities have different cultures depending whether their activities are routine and steady state (role), innovative (task), crisis management (power) or policy directing (power) (p207). The implication of Handy's recommendation is that cultures can be defined and established through managerial action.
Quinn & McGrath (1985) also take up Meyerson & Martin's ambiguity. They relate their four types of "organisational culture and form" to 4 "environmental conditions" (one per quadrant of the two dimensions of uncertainty and intensity), and "leadership styles" (see table 3.2) but recognises that organisations "are always characterised by descriptions from all 4 quadrants" (p331).
|Environmental Conditions||Organisational Culture and Form||Leadership Style|
|High uncertainty - high intensity||Development culture (adhocracy)||Idealistic, prime mover|
|High uncertainty - low intensity||Rational culture (market)||Rational achiever|
|Low uncertainty - low intensity||Hierarchical culture (hierarchical)||Empirical expert|
|Low uncertainty - high intensity||Consensual culture (clan)||Existential team builder|
Table 3.2 Four Types of Fit or Congruence (Quinn & McGrath, 1985, p330)
Pettigrew (1987), writing on cultural research, also believes that the context has more influence on change than transformational leadership which he thinks is too prescriptive and whose value in terms of a firm's performance is inconclusive. Pettigrew's environmental forces are categorised into inner (political, structural, and cultural) and outer (economic, political, and competitive). However, like many of the more objective school, Pettigrew's list implies that culture is another variable, though not necessarily a directly controllable variable.
In describing the various type of culture and its creation the diversity of perspectives has been highlighted. Practitioners will measure different characteristics or different effects depending on their background discipline and why they are engaged in the measurement process. Alvesson (1993) identifies three types of researcher: the open minded observer, the consultant or pragmatic academic, and the interpretative academic. As noted earlier, backgrounds can range from the objective, behaviour social learning school, to the subjective, ethnomethodological and phenomenological school. The result, as Martin (1992) puts it, is that "Organisational culture researchers disagree vehemently about fundamental issues" (p4).
Reed (1992) outlines the research trends over the last 30 years, whereby studies have "become much more pluralistic" but at the same time "of considerable dispute, not to say deep controversy" (p1). By the late 1960s Reed sees "a systems based contingency approach that focused on the adaptability of organisational designs to environmental imperatives of one sort or another". Yet within 10 years a retreat from this view had "turned into a rout" as various "alternative perspectives - the action frame of reference, negotiated order, ethno-methodology, and political theories of organisation decision making - promulgated conceptions of 'organisations' " (p3). This "dramatic shift ... towards the dynamics of change and the 'logics' through which it proceeds" (p7) was in part due to the "growing awareness of and sensitivity to substantive changes in .. organisations" such as the networked organisation with "large-scale, complex operations" (p7), as well as new forms from the Far East (p8). This diversity continued through the 1980s, with particular emphasis, according to Reed, on cultural and symbolic interventions and on the political process.
It was of course, in the 80s that organisational change through leadership shaping culture, hit the popular press (Peters and Waterman (1982), Deal & Kennedy (1982), Hickman & Silva (1985), to name three). Their studies have been criticised in many quarters for their apparent quantitative measurements which have emphasised symbols and artefacts (e.g. number of employees attending Friday evening drink, or number employees wearing 'customer first' lapel badges), and linking these to organisational performance.
These views have become labelled 'modernist', characterised by Gergen (1992) as "a revival of Enlightenment beliefs in the powers of reason and observation; a search for fundamentals or essentials; a faith in progress and universal design; and an absorption in the machine metaphor". (p211). Gergen links these to such theories as "scientific management, general systems (including contingency), exchange, cybernetic, trait and cognitive, and theories of industrial society", all of which are towards the objective end of Smircich spectrum.
In the early nineties came the emergence of what is known as either Post-Fordist or Post-modernist. Here the emphasis has shifted to human individuality and to "emonicatory (liberating humans)" (Alvesson, 1993). This view is promoted amongst others by feminists and neo-Marxist. Whilst Martin (1992) feels that her "Fragmentation" (or "Ambiguity") perspective "comes closer to post-modernism in its acknowledgement of ambiguities and multiple interpretations" (p192) she realises that post-moderist would find fault with her meta-theory approach.
So, with 30 years or more of intense research into organisational culture, it would appear at first sight that organisational culture has been subject to an immense amount of measurement, but as James et. al. (1990) points out, what has been thought to have been a study of culture was in fact a study of climate. According to James' history of culture research, it was not until circa 1980 that the distinction between the two was first recognised. So what is the difference?
In a 'nut-shell' climate is "a Question of Personal values" whereas culture is "Group Values and Norms" according to James (p68) - i.e. "... it is the frame of reference, personal versus group, ...". Climate then is a statement of what an individual believes, values, feels and will act autonomously, whereas culture is how a collective group of people believes, values, feels and will act together (p72). According to Katz & Kahn, (1966, 1978) individuals will differentiate between personal needs and group needs, subordinating the former for the good of the group. This difference is critical to any survey.
To James, the early surveys only collected climate data, but to gain a picture of an organisation's culture "... it is critically important that all, or a representative sample of all, members of a group be consulted ..." (James, Joyce & Slocum, 1988). But even if all members were consulted there is a danger of simply collecting individual statements of climate, amalgamating them, and calling the result a cultural statement of the organisation. James asserts that for speed and due to lack of resources, surveys invariably resort to questionnaires and sample interviews, or to noting those visible attributes like rituals and ceremonies, and the telling of legends. Thus, they only collect climatic data.
Putting aside for one moment the problems of diverse perspectives there are further problems once any cultural research is underway. Rousseau gives 5 essential elements of culture that highlights why culture, that is those inner attributes, can be so difficult to measure:
" Culture is a social process associated with a unit ....
 These elements [of culture] differ in degree to which they are consciously experienced by members...
 Cultural elements vary in their accessibility to outsiders and in the degree to which members must actively provide information and interact in their interpretation before out-siders can understand and represent them.
 Existence of these layers of elements is common to all units with sufficient social stability (for example, common history, stable membership) to sustain a culture.
 As yet, whether the content of each layer is unique to a particular social unit and the extent to which cultural elements generalise in content and function across units - particularly those that researchers characterise as "organisations" - are empirical questions."
(Rousseau 1990, p160)
James suggests organisation members should be consulted en-mass and that through discussion a collective agreement reached on each cultural attribute being studied. Similarly, Schein also speaks against questionnaires and states "... one must observe and interview and then work out the assumptions jointly with insiders who are willing to attempt to bring their assumptions to the surface" (p312). This is a long, "difficult and hazardous" process according to Schein and he outlines a 10 'step' process involving:
- "Entry and focus on surprises;
- Systematic observation and checking;
- Locating a motivated insider;
- Revealing the surprises, puzzlements, and hunches;
- Joint exploration to find explanations;
- Formalising hypotheses;
- Systematic checking and consolidation;
- Pushing to the level of assumptions;
- Perpetual recalibration;
- Formal written description"
(Schein, 1985, pp114-119).
Smircich offers a less formal methodology, more of a framework. She suggests:
- "Focus on symbols, not culture [in the sense that symbols are the visible or verbal manifestations of an invisible culture]
- Dialectical, not linear forms of analysis [i.e. the two concepts of symbolic order and the power order]
- Emergence of the feminist critique
- Inclusion of psychodynamic dimensions [i.e. in not just rational-economic dimension]
- Metaphors of theatre, drama, text [they involve the totality of the person]
- Purpose [awareness by the researcher that the act of researching shapes the world towards the researchers perspective]
(Smircich, 1985, pp66-69) Text in  paraphrased.
Finally Martin (1992), with her multi-perspective approach, suggests researchers should abandon their single preferred perspective but recognises that it is often "politically motivated" in the sense that "each perspective takes a stance towards established authority", or it is because the researcher needs "to be clearly identified with a particular position in academic circles" (p187). By looking for all 3 perspectives, as she did in her study of the Peace Corps and of OZCO, but keeping them separate, Martin believes each view can be strengthen and a richer picture developed.
Given the above perspectives, it is no surprise to find that any role or value associated with culture reflects those perspectives. Thus objective researchers, such as management consultants, see culture as another resource in management's armoury, to be used for instance in pursuit of organisation strategy. Subjective researchers see the exact opposite, where culture belongs to the individuals, shouldn't be manipulated by others and should even determine an organisation's strategy.
Deal & Kennedy (1982) states that "a strong culture is a powerful lever in guiding behaviour" (p15) and that companies that cultivate their cultures "have an edge". This edge is shown in terms of productivity: "The impact of a strong cultures on productivity is amazing" [reviewer's emphasis] and it also makes employees "feel better about what they do, so they are more likely to work harder" (p16). This causal link between culture and performance is strongly asserted by the objective school.
Peters and Austin (1985) echo this theme: "shared company values affect individual performance" (p330) because shared values set a framework whereby employees can flexibly and speedily respond to new day to day situations, whereas rules and procedures can be a strait-jacket. Thus leaders can spend more time coaching in these values rather than fixing employee errors (p333-4). Similarly, Hickman and Silva on the first page of their book assert:
"a rational yet visionary blend of both [strategic planning and corporate-culture building] approaches for a winning, strategy-driven culture that can take you and your company into the twenty-first-century with the confidence that gets results."
(Hickman and Silva, 1985, inside front cover)
Many, less flamboyant writers, echo the value, even essentialness, of a duality of rational and emotional approaches (see below for examples). Nether-the-less, there is a danger in simply equating 'strong culture' with 'desirable cultures'. (Schein, 1985, p291) A strong culture could exhibit traits that cause a negative impact on performance. For example, a monopoly bureaucratic company thrust into a competitive market place. Here the culture is at odds with the requirements of the environment, and with the strategy, if this has been realigned with the environment. This is highlighted in our next example.
Kono (1990) has published the results of an analysis of 88 Japanese companies (265 persons, and up to 126 questions, 67 on culture). Results where measured in terms of company performance using yearly growth rate of sales, rate of return on total asset, and equity ratio. The results are displayed in table 3.3.
|Culture >||Vitalised||Follow the leader and vitalised||Bureaucratic||Stagnant||Follow the leader and stagnant|
Table 3.3 Measurement and Performance of each type of corporate culture (Kono, 1990)
His conclusions are that the poor types of culture relate to size of company ("the larger the company, and the more rules, the more bureaucratic the company becomes"), relates to the average age of the employees ("the older they are, the more the knowledge and experience of employees tends to become outdated, and the company becomes less vibrant"), and to the lack of fit between environment, a new strategy and the old culture.
Schein also highlights this lack of fit and lists the potential problems, i.e. negative value:
- "Effects of culture on strategy [cannot implement new strategies because their out of line with the old culture]
- Failure of mergers, acquisitions, and diversification ["cultural mismatch"]
- Failure to integrate new technologies ["occupations often build their practices, values, and basic self-image around their underlying technology"]
- Intergroup conflicts within the organisation [groups want to maintain their own unique cultures]
- Ineffective meetings and communications breakdowns in face-to-face relationships [different perceptions due to belonging to different cultural groups]
- Socialisation failures [lack of assimilation of new members]
- Productivity [group norms restricts output]"
(Schein, 1985, pp30-44). Text in  is a paraphrase.
Thus there is a positive value in aligning culture to organisational objectives. Alvesson (1993) defines this "Culture as an obstacle" view, as a "trap view" or defensive stance in contrast to a "offensive" or "tool view" (p6).
Schein highlights the value of culture from an individuals view-point in that it "reduce[s] the anxiety that humans experience when they are faced with cognitive uncertainty or overload" (p82). He categories anxiety as follows:
- Primary existential anxiety [cognitive anxiety effecting ones basic survival that can only be reduced by cultural solutions that serve as avoidance mechanisms]
- Secondary role-related anxiety [job related anxieties that can be safely confronted and tested, and thereby managed]
- Tertiary anxiety [anxiety caused through addressing the primary and secondary anxieties - "resulting in a paradoxical 'Catch-22' situation]"
(Schein, 1985, pp179-183) Text in  is a paraphrase.
Culture can also bind people together outside the work environment through their belonging to ethnic groups, religious or social organisations, local communities. etc.. People do not leave behind them, at the factory gate or office door, the culture which they have acquired in these external settings. The external culture may not be the dominant culture (though one can hypothesise about situations like the Mormon community of Salt Lake City, USA) but they would appear to meet Martin's definition of "secondary cultures" and could give rise to her perspective of "cultural ambiguity", or they could reinforce the dominant culture. Rose (1990) reflects on the recent trend that encourages individuals to be "self" centred: "self-management", "self direction", etc.. and "thus values and beliefs come to be conditioned outside the workplace in ways which seem likely to impact on it" (in Barratt, 1992, p7, reviewing Rose). Alvesson (1993) asserts that a large part of organisational cultural research has neglected these wider cultural influences and believes that over emphasis on a management and functionalist approach and "the widespread assumption that organisations are containers of culture" is counter-productive (p119).
Deal & Kennedy (1982) are very explicit: "The business of change is cultural transformation" and laments most managers who "worry a lot about change, but [neglect] cultural issues of changing" (p164). Others like Benjamin & Maybe (1993) would not go as far as asserting that change management is solely cultural change management. They see two parallel processes being necessary: analytical / systematic change and soft cultural changes. They do however believe that success is dependent on those initiating change recognising that "they themselves will need to revise their attitudes and behaviours (and perhaps even their values)" (p182). Walsham (1993) and others see the high degree of failures due to an over-reliance on management science techniques (MST) which are inadequate on their own. MST, he asserts, emphasises content and at the expense of context and process (power & cultural). This need for context and process is a theme echoed by Pettigrew (1987, 1993), though culture was remarkably absent in his and Whipp's 1991 book on 'Managing for Competitive Success'.
There is a widely held view that organisations adopt a contingency theory (Nicholson, 1993, p208) where-by organisations adapt internally to external changes in the environment (Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967). Failure to change is therefore seen as a failure to adapt. "There may be internal barriers to change, such as .... change resisting values, beliefs and motives..." (Nicholson, 1993, p208). Similarly, Beckard & Harris (1987) emphasise these environmental pressures, seeing an increasingly complex business world including changing values in workers. They list 10 characteristics of an effective organisation - that is, one able to manage complex change. 7 out of 10 are to do with determining people's values and behaviour (p27) (Beckard & Harris take a very systematic view of organisations, seeing them as input-output systems in which leaders determine culture [their emphasis]).
Wille (1989) undertook a survey which reinforced Deal and Kennedy's feelings. It showed that in UK only 29% companies (N=39) responded to a significant change making event by instigating cultural change amongst other change initiatives. (Other data were US 39% (N=54), Europe 7% (N=31), average 30% (N=178) ). These figures suggest theory is not followed in practice or companies don't explicitly undertake cultural change. Barrett (1992) has similar figures, stating that only 25% of companies were involved in a cultural change programme in the previous 5 years to 1988.
From the literature review so far and the initial models, three views can be seen:
If one believes that culture is a root metaphor then there will be a belief that there is no instant means of changing a culture which will have developed since the organisation has existed and which is passed on from generation to generation of the workforce. Cultural change will happen, but slowly and only through the hundreds of forces acting between all the actors. It cannot be pre-determined.
Schein (1985) suggests this is close to the situation in Mid-life and Mature organisations, although given time and the right process he believes cultural change is possible but not mandated.
If one believes that culture is an external and independent variable then there will be a belief that there is little one can do to change a culture in the face of the multiplicity of external social behaviours, values and beliefs that employees bring into the work place. For example, religious beliefs about how to treat others, or what is right or wrong; or attitudes about people of other races. Over time some social changes could work in favour of some types of organisations, for example, 15 years of Conservative government promoting a strong market economy.
Finally a Behaviour School view that culture is an internal variable will lead to a belief that the culture can be directed and changed. The exact methods vary but most researchers place significant emphasis on change being leader led (e.g. Deal and Kennedy) or leader enabled (Schein). However some concentrate on the more visible symbols and artefacts, many on people's behavioural patterns, and others on people's underlying behaviour norms, values, and beliefs.
Thompson & Luthans reminds us that:
"a symbiotic relationship exists between reinforcing agents and target [e.g. manager and employee]. The influence target depends on the influence agent to fulfil some of his or her needs. And ... [visa a versa]. There are limits to the degree of accommodation ... called zones of tolerance." So at the end of the day, "The individual then has the choice of accepting, accommodating, or rejecting the change."
(Thompson & Luthans, 1990).
To conclude, two surveys support the emphasis on the role of leaders. Williams, Dobson and Walters (1989) survey for the IPM of 250 UK companies involved in a cultural change programme (in Barrett, 1992) highlighted the use of leader's role modelling amongst other techniques. Willie's (1989) survey included cameos of 49 of his 178 companies and reading these highlights the high proportion of CEOs instigating major changes and defining corresponding cultural change.
Whilst the previous section about the feasibility of changing cultures primarily reflect a management view, this section in contrast reflects a less organisational view. Two issues concern these researchers etc., ethics and individualism, the latter related to Post-moderist or Post-Fordist views.
Schein (1985) raises three issues. First, "If decisions are made on the basis of incorrect assumptions about the culture, then serious harm could be done to the organisation" (p137) [and presumably by implication, to the individuals within]. Second, in line with Schein's development approach, whereby people undergo therapy in order to bring out their unconscious values and assumptions, then this might destroy culture's defence mechanisms that helps people to overcome anxiety. This opening up "can be likened to an 'invasion of privacy' " (p138). Even if some can manage the self therapy they may "thoughtlessly produce changes ... that some members .. may not want, ... may not be prepared for, ...". Thirdly, "organisations could be made more vulnerable through having their culture revealed to outsiders" (p139).
Smircich (1985) is critical of researchers who, she believes, "For the most part, ... uncritically adopt the values, purposes, and language of top managers" (p62). She pleads "Can we see organisations not only as places where we gather to get work done, but as symbolic expressions, as displays of meaning as well as the representations of the search for meaning?". The management-centric view and approach to changing culture for management's own ends is taken up by others.
According to Schultz (1992) and other postmoderist (Cooper and Burrell, 1988; Cooper, 1989; Thyssen, 1988), organisations concentrate too much on the outer layer with its artefacts and rituals. Postmoderist sees management's emphasis on such attributes as creating a sham culture: "ritual is what it seems to be: a hard and repetitious superficial series of behaviour without any fixed underlying system of meaning." (Schultz). He accuses management of utilising "copies of the same culture in numerous different organizations and has effaced the last remains of the organizational originality.", and later "where cultural forms substitute for the content." Equally, academics, with their "theoretical construction of culture as a metaphor" are also accused of being "trapped in the modernist claims for depth, uniqueness, and meaningful actions."
Alvesson (1993) sees this "Western managerial" emphasis, especially the cultural-performance link as a "narrow view of organisational culture" which "has not succeeded in setting ... life in a broader, anthropological perspective" (p46). Alvesson offers two alternatives besides management action: "practical hermeneutic [which] aims at achieving understanding about human existence" and "emonicatory [which] aims at liberating humans" (p43).
Others also take this second, more radical, stance reflecting feminist, Marxist, or plain strong individualism view-points. Smircich (1985) calls for a feminist view point and use of softer metaphors such as "theatre, drama, text" to counteract the inherent male view of organisations such as "machine" and "organism" (p68). Martin (1992) summarises Lyotard (1984) view-point which sees deliberate cultural change as: "totalitarian attempts, by those who are or wish to become dominant, to provide all-encompassing world views that silence diversity of opinion" (p193). If culture is truly a root-metaphor then the inner core of assumptions and beliefs can come to represent all an individual stands for and all her or his life's upbringing and development. As such they must by implication be of intrinsic value to the individual.
This section is naturally biased to those who believe culture can be changed and that such change is ethical. Given the complexity of the subject, there are numerous 'solutions' to changing culture, some prescriptive (directive) others more philosophical (enabling). Researchers and practitioners also differ at what level they address within the cultural framework: the outer visible symbols and artefacts, people's behavioural patterns, or on people's underlying behaviour norms, values, and beliefs. This section can but briefly state their salient points.
Most researchers highlight that to-day, the need for a change in culture is invariably precipitated by some significant, even critical, external environmental change (e.g. Kennedy, 1993). For example, a shift in consumer's expectations or behaviour. This in itself often provides a incentive for change, provided it is recognised within the organisation (Schein, 1993, p292).
Culture change through the actions and behaviour of leaders is touted by many management consultants and Business School academics. Rather than a process they prescribe a set of actions to create an environment.
At one extreme, Peters and Austin (1985) equates business and leadership with "show business" and thus the need to create the right atmosphere. So they advocate "shaping values, symbolising attention" even to the point of saying "it is the opposite of .... 'professional management' " (p265). Symbols reflect areas of concern and priorities as in the example of "Perdue's obsession with the hairs on a chicken wing and quality in general" (p271). Drama can be just for impact and creating stories that get told time and time again, such as the when the founder of McDonalds ordered all manager's chair backs to be sawn off so they would be more inclined to get out and meet the customer (p275). Preaching the vision, MBWA and coaching are all important to Peters and Austin. The result of these "common sense" actions is, according to them, "superior customer service, constant innovation, [and] the full use of the abilities of every company employee" (back cover).
Deal and Kennedy (1982) for instance advocate: consensus building based on sharing; developing high-trust between individuals; allow time for people to change; to set the direction but allow the employees to work out the details ('empowerment' in to-days terms); and in another, more direct intervention, provide the training to develop the new skills needed. They see middle management's role changing dramatically, even becoming obsolete (pp164-7). Within "atomised organisation" managers "will be both the bearers of culture as well as its promoters" (p189).
Thompson & Luthans highlights this need for a more systematic approach:
"Changing culture in the light of this behaviour-consequence concept involves comprehensive planning and execution. Consistent messages must be conveyed through behavioural interactions and through changes in the employees environment. Through behavioural actions people communicate ideas and values. People learn more from behaviours than from printed statements and company policies."
(Thompson & Luthans, 1990, p330)
Many writers however do introduce some form of process. Hickman and Silva (1985), though still of the "excellence" class of writers, advocate developing creative insight, creating a vision of the future, anticipating change, and implementing change. Patience, culture building and matching strategy to culture are seen as important attributes of leaders. This mixing of hard strategy and soft culture is advocated by many others including Mayon-White (1993), and Benjamin & Mabey (1993).
A number of recent writers in the Long Range Planning journal (Hahn (1991), Wilson (1992), Klemm et al (1991), Kennedy (1993) and Burack (1991) continue to provide even more systematic processes, complete with flowcharts. In these approaches, culture is typically treated as another variable, almost like a resource such as people, to be tuned and hone. Its shape is very much treated as a function of the corporate vision and mission. Burack talks about cultures "contributory role" and no substitute for objective strategic planning, whereas in contrast, Deal and Kennedy say business change is culture change. Typically, organisational changes such as structural changes, down-sizing, plant closure and relocation appeared to pre-empt the cultural changes, if not actually used as a lever to 'force' through cultural change: "A visible restructuring was considered necessary to press home the message that the company culture really was changing" (Kennedy, 1993, p20, on Ciba-Geigy) and "However, the larger cultural shift ... is only now under way [6 or 7 years after the restructuring!]" (Wilson, 1992, p19, on General Electric). These surely are not the types of symbols that Deal and Kennedy had in mind to motivate staff.
Kono (1990) again concludes from his research of 88 Japanese companies a cause and effect approach. Business philosophy (assumptions and values) determines strategy and required behavioural norms. Behavioural patterns achieve implementation strategy which delivers the required performance (diagram p15). However, he does modify the cause-effect according to "the initial conditions of corporate culture". Thus when culture is lively (vitality) then culture and long range planning can together create an innovative strategy and in turn that creates a revitalised strategy. When the culture is stagnant either 1) a partial plan followed by incremental change of both strategy and culture together. [Presumably this is repeated]; or 2) change the culture first followed partial change of strategy followed by long range planning and then a comprehensive strategy change (pp9-10). In all this the author defines culture as "the actual decision making patterns, because these patterns are easier to observe and measure".
Despite their differing approaches, most of these writers would confer that changing an organisation's culture is a long term process and is difficult. Thompson & Luthans (1990) may be a suitable person to conclude this section, in that he highlights the need to work at all levels of cultural characteristics and the need for a process:
"it is clear that while organisational culture is an cognitive construct, it is still built and demonstrated by antecedents, behaviours, and consequences. Hence, these three elements ought to be the main focus in understanding what culture is and how it is to be changed. Behaviours are the primary unit, ..... The antecedent conditions consist of environmental factors that would influence the behaviour of the individual. In order for management's desires to remain believable, ......, management has to be consistent in its actions. That is why clear communications and demonstrations of how a policy or practice works helps to increase the probability that individuals will have a better understanding of the process.
(Thompson & Luthans, 1990, p330)
Still, Thompson & Luthans state that it is easier "to create a new culture" (p336) which is no doubt why companies go to green field sites for new initiatives.
Schein clearly see the leadership role of management being instrumental: "When culture becomes dysfunctional, leadership is needed to help the group unlearn some of its cultural assumptions and learn new assumptions" (p317). This statement highlights Schein's Organisational Development (OD) approach which is unusual in that it addresses those inner characteristics of culture. Leaders encourage groups to under-go group therapy (usually using an outside facilitator knowledgeable and skilled in group dynamics, leadership theory and learning theory). The aim is to surface the unconscious assumptions and values of the group as a prelude to changing them to meet the needs of a new environment.
Schein does have other process models besides this therapeutic one:
- "General Evolutionary Process [this is change from within a group that is natural and inevitable and passes through predictable stages].
- Adaptation, Learning, or Specific Evolutionary Process [here the environment causes responses by which the group learns and adapts].
- Revolutionary Process [in this power is a key variable].
- Managed Process [here there is a focus on what can and cannot be changed]".
(Schein, 19985, pp 303-9) Text in  is a paraphrase.
Schein proposes that leaders are responsible for which model to adopt and for ensuring the group knows and agrees which model it is using otherwise "they are likely to end up in confusion and disagreement" (p309).
Schein's OD approach uses Lewin's (1948) 'Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze' model which has been widely taken up by others, though they differ in what they are trying to unfreeze. Some like Goodstein & Burke (1993) talk about unfreezing "present patterns of behaviour" (p165) whereas Schein appears to be also tackling the unconscious values and assumptions. Schein see this unfreezing being precipitated by external changes (e.g. significant increase in raw material costs) or by internal changes ("e.g. "a destructive internal power struggle" (p284)). Goodstein & Burke talk about management actions at different levels (individual, structural (such as "terminating employees") and climate). The aims are the same: "to make organisational members address that level's need for change, heighten their awareness of their own behaviour patterns, and make then more open to the change process".
Having unfreezed there are then a range of "Change Mechanism" that can be used, some of which are more appropriate for each of Schein's organisational development stages as illustrated in table 3.4:
|Growth Stage||Change Mechanisms|
|Birth and Early Growth||Natural Evolution|
|Self-Guided Evolution Through Hybrids|
|Managed Evolution Through Hybrids|
|Managed Revolution Through Outsiders|
|Mid-life||Planned Change and Organisational Development|
|Change Through Scandal, Explosion of Myths|
|Reorganisation, Destruction, Rebirth|
Table 3.4 Growth Stages and Mechanisms of Change (Schein, 1985, p271/2)
Besides managing the overall process, Schein advocates that leaders must also undertake more direct activities as described in the previous section. These include a set of "Primary mechanisms":
- "What leaders pay attention to, measure and control.
- Leaders reactions to critical incidents and organisational crisis.
- Deliberate role modelling, teaching and counselling by leaders.
- Criteria for allocation of rewards and status.
- Criteria for recruitment, selection, promotion, retirement and ex-communication".
(Schein, 1985, pp 224-37)
To these there are a number of "Secondary Articulation and Reinforcement Mechanisms":
- Organisation's design and structure
- Organisational systems and procedures
- Design of physical space, facades, and buildings
- Stories, legends, myths, and parables about important events and people.
- Formal statements of organisational philosophy, creeds, & charters.
(Schein, 1985, pp 237-242)
The final stage is to refreeze the new behaviour patterns, values and/or beliefs. Actions may included formalising new behaviour in rules and procedures, hiring new people with the new values and beliefs, revised training programs, and changing rewards systems to mirror the new expectations (Goodstein & Burke, p167).
To this process a number of researchers highlight the importance of timing the use of these change mechanisms and of the length of time it takes to change organisations. Pettigrew (1987) with his emphasis on context and process, and his rejection of prescriptive analytical, rational, and sequential processes, advocates more sensitive, interactive, multi-level use of change mechanisms. His research into ICL highlighted that some changes proposed by Beeching in 1967 were not implement until a decade later by John Harvey-Jones (now Sir John) who in fact joined in 1970. Pettigrew attributes this to the fact that significant change "involves a process of ideological and political change" which "represents a fundamental challenge to the dominating ideas and power groups of the organisation" (p668). Writers seem to vary in their time-frames for the Lewin model. Some like Schein relate it to the transition from one growth phase to another, which as Pettigrew suggests can span a decade. Others like Quinn & McGrath (1985) seem to suggest the change period can bring dynamic growth, akin to the initial innovative Birth and Early Growth years, but see inevitable tensions such that "a major shift occurs. The organisation goes through a formalisation, and the adhocracy become a hierarchy" (p333). Kono, and other who favour incrementalism, see a continuous repetitive cycle of 'unfreezing/ change/refreezing'.
Despite the adoption of the Lewin model, Rousseau believes many questions remain:
"If culture changes mean unfreezing of old values and beliefs, how do people interpret and react to times of transition and how do they relearn a culture? What do they learn first? Behaviour norms? Or priorities and values? Is it easier to socialise members when material and symbolic artefacts are pervasively in evidence? What are more commonly shared: behaviour norms, values or basic assumptions? What is the impact of disagreement among members regarding these?".
(Rousseau, 1990, p185)
Writings recording or promoting employee led cultural changes appear rare. According to Handy (1985) this would happen in a "person culture" and his examples are all small groups: "Barristers' chambers, architects' partnerships, hippy communes, social groups, families, some small consultancy firms" (p195). Such small groups could in principal agree a change to their culture though in practice this seems doubtful as the people involved, according to Handy, are usually highly individualistic.
Nether-the-less, the Post-moderist writings imply that employee led organisations are in the employees interest, and should be the model for future organisations. But by also advocating a fragmentation perspective of culture with its likely ambiguity, it is hard to see how a single organisation can collectively define, let alone agree, a common philosophy, mission and vision that meets needs of the external paying customer and shareholders and also serves the needs of the internal workers and other stakeholders. Perhaps the answer is a collection of small multiple organisations bound together as a network or collective but serving a multitude of separate customers, under a common brand name that presents a common broad philosophy, mission and vision.
This review of the complex nature of culture has shown the widely varying views of what culture is. From the visible artefacts and behaviour patterns to invisible behaviour norms, values, assumptions and beliefs. From basic tenants as to whether culture is a root metaphor embedded deep within an organisation's beliefs and values, an external, almost uncontrollable, variable, or as an independent variable that can be manipulated. These relate to whether researchers take an objective stance that see humans as a responding mechanism or a subjective stance that humans are transcendental being, or some mid-point view.
Various types of culture models were described representing a structural view (e.g. hierarchical), an action view (e.g. vitalised innovative), or a behavioural view (e.g. its a glue). On the creation of cultures there was consensus that new organisations have strong integrative cultures established by founders and that as organisations grew the values and assumptions became internalised. Some saw clear sub-cultures developing (differentiation) whilst others thought everything became ambiguous. Views differed as to the affects of the external environment.
Given the divergent views, there was disagreement about whether culture could be measured and if so what should be measured and how. A brief history of culture research showed how the theory had moved from systems based contingency, to the dynamics of change, through diversity to post-modernism. Some justified only measuring visible manifestations whilst others proposed joint exploration to uncover deeply held assumptions. The danger of measuring climate instead of culture was highlighted.
As to the role and value of culture, there was the management view that culture directly impacted performance and was therefore a variable to be controlled and aligned to strategy. Others highlighted the anxiety reducing value of culture to the individual and the sense of belonging it gave. In organisational change, many advocated a dual hard analytical plus soft cultural approach, although systems people tended to implement the former before the latter.
For those who believed culture could be changed, some either proposed action on the visible artefacts, whilst others concentrated on directly changing behaviour, and yet others preferred to tackle the deep, underlying assumptions. These extremes reflected either a management directed view or a management enabled view, enacted through group therapy and organisational development. All seemed to have behavioural change as the goal. As to whether cultural should be changed, some researchers in considering the ethics, warned of the dangers of wrong analysis, or undermining the anxiety benefits of culture, or of the possible shock of exposing unconscious assumptions. Post-modernists spoke up for the individual and the right not to be manipulated but to be liberated.
A multi-dimension diagram to summarise the above would be impractical but a simpler diagram would assist the next part of this dissertation, that of relating culture within the context of BPR. Figure 3.5 is a 4 quadrant diagram with culture viewed as an independent -dependent variable on one axis and the levels of culture addressed on the other.
Figure 3.4 Position and views of main cultural camps shown as ellipses. Negative views in italics.
Figure 3.4 clearly shows the polarisation of views of the two main 'camps'. Their common ground is that both aim to change behaviour. The smaller ellipses show a middle ground based around changing behaviour with a dual hard/soft approach and accepting that sub-cultures are more than likely. The smallest ellipse is fringe postmodernist view which promotes the value of ambiguity and the rights of the individual.
It is recognised that the use of this meta-models has simplified a complex subject and that there is blurring and the edges and overlaps. As Martin (1992) remarked, the Ambiguity school would not be happy, but it does provide a framework that allows us to move forward to looking at BPR and culture.
This next model and explanation was removed from the dissertation during a review but has been included here as it may be of value to the reader.
Figure 3.5 The Culture - Change Relationships
The cultural perspectives in figure 3.5 can be related to various points on the diagonal spectrum in figure 3.4 and our review of culture in this chapter. Culture as an outcome of strategy direct change is very much the systems view but also shared by more aggressive management with a reputation for forcing through change. These people may possibly also have a deterministic view, but in a negative way, believing for instance, that a plant with the wrong culture can 'never mend its ways' and should be closed. A deterministic view, in a positive sense, may also be held by those post-modernists who would wish work to serve humankind. Change should reflect the diversity and richness of human values, beliefs and ideals. Drivers would support the same view but would accept that culture could be changed first as a prelude to organisational change.
Figure 3.6 The Culture - Change Relationships with the various proponents
Enablers encompass many management consultants , especially from the 'excellence school'. Here the emphasis is all about directing and inspiring people so they naturally 'do the right thing' to meet the environmental challenges and take the company forward. OD supporters would take an enabling rather than a direct approach to achieve the same ends: behaviour changes in response to new environmental demands. Inhibitors may cover those middle of the road supports of more direct behavioural change as advocated by Vroom (1964) with his use of rewards and punishments. This could be seen as a more passive approach, simply aiming to deflect those behaviours that are impeding change.
Finally we should allow for those who think culture is Not [or is less] Relevant. Writers, such as Pettigrew (1987), Pfeffer (1993) and Morgan (1993), see Power and Politics being far more a determinant of change, although as we have seen, writers such as Handy (1985) would class Power driven organisations as another type of culture.
To Chapter 4 BPR & Culture
[Front Page] [Executive
[Content] [1 Introduction]
[2 BPR] [3 Culture]
[4 BPR & Culture]
[5 Preliminary Research] [6 Findings] [7 Summary] [8 Conclusions] [Appendices] [Bibliography]
Original report: January 1995 This page created: April 1998 © Managing Change 1995,96,97,98 www.managingchange.com
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