BPR and Organisational Culture
A Survey into Organisational Cultural Change Techniques
|This survey was part of an MBA Dissertation at the Henley Management College, England, undertaken by Alan Cooper. The full dissertation is now available on-line.|
When even the most ardent protagonists of BPR, such as Hammer & Champy, are quoting failure rates from 50% up to 80%, is BPR really such a sure fire solution to the challenges of the nineties? Is the reason for these failures solely the inability to manage organisational change, or is there a more fundamental problem with BPR? And is managing the culture key to effective change, particularly within the context of a BPR initiative?
These questions were the impetus behind a Henley Management College MBA dissertation. This management summary reports on the resulting survey into organisational change techniques used by UK organisations undertaking BPR.
The well known McKinsey model was used as a basis for assessing the extent to which organisations undertaking BPR are changing themselves. All the 25 organisations analysed were extensively changing 5, 6 or all 7 elements as part of their BPR project.
Overall, all elements were equally receiving attention. 80% stated that their BPR programme was extensively driven by business strategy, and 88% of organisations were aiming to extensively change their shared values. These shared values, along with beliefs and assumptions, form the heart of McKinsey's organisation model. Further on, this report reviews whether organisations are in fact using change techniques which address these fundamental building blocks of organisational culture and whether they are reporting positive changes in employee behaviour.
All bar 3 organisations were changing their type of structure. There was a near majority move away from hierarchical structures with 15 of the 25 moving to a process model and another 6 to a decentralised model. A few were implementing mixed structures and a couple choose to remain with a hierarchical structure.
Overall there was a significant shift towards those structures which were more results oriented and a lesser shift towards more fluid structures.
Hierarchical structures are often associated with role management styles. It is therefore not surprising that well over two thirds of organisations were moving away from a role style, with two thirds of these moving to a task style and most of the remainder to a directive style. Many of those that were already directive were now moving to self-management, a style that is advocated by many BPR consultants. Still, few seem confident with their staff to take this plunge towards a really empowered workforce. Instead they were moving (reverting?) to a more formalised task style. Yet, if the widely reported reductions in staff numbers are indeed targeted at the middle management levels, then staff will have to take greater responsibility for self management.
On the topic of staff reductions, in those few organisations prepared to divulge numbers, staff reductions within the BPR areas were averaging just 18% but in some organisations reached as high as 60%. On average BPR projects were impacting 35% of the organisation's total staff but in some case all staff were subject to the impact of BPR.
Overall there was a significant shift towards low centralisation but there remains a tendency to control employee's work content by means of high formalisation of tasks.
There are a wide variety of organisational cultural change techniques. Consultants of the US excellence school (e.g. Deal and Kennedy) tend to promote techniques that tackle the more visible manifestations of culture. These include artefacts, such as lapel badges and distinctive office decor, as well as rituals and the telling of success stories. Less visible, but often promoted by behaviourist, are those techniques (called behaviour patterns) that link performance to pay, assess staff via appraisals, and define actions via formalised procedures, rules and regulations.
Those with a sociological or psychological background (e.g. Schein) maintain that real and lasting change only occurs when people change their shared values, basic beliefs and assumptions. They advocate various individual and group therapy techniques.
The questionnaire had 15 change techniques which represented 5 layers of graduation from the visible, hard techniques through to the invisible, soft ones. Only techniques addressed to over 75% of staff or used monthly or more frequently were counted.
Whilst perhaps the excesses of US management techniques are shunned by UK management, there is clearly a tendency to use the harder techniques, mentioned above, that come under behaviour patterns. This correlates to the shift to a more results oriented organisations and the maintenance of a formalised management style.
Encouragingly, the high use of behaviour norms was accounted for by the many organisations (74%) that actively involved their staff in the redesign of business processes. In fact this was the most used technique.
On average, organisations choose 1.7 of the harder techniques for every soft one. Using other categorisations of these 15 techniques it is seen that organisations use management to employee techniques twice as frequently as the reverse. They also are more inclined to use coercive techniques which Schein feels may be a necessity to 'shake up' more mature organisations (note the significant shift away from traditional hierarchical structures). However, such techniques can have longer term repercussions for staff commitment.
On average organisations are using 5 techniques extensively with some using 10. However, only one organisation is using the very soft techniques of Organisational Development and individual therapy.
Selection of techniques suggests that change through leadership is not particularly strong, perhaps confirming why respondents felt only 64% of their managers were exhibiting the required behaviour. Obeng & Crainer have highlighted the dysfunctional behaviour of many middle managers due to the simultaneous need exhibit the new behaviour to their own staff, before they have come to terms with the need to change their own behaviour. The result is stress due to pressure from both above and below.
The main reason selected for using the above techniques was to gain staff commitment (80%) followed by speed of implementation and results (52%). This latter figure is not surprising given the long duration of BPR projects (see later) and one can speculate whether lack of staff commitment (also see later) is a major reason for the long timescales.
Despite the fact that 68% used consultants they were not the main source of suggestions as to which techniques to use. Just a quarter selected only consultants as choosing the techniques and another quarter selected consultants together with some other source. 13 organisations used BPR consultants and another 6 used change management consultants. Consultants representing human resources, IT, O&M and psychology were little used. No one used a sociologist. The implication is that either BPR or change management consultants will address the human issues or such issues are considered not that important. Those using consultants used on average 1.5.
Whilst overall a wide range of sources were used, suggestions from staff only accounted for 13%. Staff appear to be just involved in the lower lever detail such as process redesign, and not in the higher level organisational change decisions.
Interestingly, no organisations looked to their competitors. Does this indicate a feeling of superiority or are they relying on their consultants?
Respondents could select up to 8 areas of employee behavioural improvements widely acknowledged as the outcomes of a successful BPR project. Each could be marked as Lots or Some improvement.
'Acquisition and use of new knowledge and skills', 'co-operative team working', 'customer focus' and 'results oriented' were the most chosen Lots of improvements. However, there were lower numbers selecting 'acquisition and use of decision making powers', 'and acceptance and use of responsibility'. These suggest that 'empowerment', a much vaunted attribute of BPR, is slow to be taken up by employees. This may be due to lack of 'commitment to the organisation', which scored the lowest level for Lots of improvement, or it may be due to management, perhaps especially middle management, being unwilling to actually allow their staff to be empowered. Espousing is one thing, realising it is another matter.
Given that BPR is all about starting afresh with a 'clean sheet of paper' then the low score for 'creation of innovative ideas' is of concern. Similar hypothesis as outline above could be put forward. Overall, about half the organisations have yet to achieve modest levels of improvements. However, with on average 7 out of the 8 choices selected, management is presumably expecting improvements in all areas.
Respondents were decidedly 'up-beat' about whether employee's values and beliefs could be changed. 88% either strongly agreed or agreed they could. Respondents qualified their answer in a wide variety of ways, reflecting another survey which concludes there are no hard and fast rules about how to manage change. Two common responses were that changing values and beliefs took time, and that the change process needed much co-ordination of many activities. No one expressed any concerns over the ethics of trying to change employee's inner, personal feelings.
Those organisations with the most extensive change did not appear to be using a greater range or number of techniques, despite the likely increase in complexity of the change. Also there were no indications that the extent of down-sizing had either any negative or positive impact on employee improvements. Finally, there were no indications that consultants tended to suggest the more harder, coercive change techniques.
Those projects that have been underway for some time tend to report higher levels of employee improvements with the peak at the 2 year point. Thereafter, improvement levels fall away. This confirms that BPR is not a quick fix solution. The tailing off may be due to improvement being taken for granted, or it may be that longer projects have lost focus. Such effect did not appear to be linked to the number of employees impacted by the BPR project.
Those reporting the most employee improvements were using a greater number of change techniques. Those with the top improvements were typically using 7 to 10 techniques. But the type of technique was important. Those using over 3 hard techniques reported 5 or more Lots of improvements compared to those only using on average 1.5 hard techniques who were only reporting 5 or more Some improvements or even less. But those declaring most improvement were using a range of both hard and soft techniques.
This suggests that the wide ranging organisational impact of BPR creates a complex change situation that needs a wide range of techniques. Hard techniques are known to provide a more immediate employee response. Softer techniques address the inner values and beliefs, which although they take longer to have affect, can have a more fundamental and enduring impact on employee's attitudes.
122 UK companies were identified as having undertaken BPR. 51 questionnaires were distributed and 33 replies received. 25 of these organisations were, or had, undertaken significant organisational change, including significant use of multi-functional teams and the reengineering of their processes into one or few steps. These were considered to be full implementations of BPR and were therefore included in the analysis.
Compared to the 122 identified, responses from banking and finance companies were over represented (55% cf. 30%) and manufacturing under represented (12% cf. 24%). Although three quarters had under 10,000 employees, the average number was almost 15,000 due to a number of financial institutions with large numbers of employees (up to 100,000).
Half the respondents were at senior management level (director, CEO, AGM) with the rest at project manager or department head level. Nearly half were BPR sponsors and a third BPR project directors or managers.
Only 7 BPR projects had completed. The others were in progress with completion dates as far ahead as 1998. The average duration of completed projects was 19 months but those in progress had already run for 16 months, and those with an end date were planned to run for 30 months. Two thirds had never previously completed a BPR project within the UK.
Thank you to all the organisations and their managers who responded to the questionnaire.
The original report was created with Ami Pro 3 with diagrams and charts from Excel 3 using OLE. Desktop HP NewWave 4. Operating System MS Windows 3.1. Printed on an Epson Stylus 800 inkjet printer. The text and images were then copied to this document via the clipboard.
All of the full MBA Dissertation is now available on-line. See the links
[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 updated: March 2000 © Managing Change 1995,96,97,98,99,2000 www.managingchange.com
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