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The influence of organizational culture on attitudes toward organizational change

The risk of failure is greater as people are generally resistant to changes. For some, change may bring satisfaction, joy and advantages, while for others the same change may bring pain, stress and disadvantages.

The change process in each organization is unique in each situation, due to the differences in the nature of the organization, the nature of the business, the work culture and values, management and leadership style, and also the behavior and attitude of the employees.

3 factors to be considered in implementing change processes, that is the technological, organizational and personal perspectives.

People are the most important factor in making change; however, they are also the most difficult element to deal with.

Managing the human part of the organization involves values, preferences, and attitudes toward a particular activity. Attitudes, for instance, are difficult to change as people are generally more comfortable with what they have learned or knew due to stereotyping, fear of taking risks, intolerance to ambiguity, and possibly the need to maintain tradition

Attitude has 3 distinct components, which are cognitive, affective and behavioral tendencies.

For any change to be effective, it is crucial to challenge and clarify people’s beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes because the most potent leverage for significant and sustainable change resides within the human system at the core of every business system.

Few studies have investigated the relationship between attitudes toward organizational change and organizational outcome such as organizational commitment, job satisfaction and work ethic. For example:

. The relationship between Islamic work ethics and attitudes of employee toward organizational change (Yousef, 2000);

. Organizational commitment and attitudes toward organizational change (Iverson, 1996; Yousef, 2000); and

. Job satisfaction and attitudes toward organizational change (Yousef, 2000).

Besides changing the composition of the board of directors and the top management team, the new Technology Resources Industries Berhad (TRI) also changed its way of doing business, thus changing its values and culture. From this study, it is possible to enhance our understanding on how or what type of culture is more favourable to organizational change. The findings of this study also have potential implications to managers and consultants on the need to find appropriate organizational culture, consistent with the attitude toward organizational change.

It is expected that certain types of culture might facilitate the change process while other types of culture might not. One major issue confronting organizations is to determine which type of organizational culture favors organizational change

Strongly positive attitudes toward organizational change are dominated by organizations with mercenary culture (70.4 percent), and positive attitudes toward organizational change are dominated by organizations with networked culture (58.5 percent).

If organizational culture promotes single-minded dedication to the organization’s mission and goals, quick response to changes in the environment, and an unwillingness to accept poor performance, people are much more receptive to change. Meanwhile, people are less tolerant to change if the organizational culture promotes a tolerance of poor performance on the part of friends, an “exaggerated concern for consensus” when friends are reluctant to disagree with or challenge or criticize one another, insufficient focus on mission, strategy, and goals.

The results, therefore, showed that organizational culture plays an important role in the successfulness of the change process (Lorenzo, 1998; Ahmed, 1998; Pool, 2000). This result also supported Yousef’s (2000) assertion that certain patterns of organizational culture might facilitate the acceptance of change while others might not.

The results showed that there is an association between organizational culture and the affective, cognitive, and behavioral tendency of attitudes toward organizational change.

Certain types of organizational culture have an effect on attitudes toward potential changes in an organization

The cultural typology was related associated with each type of attitudes toward change. This demonstrated the importance of each type of culture and level of acceptance on attitude toward change.

Interrelating leadership behaviors, organizational socialization, and organizational culture

By virtue of the authority of their positions, leaders have considerable freedom to decide how their organizations will be run, and can thus be expected to play a major role in influencing the culture of an organization. It is also thought that organizational socialization involves behaviors (by various organization members) that facilitate employee acculturation. Therefore, it is also possible that some aspects of socialization (e.g. employee enthusiasm for, or lack of, cooperation) can influence an organization’s culture.

Leadership has been approached from a number of viewpoints, including individual traits, behaviors, contextual perspectives, and combinations of these viewpoints.

Studies on the leadership-culture relationship by Lok and Crawford (1999, 2001, 2004) using Wallach’s (1983) cultural dimensions

1. Bureaucracy was unrelated to consideration leadership, but positively related to initiating structure; while both innovative and supportive cultures had high positive correlations with consideration.

2. Structure-oriented leadership had slightly significant correlations with all three cultures, while consideration was unrelated to bureaucratic culture, slightly related to innovative, and highly related to supportive culture.

3. Consideration was positively and significantly related to all three cultures, showing the strongest relation with supportive and innovative cultures, and the weakest with bureaucratic culture.

Organizational socialization has four content areas, namely:

(1) training;

(2) understanding;

(3) coworker support; and

(4) future prospects.

This study confirmed that leadership behaviors and the domains of organizational socialization are related to, and predictors of, organizational culture; findings that have implications for both management and research. Overall, across organizations, as employees perceived their leaders to be more control oriented, managers might need to use more flexible leader behaviors. This is especially so in bureaucratic and (surprisingly) supportive cultures.

For bureaucratic culture, the results suggest a need for more opportunities for advancement. For supportive culture, the strong effects for control-oriented behavior were inconsistent with its general stereotype as well as with

Quinn’s (1988) model of leadership behaviors, results that indicate a need for more incisive research to better understand supportive culture. Also, the relative absence of control behaviors in innovative culture suggests that leaders in such cultures might need to pay more attention to matters of control.

For organizational socialization, training had strong positive relations to seven of eight leader roles, and a similar pattern was obtained for understanding, indicating that innovators are not seen as helping employees understand how their organizations work.

The lack of significant relationships in some cases, however, does not negate the theoretical prescription. Rather, the absence of strong relationships more likely implies that, in actual practice, certain organizations might be failing to emphasize some critical socialization domains.

Correlations revealed leader behaviors to be more control-oriented in bureaucratic culture; and more flexible-oriented in innovative culture; but, contrary to expectations, more control-oriented in supportive culture. Regressions confirmed these results and revealed that both leadership and socialization explained significant variance in all cultures. The leadership behaviors were also differentially associated with the socialization content domains, supporting most but refuting some aspects of organization theory.

A need for more flexible leader behaviors in certain organizational cultures was found. Leadership behaviors needing development in regard to socialization were likewise revealed. Also found, were aspects of socialization content that need more management attention in all three types of organizational cultures examined.

Analyzing and realigning organizational culture

The purpose of this paper is to describe a process that can be used to identify such cultural misalignments and reduce them with targeted change initiatives. The process is extremely versatile and can be used by organizational leaders with or without the assistance of an external change agent.

First we present an overview of the theoretical model from which the process is derived, and how we attempt to translate the theory into personal mental models for those involved in the change process. This can be facilitated by an internal or external change agent. The goal of this stage is to help the leadership team develop a mental model that brings culture to a conscious level for analysis. This can be accomplished through operational definitions of artifacts, espoused values, and BUAs, reinforced with examples and self-analysis exercises.

Next, we describe an action-oriented process we call “walkies and talkies” used for analyzing what Schein refers to as artifacts and espoused values. This “observe” stage may be extended to include more formal interviews with new, established, and departing employees.

Finally, we present a range of change initiatives that may be used if the culture analysis reveals any misalignments – “tune-ups” are actions that can be taken during the analysis or immediately thereafter. “Re-builds” are intermediate actions that take one to six months to complete. “Replacements” are longer-term interventions requiring significant investments of time and resources, and represent change at its deepest level.

Culture has been defined as:

A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems (Schein, 1992). The set of important assumptions (often unstated) that members of a community share in common (Sathe, 1985). The sum total of all the shared, taken-for-granted assumptions that a group has learned throughout its history. It is the residue of success (Schein, 1999).

As is clear from these definitions, assumptions, often referred to by Schein as basic underlying assumptions (BUAs), define the deepest, most fundamental level of organizational culture. BUAs are unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. Herein lies the difficulty of analyzing and changing culture: assumptions are not directly observable and instead must be inferred from what can be seen and heard in organizations. The visible and audible manifestations of culture have been referred to as artifacts and espoused values (Schein, 1992).

Artifacts are visible and physical. Some examples include dress codes, physical settings (architecture, offices, and status symbols), newsletters, signs, and banners. Suitable places to locate artifacts are parking lots, hallways, entryways, management offices, meeting rooms, and workspaces. Espoused values are audible and spoken, and include justifications, goals, philosophies, sayings, slogans, and strategies. Espoused values are included in stories of organizational heroes, legends, and myths. Espoused values may even persist in acronyms, greetings, and small talk.

Because employees and change agents use artifacts and espoused values to diagnose (formally or informally) an organization’s culture, it is easy to assume that they are congruent with, or reflective of, the basic underlying assumptions. However, this is often not the case (Schein, 1992; 1999). Instead, many artifacts and espoused values are “wish lists,” representing a desired culture that may be quite different from the true culture. We refer to this difference between artifacts and espoused values and BUAs as a cultural misalignment. If a misalignment is diagnosed (via the process described below), then organizational leaders can choose from a range of strategic and tactical initiatives designed to realign the cultural elements.

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