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Organizational Culture Case Study: BrainGame

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The importance of individual and organisational culture are vital components for business to succeed. BrianGame has the organisational culture of making global volunteers as their workers to develop games. However, the debate among BrainGame's top management now considers changing the culture of volunteers to full-time employees, which raise issues on the relationship between volunteers and BrainGame. This essay will examine the challenges that BrainGame face and provide recommendations based on the challenges for BrainGame.

Trust and Group Conflict

One challenge for BrainGame is trust. Some top management want to replace volunteers with full-time developers. This is because volunteers are not productive and hard to manage, "more than a thousand crappy ideas proposed", according to Rutger Ekberg, the head of product development (Sutton et al, 2014).

Figure 1: (Dietz and Hartog, 2006)

People like Rutger from BrainGame belongs to deterrence-based, they don't trust volunteers and have no positive expectation over volunteers. They believe if no full-time experienced developers used, then what if game fails and the potential of losing investors. This is also a group problem. The company's top management are task conflicts because of the disagreement among top management about the content and outcomes of volunteer's performance (Wit et al, 2012). Task conflict may hurt more proximal group outcomes, such as trust from volunteers and volunteer's satisfaction. This latter effect is especially likely when volunteers interpret the company's diverging viewpoints as a negative assessment of their own abilities and competencies (Wit et al, 2012). If volunteers are not trusted, then the company will not run effectively, and influence company's operation like productivity, communication, and raise problem of demotivating volunteers, reduce their commitment to the company. According to Mayer and Gavin (1999) employee's performance will suffer if they believe their leader can't be trusted. Some top management such as Lena, the CEO, are knowledge-based to volunteers. They believe volunteers saves money and provide free marketing for the company as well as free product development, but they need to convenience people who distrust volunteers so BrainGame can work toward the same target (Dietz and Hartog, 2006).


Another challenge is motivation. BrainGame needs to motivate volunteers so they can be more efficient. Volunteers who work for BrainGame are unpaid, they work because they want to "create positive, nonviolent, commercially viable product that reward empathy and caring rather than aggression and revenge (Sutton et al, 2014)".

Figure 2: (Herzberg F, 1987)

Self-determination theory explain the motivation for people's growth and human development (Deci and Ryan, 2004). The theory explains the intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors are self-determined by one's own will (Deci et al, 1991). From figure 2, it shows achievement, recognition and work itself and responsibility are the top four motivation factors, which are all intrinsic motivation. These motivation factors are correlated with BrainGame's volunteers because they want be respected by others, recognize for their work and actually make a difference. The problem between BrainGame and volunteers is some people in BrainGame don't recognize their work, they distrust them. Which could lead to more ineffective production and creativity because volunteers are discovered they are not recognized for what they do and what they contribute, therefore will not fully commit to the job or even leave. If BrainGame wants to keep volunteers, then they need to help volunteers achieve what they want so they can commit to the job.

Organizational Culture

Organizational culture is another challenge for BrainGame. The company have the culture of volunteers instead of full time developers. Klaus called this culture a movement (Sutton et al, 2014). However, the culture has been in question of volunteers should be replaced by full-time developers.

Figure 3: (Hartnell et al, 2011)

BrainGame's culture is most likely to be the adhocracy culture type, because this type of culture is externally oriented with flexible organizational structure (Hartnell et al, 2011). BrainGame has a very flexible organizational structure with over thousands of volunteers as developers around the world (Sutton et al, 2014). The fundamental assumption in adhocracy cultures is that change fosters the creation or garnering of new resources (Hartnell et al, 2011). This organizational type encourages people to be innovative. However, BrainGame's current culture doesn't work efficiently. Volunteers produced many ideas but most ideas are not viable to use and time consuming. Moreover, BrainGame initial ideas of using volunteers are because of cost saving. Since BrainGame are making profit now, the company needs to rethink its organizational culture, to continue with volunteers or move on to full time developers. The company needs to also consider the risk of losing volunteers and the possibility of turn thousands of brand evangelists to brand haters since volunteers provides free marketing and advertising (Sutton et al 2014).


BrainGame's top management have the characteristics of transactional leadership with laissez-faire and management by action (passive) style. They hesitate when make decisions and only make interventions if standards are not met (Judge and Piccolo, 2004). According to research, laissez-faire and management by action (passive) are negatively correlated with leadership criteria (Judge and Piccolo, 2004). Based on the case, BrainGame's top management have constant debate on should they keep volunteers or replace them with full time developers. However, no one could come up with a defiant solution. BrainGame's top management especially Lena needs to change their leadership styles, to be more inspired to other people, have vision and active.

Question 2

Goal-Setting Theory

As challenges addressed above, it is important to make appropriate recommendations to help BrainGame solve its problems. One recommendation is using the goal setting theory to solve motivation problem.

Figure 4: (Lunenburg, 2011)

Figure 4 shows the process of goal-setting theory. The two cognitive determinants of behavior are values and intentions (goals) (Lunenburg F.C, 2011). As for BrainGame, the goal for volunteers is try to achieve self-actualization, to create positive, commercially viable product and have the desire to do things consistent with them. Goals leads to attention and action which gain motivation and lead to higher effort with persistence. Goals help people to find the right strategies for themselves so that they can perform at the level they can to achieve that goal. Finally, goal achievement can lead to sense of accomplishment and further motivation, or frustration and lower motivation if failed to accomplish the goal. (Lunenburg F.C, 2011).

The goal setting theory under the right conditions will help BrainGame set goals for volunteers to achieve efficiency and productivity. The first step for goal setting theory is people needs to accept goal first, so that they can be motivated to achieve their goal target (Locke and Latham, 2002). Then they need to commit to their goals, two factors help people to commit their goals are self-efficacy and importance (Locke and Latham, 2002). Importance are factors that makes people stick to their goal, including what they expected for their result (Locke and Latham, 2002). According to Erez et al (1985) shows by having involvement in setting its own goals will make them accept their goals at a higher rate because they feel under control of their goal setting. By involved in goal setting, they will have a better understanding of the task and what will they expect as a result. Self-efficacy is how much people believe they can achieve their goal (Locke and Latham, 2002). Self-efficacy can be improved by provide training for volunteers such as online training, this will help increase their skills which leads to better productivity and efficiency. Through effective and regular communication between the company and volunteers to encourage volunteers, this will help gain their confidences (Locke and Latham, 2002). Through training and regular communication, individuals will have a better understanding of their own goal importance and more self-confidence towards their goal, therefore improve goal commitment (Locke and Latham, 2006).

A goal needs to be specific and measurable, goals which are unclear are confusing and normally have little effect on motivation. Making goal clear allows people to focus on at the right directions and act related to goal (Lock and Latham, 2002). Volunteers with specific goal target will have better understanding of the task, results in efficiency.

Goal is proven to be a motivational factor for people to follow if difficulty is considered, it gives the incentive for people to challenge. If goal target is too difficult, it will demotivate people and reduce their commitment. Goal difficulty not just affect individual's behavior, it will also affect at organizational level. In the late 1960s, Ford's goal to gain market share against international competitors, goal was set at tight deadlines and many levels of management signed off on unperformed safety check to the newly development car- the Ford Pinto, results in 53 consumer deaths, the challenging goal was met but company's unethical behavior has damaged its reputation (Ordóñez et al, 2009). Setting goals that are too high or difficult not only reduce motivation and commitment but also can create dishonesty, cutting corners and corruption (Bennett, 2009). BrainGame needs to be clear of their goal settings, specific and measurable, not setting high goals that demotivating volunteers, since they are not contract bound by the company, demotivating them will only damage the company.

Feedback is essential for volunteers to retain their goal commitment and effectiveness. It is important to give volunteers with constant feedbacks on their work so they can aware of all the progress and mistakes they made during their work, or it will become difficult to monitor the level of effort that needs in order to achieve the goal target more sufficiently (Sorrentino, 2006). Additionally, feedback gives the advantage that allows individual to spot their personal disadvantages towards their goals, and allows promptly adjustment to be done (Smith and Hitt, 2005). By having feedbacks, volunteers will know their work has been checked and evaluated and people are recognizing their work. Provide positive feedbacks to volunteers means BrainGame recognize their work. Whereas negative feedbacks will also motivate them and increase their effort to work if they have high self-efficacy. In contrast, volunteers with low self-efficacy will respond with less effort and demotivated to negative feedbacks (Bandura and Cervone, 1986).

However, goal setting theory have limitation. Concentrating only to goal can cause people to miss other factors in your environment (Simons and Chabris, 1999). When attention is focused on goal, people become inattention to other factors, which could sometimes cause people to miss the bigger picture.

Transformational Leadership

BrainGame needs to transform from transactional leadership to transformational leadership style in order to run the company more efficiently. Transformational leaders are more effective because they are more creative, and they encourage and help the people who followed them to be creative (Shin and Zhou, 2003). Companies with transformational leaders are more decentralized, managers are more likely to take risks, compensation plans are aim for long-term results (Ling et al, 2008). According to a study of information technology workers in China found giving more power to people will create positive personal control among workers, thus increased their creativity at work (Zhang and Bartol, 2010). Companies with transformational leaders also have better agreement with managers about goals and strategies, this leads to better and efficient group and organizational operations and performance (Colbert et al 2008). Research from 203 team members and 60 leaders in a business unit found high performance is related to individual transformational leadership, and high group performance is also related to team focused transformational leadership (Hetland 2007; Lowe 1996). To have transformational leaders is important for BrainGame because there has been debates on volunteers, with people having different opinions but no one have profound and extraordinary effect to influence other people, the level of distrust to volunteers has raised in top management. As a leader, it is important to trust and guide your people with right directions. Transformational leaders obtain higher levels of trust, which in result reduce their follower's anxiety and fear (liu et al, 2010). Followers who trust their leader are confident they will be protected for their interest and rights (Hosmer, 1995). BrainGame's leaders needs act as transformational leaders and to trust their volunteers because volunteers are there main developer of game. The business is attracting investment and best ideas were generated from volunteers. Volunteers want to achieve recognition and trust is the best way to recognize their work. Transformational leaders encourage creativity and support people's idea, by encouraging their ideas and guide them towards right direction (Schaubroeck et al, 2011). This will help volunteers improve their skills, and improve their productivity and commitment.

Training is an effective way to become a better transformational leader. Training include teach skills on trust building and mentoring, learn how to analysis and evaluate a situation and apply those skills into their own styles, and evaluate in a given situation, which leader behaviors is appropriate to use (Brady, 2010). For BrainGame's top management, train them gives them more skills to evaluate the current situation, and provide long-term strategy, and better skills to build trust and communication. with volunteers.

To conclude, BrainGame currently in debate over should volunteers be replaced by full-time developers. To do so, it could lose trust from volunteers and demotivate them. Organizational culture will have to change, and leadership style needs to change in order to run the company more effectively. Goal-setting theory is a good method to solve some challenges faced by BrainGame. By goal-setting, volunteers will have better understanding of their task and motivate them, which will increase their productivity and efficiency and this is one of the most important factors why BrainGame want to replace volunteers. However, goal difficulty needs to be careful set or it could cause negative impact. By transit from transitional to transformational leadership, leaders of BrainGame will motivate, communicate better with employees. Transformational leadership skills can be improved with training. Nevertheless, BrainGame should retain volunteers, and build a better strategy around them to run more efficiently.

Question 3

It was a group project I worked with other group members. Group leader set goals for each one of us, but goal was not specific enough. After the deadline, one group member completely misunderstood the task, which the whole team project was stagnated. That group member was demotivated, but we decided to stop our tasks and help him to finish his first. One of the problem for us while we are doing the project is lack of communication as a group, we all focused on our part but each part is correlated, lack of communication with unspecific goal leads to this problem. After this, we all decided to communicate and help each other more, we all motivated and the project in the end finished faster than the deadlines. I think I will apply motivation to my career, because through self-determination theory, I will know which factors will influence me most to motivate me and my teammates.

Word count: 2456


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