Leading Organizational Change Across Cultural Borders Business Essay

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Organizations are open social systems that constantly change due to complex internal and external factors. The rapid pace of technological innovation, the emergence of a global society, instability in the U.S., as well as the global economy, are critical factors driving the phenomenal amount of change in modem organizations. Research has documented that ambiguity and uncertainty are key concerns in organizations (Kotter, 1996), because they often lead to confusion, chaos and disconnection in the workplace.

Radical organizational change that breaks prolonged period of stability and inertia in organizations is more conspicuous but on closer inspection it may be realized that change is an ongoing adaptation and adjustment process that is taking place continuously. Concurrently, change is a nonlinear and an open ended phenomenon, which requires understanding the needs and demands of various constituencies, and this includes a focus on social and psychological processes (Kennedy, 2002). Additionally, organizational change is undertaken with the hope that it will enhance organizational effectiveness and efficiency, but the complexity of implementation does not allow a simple and straightforward solution; it is rather a real challenging task (Kennedy, 2002). As noted above, failure of a sizable number of change attempts forces scholars to analyze issues afresh every time a new failure occurs. For these reasons scholars have paid much attention to various control systems to steer change at the desired pace and in the predetermined direction (Kennedy, 2002).

Scholars and practitioners consensually hold that there are both internal and external forces that drive organizational change. Successful leaders base their decisions not only on current business expediencies but they also envision and anticipate future changes in the market and other institutional dynamics (Bezzubetz, 2009). Deplorably, the majority of managers conveniently ignore their internal intangible contextual realities resulting in unforeseen fiascos for their change efforts. Thus, any organizational change needs to be a coordinated and controlled effort in order to achieve the desired ends; conversely, an uncontrolled organizational change effort may astray and lead to chaos and anarchy (Bezzubetz, 2009). Among the contextual factors, the culture of any organization is very important, if not the most, important factor. We have adequate evidence that supports the view that culture controls the behavior of employees and is also instrumental in achieving greater performance objectives (Bezzubetz, 2009).

The next important thing to be understood is the creation of the right type of culture that will facilitate a change initiative. Although cultures are difficult to change but, knowing that culture itself is an organic reality, it is important that the change sponsors have adequate understanding of the existing cultures of their organizations and whether or not such cultures will support the change (Bommer, Rich & Rubin, 2005). They should strive to create right type of culture before they undertake any change initiative. Thus, culture is a system that plays an important role in controlling the behaviors of employees and is found to be instrumental in achieving the objectives of change initiative. Dovetailing the right culture for the desired change is therefore imperative (Bommer, Rich & Rubin, 2005).

The review of organizational culture literature reveals that myriad of definitions have been proposed by the scholars. However, the common denominator of all the definitions is that culture is considered to be based on shared beliefs, assumptions, and a set of values and norms that characterize organizations and their members. These scholars further mention that, from the functional perspective, culture is defined as an attribute possessed by organizations and that differences in organizational culture can be identified, changed, as well as empirically measured. They further assert that culture is a potential predictor of other organizational outcomes such as organizational effectiveness and performance.

Resistance to change and concern about it are integral parts of the analysis for change scholars. Empirical evidence shows that no sooner do employees get an inkling of the purported change that they begin to show their resentment and resist the idea (Holt et al. 2006). Indeed, employees go through a phased reaction of shock and anger to the later stages of acquiescence, and acceptance. The difficulty the managers encounter, however, is that once the resistance stage is set it is very difficult, if not impossible, to reverse it. On the other hand, experienced managers know that it is of great value to create change readiness in employees instead of investing time and money to overcome resistance which may, at best, produce minimum desired results. Resistance to change has been studied at both the macro level (organizational resistance to change), where institutional forces are considered as important impediments to change and at the micro level (psychological resistance to change) when responses to change at the individual level are taken into account (Holt et al. 2006).

Research Questions

The purpose of this study is to analyze the effect of culture on organizational change and the role of transition management in implementing those changes. The research questions for this research study are mentioned below:

What is the culture and how can cross-border culture impact an organization?

What is organizational change and why changes are introduced in an organization?

How organizational culture can impact the change initiatives within the organization?

How can transition management, which is a part of change management, help organization in successfully implementing changes?


Organizational Change

Before carrying on with this study it is necessary to understand what change is? Change is now a way of life in most organizations; however, transitions can be most disruptive and difficult. Professor Denise Rousseau of Carnegie Mellon, with her theory of "psychological contracts" said that change can be made in a way that reduces its negative aspects. She argued that a successful change needs to start with line employees very early in the change process, by building trust through explanation of the reasons for the change, asking for their input, and creating a mechanism that may lessen any negative consequences that could arise as a result of the change, because implementing change successfully is becoming critical to the survival and success of most organizations (Bezzubetz, 2009). Implementing change, however, is usually difficult. Much has been written in the change management literature about different types of problems confronted when trying to implement organizational change.

Planned organizational change takes place when a change agent intentionally takes action and creates interventions through a deliberate process with the goal of achieving a different state of behavior, structure, or organizational conditions (Bezzubetz, 2009). Readiness for change is an individual's cognitive state or attitude that ultimately leads them to exhibit supportive behaviors related to the change effort (Bezzubetz, 2009).

The culture is a key aspect of readiness; this can incorporate aspects such as Burke (2007) and his argument for the need for mutual trust. Burke (2007) and Holt (2002) also note the importance of a culture in which change will be accepted. The way in which management operates is also seen in the culture and the practices, such as communication and the way employees may be included in the process. Where there is active participation there is also a greater potential for readiness.


An organization's culture is usually not formalized, rarely listed in the mission statement, nor is it a part of the strategic plan, yet it is found in every organization. "Culture refers to the deep structure of organizations, which is rooted in values, beliefs, and assumptions held by organizational members" (Denison, 1996, p. 624). No matter how similar an organization may be in size and/or type, its culture can vary from one end of the spectrum to the other. Private sector organizations share similar cultures as public and non-profit sector organizations, but the way things are done and their results can be worlds apart. As an additional consideration, ethnic and national cultures can further increase the dynamics associated with organizational culture.

Culture should be considered more than just how an organization is perceived or how things are done. It also has implications that are associated with geography, ethnicity, morals, values, and beliefs. There are many employees within the various organizations whose origins exist outside of the United States. With that occurrence comes diversity in language, rituals, traditions, attitudes, and behaviors. Multinational companies are good examples to demonstrate the vast amount of cultural differences that exist within an organization. Hofstede et al. (1990) conducted a study on the organizational and national culture construct. The study revealed that the values of employees varied more according to demographics of nationality, age, and education, although the values of the founders and leaders were the driving forces behind the organizational culture.

Other studies have been conducted on the impact of national culture and moral philosophies from the organizational structure. Walsh (2004) used a case study to highlight a U.S. headquartered multinational company, partially owned by the Japanese government, which employed American and Japanese employees that had very distinct differences between them. The Japanese executives perceived the American executives as reckless and uncommitted. The American executives perceived the Japanese executives as lazy. They performed the same activities, but each was identified with varying perceptions. The American culture dictated more of an individualistic behavior, whereas the Japanese culture dictated more of a collective behavior. Walsh (2004) concluded that organizational members would naturally establish their own systems that "incorporate aspects of corporate culture and national culture" (p. 320).

According to Sopow (2007), an organization's culture is its deeply rooted traditions, values, beliefs and sense of self. It is the glue, per se, that bonds the organization and creates the behavior blueprints within the company. Whether the established culture is positive or negative can depend on historical and developmental factors, as well as leadership and employee behavioral patterns.

Leadership can define and redefine the organization's culture by its level of consistency in implementing the rules, regulations, creeds, and other procedural aspects. Establishing a culture requires more than vision and mission statements for employees to embrace, but also a conceptual shift and a behavioral shift on the part of everyone, which necessitates active leadership at every level. Employee behavior within various departments can create subcultures within the organization which are normally the result of common problems, experiences, or situations that the employees encounter. Employees have a belief in what the organization can and should do to meet its goals, and their actions demonstrate that belief (Atkins & Turner, 2006, p. 30).

Culture is important because it can be the difference between the success and failure of the organization. Leaders must understand and nurture a positive organizational culture by evaluating themselves, encouraging and valuing workers, maintaining open lines of communication at all levels, reducing micromanagement, and building a superior reputation for excellence (Edelman, 2006, p. 13).

Schraeder et al. (2005) presented an article that highlighted similarities and differences between public and private organizational cultures through a case study. The purpose was to offer two possible approaches, training and leading by example, for improving organizational culture awareness, and promote culture change in public sector organizations.

Government organizations may not necessarily have the same level of appreciation for implementing change as some private companies. Going from following the chain of command to the empowerment of employees can be a tedious process for some leaders seeking to implement a cultural change of quality improvement, for example. Because leadership plays a vital role in the organizational culture that has been established, it is important that leaders are consistent in their drive for quality improvement and change. According to Claver, Gasco, Llopis and Gonzalez (2001), it is an important part of a strategic process and should be consistently encouraged throughout the organization.

Like leadership, organizational culture has been defined by many researchers. Pettigrew (1979) introduced the concept of organizational culture through a study conducted at a private British boarding school. The researcher used social dramas as a research focus to analyze the minds and actions of the people, and considered each of them as a critical event. Pettigrew saw culture as being created through the concepts of language, belief, and ritual. A qualitative method was used to facilitate an understanding of the nature of culture and how it arrives in the workplace through the concepts of symbol, language, ideology, belief, ritual, and myths. There was no suggestion made that the concepts were universally applicable across all organizations, and was considered a list of "some items on a menu and items put together in some simple dishes; it remains for others to broaden the menu" (Pettigrew, 1979, p. 580). The most commonly used definition of organizational culture consists of "basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organization". Other definitions of organizational culture include: "shared systems of meaning" (Howard- Grenville, 2006, p. 49); "system of shared behaviors"; and "individual's interactions and systems" (Walsh, 2004, p. 304). The common theme among the definitions describes culture as a system.

The organization's culture or system can be broken into subcultures or subsystems. Howard-Grenville (2006) conducted a study using an inductive, theory-generating approach examining how the relative power and interaction patterns of sub-cultural groups influence collective interpretations of environmental issues. The study suggested that the organization's culture and its assemblage of subcultures can shape how environmental issues are interpreted and acted upon. "If subcultures are not equally powerful, divergent interpretations will be channelled into actions that are broadly consistent with the strategies for action of the dominant subculture" (Howard-Grenville, 2006, p. 68). One limitation to note is that the findings can't be used to predict how other organizations would respond to such issues because it relies on information from a single organization.

The subculture formation usually occurs within smaller groups that have similar interests. For example, subcultures can be grouped by departments, functions, management, union employees, teams, and even ethnic backgrounds. If the organization is an international company, then its subculture can be grouped by country, state, division, and region. Many global organizations have not acquainted themselves with the cultural alignment that is necessary throughout their companies regionally or abroad. Attention to the subculture can be more important than just focusing on the overall organizational culture because the true attitudes and beliefs of the employees can be more decisively determined at that level (Howard-Grenville, 2006).

Culture can be a learned behavior. Learning and cultural development are linked through observed behavior, norms, dominant values, and rules. The concept of cultural development begins at the early stages of organizational structuring. At the onset of the organization's creation, the founder establishes the purpose, mission, and commitment, using specific goals and objectives. Upon selecting the workforce, the values and belief system are then passed on to the employees, creating learned behavior.

The corporate culture becomes the intended culture that new employees are required to learn per the rules and regulations of the organization. Organizational structure dictates the norms and line of command by which leaders and followers will abide. Once that cultural development has occurred, the true learning process takes place. The ins and outs of the organizational culture are learned from communication, affiliations, and observations. Union membership is a powerful avenue to learning the unintended organizational culture. Various dimensions of culture are found at different levels within the organization, and its aspects can be a result of leadership behavior.


This chapter discusses the research method that is being used for the study and it rationale. There are a number of different methods of research which the researcher can utilize throughout the process of a research. These methods of research could generally be considered as qualitative approaches to research. The aim of the secondary research method is directed at focalizing on existent sources of information like an internal document, magazines, journal, web pages, etc. Collection of data from secondary research include regular assessment to eradicate any sort of biasness from the material, ensure the accuracy of data, ensure that the data is current and up to date, corresponds to the said purpose, and analyze the content of the data to ensure that it is dependable.

Research Method

The methodology used for the purpose of this research is based on the qualitative data. This research is more or less based on the literature review nd the conclusions will be drawn on the basis of actual resources listed in the references. This research will be founded on the secondary data. The research will encompass the publications, articles and similar studies accessible on the internet.

Internet is a major source for gathering information. Data about almost all fields of study is available and can be accessed easily. For this study internet will serve to be a major source of information. Numerous online articles from the journals and newspapers will be reviewed. The author will extract the data (ex title of study, authors, publication source, year of publication, sponsor /conflict of interest, study design, study settings, inclusion/exclusion criteria, method of randomization, details of study population, outcome measures etc). After reviewing the title and abstract, studies fulfilling the inclusion criteria, will be included in this review.

Data Collection

The first step in the study of secondary data is to understand the need for this information. A crucial source of collecting relevant data is through online searches. Internet is the source of plethora of relevant information. Almost all the information about different subjects can be easily searched on the internet. Thus, majority of the data for this study will also be gathered through online sources. The researcher will also review several online journals and publications for articles and editorial columns. Along with the online data collection, the researcher will also gather information from public and private libraries through published journals and textbooks.