Video - Overview of lesson
Culture and Change Projects
What is culture?
Culture is commonly defined as the attitudes, values, beliefs, norms and customs which distinguish an organisation from others (Carnall, 2007).
From consultants, McKinsey, we have, “It’s the way we do things around here”.
Culture is hard to change! The feasibility of a proposed change project should consider cultural feasibility as well as technical and financial feasibility.
The programme should if possible work with the existing culture – unless the purpose of the programme is to change the culture.
Implications of culture for change projects
At the outset of a change programme it is important to understand the desired culture for the target environment.
We can examine the nature of the required change and review its compatibility with current culture; this may highlight potential challenges for the change programme.
Try to anticipate potential resistance. This in turn lets the change team consider a strategy to overcome this resistance.
The syllabus for this course mentions three well known models for understanding culture:
- Handy’s organisational culture types.
- Johnson and Scholes – ‘Cultural web’.
- Hofstede’s international culture dimensions.
The work of Handy, Johnson and Scholes concerns organisational cultures.
- Handy describes types of culture that exist in organisations.
- John and Scholes with their cultural web describe an approach to the very difficult task of changing a organisation’s culture.
Hofstedt studied how cultures vary in different societies and whether ‘typical’ characteristics can be applied to different societies.
As business analysts, we are concerned with how this too might affect the work we do,perhaps particularly when working on international projects or when working in international organisations, although, not surprisingly, Hofstede’s conclusions have been controversial.
Handy – Organisational culture types
Charles Handy is a recognised authority on organisational culture.
Handy identified four culture types:
- Power Culture:
- Organisations with a power culture are run by a dominant, and probably relatively small, elite.
- Authority radiates from this elite group.
- People outside the dominant group have little authority and do as they are told.
- As a consequence of this, there are likely to be few rules.
- Handy represented power culture as a spider at the centre of its web.
- Decision making in such a group is likely to be rapid but may not be optimal for the organisation.
- Certain media companies, for example, may have a power culture.
- Role Culture:
- In contrast to a power culture, a role culture is based on rules.
- A role culture is the classic hierarchical bureaucracy.
- Everyone understands their role, their position and the limits of their authority.
- Power is defined by a person’s position in the hierarchy, probably more than from their expertise.
- Decision making is likely to be slow, with long chains of command.
- Can be illustrated as a building supported by columns and beams: each column and beam has a specific role to play.
- Individuals are role occupants but the role continues even if the individual leaves.
- Government administrations.
- ‘Traditional’ retail banking and insurance.
- Task Culture:
- Task cultures are typically associated with teams, project work and matrix management structures.
- Person Culture:
- In the person culture, the individual is all important.
- Individuals see their power in terms of their expertise and may consider themselves as more important than the organisation.
- Individuals might not recognise others as having greater expertise.
- The structure of an organisation featuring the person culture is very loose.
- The organisation exists only for people to work and may not have an over-riding objective.
- Person culture may be represented graphically as a loose cluster of stars.
- Such organisations are unusual and are difficult to manage.
- Certain ‘pure’ research groups may fall into this category.
Johnson and Scholes – The cultural web
Culture and strategy
The development of an organisational strategy is influenced extensively by the culture and environment of the organisation.
This is fine when the current culture supports the desired strategy but it is obviously a problem where implementation of the new strategy Is dependent on having a different culture. The existing culture is then a barrier to change.
Business analysts, as agents of change, need to be acutely aware of their organisation’s culture, it’s positive aspects as well as its negative ones.
To change something you generally need to understand what is at the moment and then what you would like it to be . Once you have those two things you can plan a route from one to the other .
The challenge with culture is that most people are probably not even be aware of it . It’s just the way things are and always have been. Everyone is so used to it they’re unable to view it objectively or to appreciate the underlying assumptions that maintain it .
In this case , managers and other key staff who want to drive change can find it impossible to break away from the existing systems and structures or the prevailing routines, social networks, jargon, indicators of status and politics,
Whilst there are tangible manifestations of a culture such as the logos, fonts and outward signs of status, it is largely intangible, or at least difficult to define.
The business analysts themselves may be so much a part of the current culture that they too are unable to see it objectively.
This is where the cultural web comes in handy.
Overview of the cultural web
It was developed by Johnson and Scholes in 1992 and offers an approach for changing an organisation’s culture.
It can be used to make the intangible more concrete by shining a spotlight on the assumptions and practices that underlie the existing culture.
It can also be used to define a desired culture, one that will be compatible with the planned strategy.
The cultural web comprises six interrelated elements that collectively make up what Johnson and Scholes call the paradigm located at the centre of the web.
The six elements are:
- Stories and myths
- Rituals and routines
- Control systems
- Organisation structures
Stories and myths
Stories and myths immortalise certain people and events. All stories have their heroes and the villains. These things are spoken about by people within and outside the organisation. They reflect the characteristics that the organisation values.
Rituals and routines
Rituals and routines refer to actions taken by members of the organisation on a daily basis. They reflect what is considered by the organisation’s authorities to be acceptable behaviour in particular situations. Conversely, the implicitly demonstrate what behaviour would seem out of place in a given situation.
Symbols on the visual representations of an organisation. They are seen in the logos, colour schemes and dress codes used of the organisation. These will manifest themselves in the organisation’s marketing and advertising. Certain symbols may convey status or wealth. Collectively they help to shape the image of the organisation as seen from outside.
Control systems are the means by which an organisation is controlled. Control can be both formal and informal, direct and indirect, explicit and implied. Controls are experienced formally and explicitly in financial and quality controls. Explicit demonstrations of what is valued and whose contributions are most valued can be seen in the way that rewards are distributed throughout the organisation and whether the norm is for employees to get rewarded for good work or, alternatively, punished for poor work.
Organisation structures can refer to the hierarchical structure of the organisation as seen in an organisation chart. This structure may be flat or deep. What are the lines of authority both official and unofficial?
Power structures refer to the top levels of the organisation, the chief executive officer and the board, were real power resides. These are the people the greatest influence on decisions actions and changes.
Using the cultural web
Analysing the current web
Analysis of the elements and their interrelationships facilitates the creation of a description of the prevailing culture.
Dominant characteristics of the prevailing culture can be identified and put under the microscope. What characteristics should be retained and developed, What should be discouraged?
Perhaps it will be possible to capture these characteristics pictorially.
Developing a second web
A second web can be created in which the elements reflect the desired culture, the sort of culture that will support implementation of the planned strategy.
- What stories does the organisation want to promote? What with the organisation like to see circulating on Twitter for example?
- Who will be the heroes in the new culture?
- What will the visual representation of the culture look like? How should the new culture be marketed and advertised?
- What sorts of behaviour should be encouraged or discouraged?
- What control systems should be in place?
- How should the organisation engage in the local community or in wider communities?
- How should power be distributed if at all, throughout the company?
Planning a change of culture
Having created the two versions of the cultural web, the gaps between the two can be identified. This paves the way to planning the move from one to the other.
Areas of potential or likely resistance to change can be identified. Policies and practices for encouraging acceptance of the change can be developed. Potential leaders and champions of the change can be selected.
Successful implementation of the plan should lead to the desired change in culture.
Hofstede – International dimensions
Hofstede and others identified cultural characteristics in different nationalities.
Hofstede initially categorised 4 types which he referred to as dimensions; these 4 dimensions are mentioned in the syllabus for this course. The dimensions are:
- Power Distance Index.
- Individualism versus Collectivism.
- Uncertainty avoidance index.
- Masculinity versus Femininity.
Hofstede and others later added two additional dimensions that are not mentioned in the syllabus. They are:
- Long-term orientation.
- Indulgence versus restraint.
Nations are scored in each of the dimensions.
National cultural differences may be noticeable when head offices and subsidiaries are in different countries.
Power distance (PD) index
- The PD index is a measure of the extent to which the less powerful members of organisations and institutions accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.
- A high PD score indicates acceptance of such differences.
- In societies with a high PD index, the authority of the person at the top is less likely to be questioned.
Individualism (IDV) (vs. collectivism)
- A measure of the extent to which people are integrated into groups, i.e. the closeness of connections between people in a society.
- A high IDV score indicates a society with loose connections between individuals. Such societies tend to respect people’s time and need for privacy, freedom and the expectation of reward for hard work by an individual.
- A low IDV score indicates a society with strong connections between the members of the society. Group loyalty is strong. Members of the group are content to work for intrinsic rewards. Group harmony is very important, perhaps even at the expense of honesty.
- It is claimed that Anglo Saxon cultures are generally more individualistic than the collectivist cultures of South America.
Uncertainty avoidance index (UAI)
- A measure of a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity.
- Societies with a high UAI seek certainty and order. They may establish a bureaucracy to reduce uncertainty. Business is likely to be conducted in a very formal manner.
- Societies with a low UAI have greater acceptance of ambiguity, risk and change. Business is likely to be conducted in a more informal manner.
Masculinity (MAS) (vs. femininity)
- A measure of the extent to which a society accepts traditional distinctions between the roles of males and females.
- A culture with a high MAS is one where the men are more assertive than women. The distinction between the roles and values of the genders is large and the males focus on work, power and success.
- In societies with low scoring MAS, the differences between the gender roles is much smaller. Successful women are admired and respected. Men are ‘allowed’ to display what were traditionally considered to be feminine traits.
Long term orientation (LTO) – (Not specifically mentioned in the syllabus).
- A measure of the influence of tradition on present actions.
- Societies with a low scoring LTO value traditions. Older people have more authority than the young.
- Values associated with a high LTO are
- a strong work ethic,
- respect for tradition,
- fulfilling social obligations
- protecting one’s ‘face’.
- Cultures with a low LTO culture are said to encourage creative expression and novel ideas.
Indulgence versus Restraint (IND) – (Not specifically mentioned in the syllabus).
Measures the extent to which a society allows or controls immediate gratification of desires.
Observations on Hofstede
Although Hofstede is respected as a leading researcher on the impact of international culture on business, there has been criticism of his ideas and approach. There is also some debate on present day applicability of his observations.
There is of course plenty of information available on the web.
If you would like to look at the characteristics attributed to different nations, click this link.
For more information on Hofstede, click this link.
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