Does Her Majesties Royal Navy Promote Business Essay


First it will look at the organisation - The Royal Navy - The RN is one of the UKs best-known institutions, with a history stretching back through the centuries. It will then look at the RN's structure. All organisations whether big or small, formal or informal have some kind of structure, but this report will discuss Weber's (1947) bureaucratic model. The third part will explore the RN's culture. Every organisation has its own unique culture. Eldridge and Crombie (1974) stated that culture refers to the unique configuration of norms, values, beliefs, ways of behaving and so on that characterise the manner in which groups and individuals combine to get things done. The RN has adopted a 'role culture' as defined by Handy's (1976) model and will be explained in further detail. The report will then look at a recent example of change within the RN. Due to the country's austerity measures government spending has been cut resulting in the Armed Forces having to restructure and downsize.

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The final part of the report is the conclusion where it will evaluate the RN's structure and culture models to determine whether or not the RN does or does not encourage change.

Organisation - Royal Navy

The British Armed Forces, officially Her Majesty's Armed Forces encompass three professional uniformed services: the Naval Service (including the Royal Navy and Royal Marines), the British Army and the Royal Air Force.

Their official mission statement taken off their website states:

"Defence policy requires the provision of forces with a high degree of military effectiveness, at sufficient readiness and with a clear sense of purpose, for conflict prevention, crisis management and combat operations. Their demonstrable capability, conventional and nuclear, is intended to act as an effective deterrent to a potential aggressor, both in peacetime and during a crisis. They must be able to undertake a range of military tasks to fulfil the missions set out below, matched to changing strategic circumstances." (

The RN is globally deployed for 365 days per year promoting and protecting UK interests. It can seamlessly operate its shipping, aircraft and personnel on land, at sea or in the air. From high intensity combat operations in Afghanistan and disaster relief in the Caribbean to countering piracy in the Gulf of Aden and keeping UK waters safe - the RN is a flexible, resilient and capable service, providing the Government with a range of options to deal with the threats and challenges facing the UK and her allies.

The RN is the principal naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. It operates a "blue-water" fleet of technologically sophisticated ships including an aircraft carrier (though without fixed-wing aircraft), a helicopter carrier, two landing platform docks, four ballistic missile submarines (which maintain the UK's nuclear deterrent), six nuclear fleet submarines, five guided missile destroyers, 13 frigates, 15 mine-countermeasure vessels and 24 patrol vessels.

Structure - Hierarchical

Pugh (1990) defines organisational structure as a structure that consists of activities such as task allocation, coordination and supervision, which are directed towards the achievement of organisational aims.

The RN adopts a hierarchical structure. The hierarchical organisation is the most common of all organisational structures. In a hierarchical structure, the ladder ascends to a top authority figure, in the RN's case, it is the First Sea Lord. Within the ladder are departments with clear roles and managers.

In the RN, employees are ranked at various levels within the organisation, each level is one above the other. At each stage in the chain, one person has a number of workers directly under them, within their span of control. A traditional hierarchy, senior managers make up the board of directors and are responsible for establishing strategy and overall business direction, whilst middle managers have responsibility for a specific function such as finance or marketing.

The RN structure can be visualised below in the organisation chart

Source: Royal Navy

Weber (1947) stated that a hierarchical structure is one of the characteristics of a Bureaucratic Structure. He claimed the bureaucratic organisation, with its clear-cut division of activities, assignment of roles, and hierarchically arranged authority, to be "technically superior to all other forms of organisation." According to Weber (1947), the formal structures that made up the modern organisation enabled greater precision, speed, task knowledge, and continuity, while reducing friction and ambiguity.

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There are many advantages to this kind of structure. In a bureaucracy each employee of the organisation knows precisely what their duties are within the organisation, and therefore many tasks will be performed a lot quicker and more efficiently. Also with this type of vertical structure, employees know whom to report to with problems. Employees of the RN also like this structure when it comes to promotion; they can clearly see the next step up the ladder. In the RN, they know where the path leads and where it ends. They are motivated to move onto the next position, whether it's into a managerial role or a new department.

Weber (1947) believed that employment by a bureaucratic organisation is based on technical qualifications and constitutes a lifelong career and an employee should receive a fixed salary and no commission. This is exactly how the RN operates, a young sailor joins at the bottom of the ladder hoping to reach the top and make a successful career out of it along the way. He receives a fixed salary for each level he reaches with no commission or overtime paid.

Although this type of structure is an effective way of structuring the RN it does have various drawbacks. Jones (2001) stated that one of the biggest problems is that it depends too much on regulations and neglects human performance, so that the innovation of employees is largely restricted. If organisations rely too much on rules and procedures, they become unwieldy and too rigid making them slow to respond to changing environments. Mintzberg (1993) echoed this and stated that there is a considerable lack of flexibility in a bureaucratic organisation, resulting from a strict hierarchy. Another problem with this kind of structure is that individual departments can make decisions that benefit them rather than the Navy as a whole especially if there is Inter-departmental rivalry. This is quite common in the RN especially onboard Ship's - every department likes to think they are the best onboard and the "Command Aim" wouldn't be achieved if they wasn't onboard. This also leads to communication across various sections/departments being poor especially horizontal communication.

Young sailors and the employees towards the bottom of the organisation chart feel that working in a large bureaucratic organisation like the RN that they are mere 'cogs' in a huge machine, and therefore this can lead to them being unmotivated and a decrease in efficiency.


There is no single definition for organisational culture as many theorists have developed their own models and it is widely recognised that different organisations have distinctive cultures. The following definition is extracted from 'The Times 100' website ( A commonly used definition of organisational culture is 'the way we see and do things around here'. Through tradition, history and structure, organisations build up their own culture. Culture therefore gives an organisation a sense of identity - 'who we are', 'what we stand for', 'what we do'. It determines, through the organisation's legends, rituals, beliefs, meanings, values, norms and language, the way in which 'things are done around here'.

An organisations' culture encapsulates what it has been good at and what has worked in the past. These values can often be accepted without question by long-serving members of an organisation. One of the first things a new employee learns is some of the organisation's legends - perhaps how the founder worked long hours and despised formal educational and training qualifications. Legends can stay with an organisation and become part of the established way of doing things (who hasn't heard of Lord Nelson). Perhaps the founder's views about the importance of education and training will stay current; in the course of time there may be a 'culture shift' as new managers move into the organisation and change the old ways. However, a number of legends continue to be important determinants of 'the way we do things around here'.

Charles Handy (1976) linked organisational structure with organisational culture. According to his model, there are four types of culture that organisations follow:

Power Culture

Role Culture

Task Culture

Person Culture

The culture of the RN is best described as Role Culture. Handy (1976) has illustrated this type of culture as a Greek Temple. The apex of the temple is where the decision-making takes place, the pillars of the temple reflect the functional units of the organisation that have to implement the decisions from the apex.

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RN Organisation

Figure 2 Greek Temple Source: Handy (1976)

The role organisation rests its strength in its pillars, its functions or specialities. These pillars are strong in their own right: COMOPS, COS CAP, FOST.

Interaction takes place between the functional specialism by job descriptions, procedures, rules and systems. This is very much an organisation culture run by a paper system. An authority is not based on personal initiative but is dictated by job descriptions. Position power is the major power source in this culture and personal power is frowned upon. This reflects Weber's (1947) pure theory of bureaucracy. The efficiency of this culture depends upon adherence to principles rather than personalities.

Handy (1976) goes on to suggest that this type of culture can only succeed in a stable environment. The culture functions well if it can take control of its environment, by monopoly or oligopoly. In a sense the RN is a monopoly and has succeeded for hundreds of years using this culture.

Role culture organisations find it extremely difficult to change rapidly. Handy states that role cultures are slow to perceive the need for change and slow to change even if the need is seen.

The need for change

The RN is no different to any other organisation when it comes to organisational change. The Armed Forces (including the RN) face the need to change to become more capable of meet­ing the country's national security needs given new strategic, economic, and technological realities.

The RN is undergoing a strategic change to its structure in the way of downsizing. The key driver for this change is Government Funding and the latest Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). The SDSR outlined a requirement to restructure the Naval Service and reduce it to a strength of 30,000 by 31 Mar 15. The type of strategy used to implement this change was a Planned strategy. The RN published numerous documents detailing what will happen and how it will happen over the 5 year period.


In a paper written by Colonel Suzanne Nielson (2010) she stated that Instituting change in military organisations is difficult.

This report started by looking at the RN's organisational structure and comparing it to Weber's (1947) bureaucratic model. Mintzberg (1993) criticised this model and stated that bureaucratic organisations lack flexibility and therefore find it hard to deal with conditions of change. The report went on to look at the RN's culture and was described using Handy's (1976) model - Role Culture. It revealed that the main problem with role culture is that they can be slow to recognise and react to change. This was confirmed by the latest change in the RN, downsizing the RN was announced in 2010 and will not be complete until Mar 2015.

The bureaucratic system is a very effective way of structuring an organisation and coupled with a role culture will make it very successful as shown here with the RN - The RN has a reputation for being the best Navy in the world.

Unfortunately what this combination doesn't do is promote change easily within the organisation.