Saturday, June 6, 2009

Smart Behaviour - Organisational Behaviour

What is organisational culture?
Culture is unique to organisations, even if it hasn’t been deliberately created. It is ‘inherited from the ancestors’. It is an unconscious creation based on the values espoused by the top management or the founders of the organisation. Nevertheless, as time passes, bringing about change in culture, to respect preferences becomes inevitable.

Cultural makeover
Owing to the phenomenon of constant change, cultures too need to be adapted to the changing market place conditions. Culture influences the decision-making process, management styles and thereby the success of an organisation. Therefore, making cultures behave is critical.

Organisational culture and organisational change are talked of in similar contexts. Therefore, a minor change might affect the entire culture of the organisation. As in any change process, there are hurdles to cultural change too. Ironically, the major obstacles to successful organisational change are corporate cultures themselves!

Obstacles to change
Employees and top management are often open to the idea of change, however, they are wary about implementing the change. This is because, organisational culture and people’s inclinations run parallel; they seldom merge.

For instance, customers expect high quality standards and service, and manufacturers know what these standards entail. Without providing quality to the customers, they cannot expect good returns on their investment. Unless the manufacturers support service excellence, the latter is impossible to achieve. Therefore, a minor change in the culture of the manufacturers is essential.

Partners in crime
Conventional wisdom proves that cultural changes are intrinsically difficult. Human resistance is not always the greatest obstacle to cultural change in an organisation. Resistance to change is inherently cultural. Employees’ actions are not always their own. Generally, the socialisation processes of the culture they belong to influence them. Therefore, change resistance is collective, contrary to the myth that it originates from the individual.

Deadening factors
Apart from the collective nature of resistance to change certain other factors cause a deadening impact on the organisation. Among those are the hierarchical patterns in the organisational structure, lackadaisical approach to changes in the external environment, essential skill deficiency and to top them all, the order-and-obey, command-and- control management.

Such obstacles can be easily overcome by changing the psychology and in turn the behaviour of employees.

Birth of a new culture
Evolution of culture is a natural phenomenon. Culture teaches employees how to behave and facilitates their interpretation of how to act within the organisation. A strong culture is one that is internally consistent, widely shared, and makes expectations clear.

Culture-building mantras
Culture building therefore involves a three-stage process.

Know what
Know how
Doing it
Knowing what to do and how to do are relatively easy. However, the ‘doing it’ part of building culture requires greater effort from employees.

Change philosophy
A change in philosophy therefore demands a change in the traditional methods of fault correction. To make change happen, employers must emphasise on flattening the hierarchical structure, empowering workers, training and retraining them and motivating them to make success a habit.

All these elements are interdependent and failure to follow even one of them will lead to failure of the entire organisation. Evaluation is important. Certain parameters for evaluation are identifying whether

The hierarchical structures are at the ideal minimum
Continuous training is imparted
Training has helped in implementing change
Levels of hierarchy
To reduce hierarchical levels, James Champy of Business Process Reengineering fame advises three levels in organisations. Managers at the first level are known as ‘enterprise managers’. These managers are responsible for making decisions. The next level consists of ‘people managers’ or ‘process managers’, so called because they help in planning and implementing activities, and support the first level. The third level comprises ‘self-managers’ who execute decisions. However, all the three levels have the backend support of ‘expertise managers’ like accountants and technologists.

GE’s culture was highly bureaucratic. The change representative Jack Welch took initiatives to delayer the hierarchical structures.

From X to Y
Important as it sounds, a major shift of emphasis from looking inwards to looking outwards is required. This entails a shift from Theory X to Theory Y enunciated by Douglas McGregor. The former focuses on constant monitoring of the employees by their superiors, whereas, the latter considers work and achieving results as natural. Therefore, Theory Y makes change management easier.

Constant training is essential as well. At GE, Welch identified training as the key to cultural change. He taught technical and cultural lessons to his employees and always focused on three core values: face reality, focus on quality and respect the human element.

First things first
Theory Y aims to bring about a change in behaviour. Change in behaviour leads to change in culture, contrary to the practices in many organisations. They change culture first and behaviour later consequently their change initiatives fail. To change employee behaviour, leaders must change themselves first. At Chrysler they believe that cultural change though powerful is dependent on the whims of the leaders.

A leader must be an enabling factor. He must play a vital role in his department and concentrate on strategies and action plans. He must intervene in routine actions but delegate the operations to those responsible. He must also examine and revoke team proposals but simultaneously approve the short-term tasks put forward by the team.

Proactive cultural management
Present day organisations are in dire need for interdepartmental, cross-functional team culture to encourage innovation. All these are but precursors to reactive change (compulsive changing). Reactive change is not permanent.

Though Chrysler had a history of innovation, its standards were falling during the early 90s. Bob Lutz, the then president of Chrysler, wanted it to become the automobile giant. They built a programme of cultural change called Customer One and the results were impressive. They had the same workforce but they sorted out different ways of working.

Employees must therefore aim at proactive cultural management, which starts with objectives and encompasses a vision for the future. It also inhibits obstructive behaviour and reinforces constructive behaviour.

Foundational attitudes
Certain foundational attitudes are integral to proactive cultural management. The first and the foremost is the creation of a learning company. In its efforts to bring about cultural change, Chrysler approached leading automobile giant Honda. Chrysler reorganised its teams into Honda-style teams and it learnt from its achievements and mistakes. " We do a `what went right, what went wrong analysis at various points and we transmit this information to the other platforms," said James Sorenson of the Jeep/Truck Team at Chrysler.

Also organisations must abandon rigid procedures that hamper creativity. An emphasis on knowledge sharing is the third foundational attitude. Finally, identifying the need for successful behavioural change in the assessment of employees is highly essential.

Be positive
Leaders’ behaviour must be in congruence with the foundational attitudes. Cultural change is not hard to bring about in organisations. However, illogical emotions such as fear are also dynamic in organisations. Therefore, positive programmes that thwart illogical emotions is important in promoting cultural change.

Zoom ahead
Risk is natural in any change programme. Nevertheless, employees must also realise that failure to change poses greater risks than external risks. Hence, optimistic realism helps employees forge ahead and lay foundations for cultural excellence.


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