When presented with two choices, the natural reaction is to choose one. However, paradoxes unlike dilemmas can be solved by choosing one or both options. The natural contradiction between change and stability is a paradox (Pascale, 1990). While stability is the foundation of an organisation's culture, an organization will encounter many changes, either by choice or force, as it grows and adapts to its environment. The long term strategies of many organisations involve change, but although it may appear paradoxical, the unstated objective of an organization is to retain its core values and stability (Stacey, 1993). In this essay, the paradoxical nature of organisational culture as incorporating elements of both stability change as well as its contribution to organisational change will be discussed.
Firstly, the literature review will provide an analysis of existing literature on change and stability and its contribution to organisational culture. In addition, to a brief summary of stability and change, their relationship will be explored. Then, the paradoxical nature of organisational culture with reference to the relationships between stability and change will be examined. The contribution the paradoxical nature of orgnanisations has had on organizational change will be analysed. Finally the conclusion will summarise the findings of the report.
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This review will analyse the literature on stability and change, and their relationship, culture, the paradoxical nature of organizational culture and its contribution to organizational change.
Change management has become almost a fundamental part of an organisation's culture, but Kolb (2002) believes that change has become almost like a fad and that there is too much importance bestowed upon it. Other academics such as Kolb (2002) and Srivastva & Wishart (1992) have argued that stability is the most important part of culture. Lewin (1951) discusses the relationship between stability and change and how they coexist.
Culture in an organisation can have several definitions, but Brown (1998) definition that culture is similar to a personality was focussed on. Stacey (1993) discussed the different definitions of a paradox. The definitions of paradox found in the literature emphasise the contradictory and yet interdependent nature of two apparently opposing concepts. Cameron and Quinn (1988). Morgan (2006) explained that dialectical view encounters conflicts. He viewed that for a paradox to be successfully solved the constraint should be removed. In summary, the paradox of nature in organizational culture has not just affected the culture but it has also affected organizational change.
Weick (1969) famously described "organisation" and "change" as two sides of the same coin. He believed that human systems are always stabilising and destabilising simultaneously. Burchell & Kolb (2006) research on chaos and inertia helps to understand the relationship between chaos and inertia and the ability to shoose sustainability. An example of a successful transformation was explained by Davies (2010) in a lecture when he spoke of how BT managed to reduce half of their workforce and improve teamwork. Pascale (1990) claims that western organizations are behind Asian organizations and need to adopt their Asian counterpart's methods if they hope to remain successful in the future. Successful organisations appear to set their border area between stability and change (Stewart, 1889).
Stability is an integral part of an organisation's culture and this stabilizing effect allows an organization to grow and prosper (Srivastva & Wishart, 1992;) Burchell & Kolb (2006) associated stability with terms such as:
Stability is responsible for contributing to the organizations wealth, growth, and continued efficiency (O'Sland et al, 2001). Collins & Porras (1998) stated humanistic approaches are also important for the organization to grow. These include security, trust, sense of power and individuality, and ability to prosper within the organization. Quantitative analysis that was carried out by Kotter (1992) showed that stable cultures outperform firms with unstable cultures by facilitating coordination and control, emphasizing common goals and increasing employees' efforts.
In the past, change was considered precarious, but nowadays, organizations see change as a fundamental part of their organizational culture (Senior & Fleming, 2006). Change is caused by both internal and external forces. Listed below are some of the main forces that drive change (Marchington & Wilkinson, 2002).
External Forces- macro environmental forces
new technological developments that change the industry
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
major changes in customer preferences or in demographics (increasing diversity of the workforce).
Internal Forces - micro forces arising from within the organization:
growth causing expansion
changes in goals or strategies
desire to increase reputation
change in ownership or management
These advocates or forces for change have a control on the degree of change, the time frame and the impact of change (Harvey & Brown, 2001). External forces may cause extreme changes such as the volcanic ash that affected airlines recently. Internal forces for change can be both proactive and reactive. Change is associated with words such as innovative, fresh, new, forward thinking, positive, enthusiasm, innovative, differentiation and development (Davies, 2010).
Relationship between Change and Stability
Organizational culture is something that it is affected both intrinsically and extrinsically by stability and change. The stability of innovative reinforcement, the change of implementation and then the stability of the new system shows the interdependence of the stages. Lewin (1951) labelled the three stages freeze -unfreeze-- refreeze. Tyler (2003) emphasized the importance of trust within organizations. If an employer trusts an employee, it could result in the employee doing something innovative for the organization. Therefore, it could be inferred that trust is necessary for both stability and change. In the next section, the paradoxical nature of organizational culture that allows stability and change to coexist will be described.
Paradoxical Nature of Organisational Culture
According to Stacey (1993), there are a number of different definitions of a paradox. The definitions of paradox found in the literature emphasise the contradictory and yet interdependent nature of two apparently opposing concepts (Cameron and Quinn, 1988). To understand the paradoxical nature of organizational culture, it is necessary to firstly define culture. Although, Sackman (1992) argued that there is not a universal definition of culture, Buchanan and Huczynski (2004) insisted organisational culture has wider and deeper concepts, something that an organisation 'is' rather than what it 'has'. Culture in an organisation can also be defined as its personality (Brown, 1998). Like the conflicts of emotions of a personality, there are also conflicts in organizational culture. Morgan (2006) explained that dialectical view encounters conflicts, which are listed below in Diagram 1. Usually a dialectical view of change affirms that a paradox is inevitable He stated:
"The first step in the successful management of paradox rests in recognizing that both dimensions of change of the contradictions that accompany change usually have merit." (P 283)
Adapted from: Brown (2006), Antonacopoulou (2010)
Although the objectives in Diagram 1 may appear to contradict, both dimensions usually have merit. Change managers have to make a decision regarding the status quo. Each individual in the organization has a paradoxical desire for freedom but also fearing the unknown and wanting rules and discipline. All of the examples require both/and rather than either/or choices. For example, the ultimate aim would be to innovate and avoid mistakes, cut costs and increase morale, and so on. That is the difference between resistance and a paradox. A paradox is a state where both stability and change can be achieved. According to Stacey (1993), there are three ways to solve a paradox
Choose one element over the other
Choose one element at one time and the other at another time
Remove the apparent contradiction
The movement from change to stability in an organization can be compared to the movement of a pendulum. Timing is the one of most important things to decide when changing. Prosperous organizations know when change is necessary, but they also understand that the stability of an organization will allow it to change. However, Morgan (2006) states that it is not possible to solve a paradox successfully by choosing or eliminating one side. Solving a paradox may immobilise change, but once it is solved, the result will produce the optimal change. The paradox of nature in organizational culture has not just affected the culture but it has also affected organizational change.
Contribution of paradoxes to organizational change.
A paradox forces people to think outside the current paradigm, to transcend the contradiction and see things in a new way (Rottenburg, 1979). In this section, the contribution of the paradoxical nature in organizational culture to change will be discussed.
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Weick (1969) famously described "organisation" and "change" as two sides of the same coin. He believed that human systems are always stabilising and destabilising simultaneously The traditional method to solve a problem was to solve it one component at a time, but when change managers search for a successful paradoxical solution, they need find a way of reframing the problem or removing the contradiction (Stacey, 1993). As mentioned, the balance between change and stability is extremely important for implementing a change in organisational culture. Diagram 2 illustrates the relationship between change and stability in organizations, and the necessity to balance the relationship. The zone in the middle is the sustainability zone which is the solution to the paradox. Unless there is a balance between change and stability, it will result in either chaos or inertia.
Diagram 2 Concern for Change and Stability
Source: Burchell & Kolb (2006)
There are three main types of change; developmental, transitional and transformational (Antonacopoulou, 2010). Each type differs in the level of concern for change- Developmental-Low. Transitional-Medium. Transformation-High. Hubber (2007) claimed that if the change is implemented without stability, chaos will unfold. An example of a contradiction from Diagram 1 was how to improve teamwork while reducing staff. In the case of British Airways and its striking workers, the result has been chaotic. In contrast, BT managed to reduce half of their workforce and improve teamwork (Davies, 2010). However, Harvey & Brown (2001) declared that if there is a transformational change such as improved morale or increased decentralization, inertia is the most likely outcome.
Morgan (2006) asserted that for change to be a success, the change managers require skill in dealing with 'contradictory' tensions. A paradox can be responsible for preventing an organizational culture from changing, but it can also be responsible for a positive change. Tenison-Collins (2010) a pilot for Thomas Cook explained his experience of a successful paradox. He mentioned how flight attendants were paid a bonus for the products they sold on the flights instead of bonuses for other performance related activities. At first, this caused the morale to drop, but when the flight attendants could see their paychecks increasing as they sold more goods, their morale improved. Consequently, Thomas Cook was able to increase revenue from sales of on-flight products and also the morale of the flight attendants. Thus, eliminating the contradiction.
Paradoxes have contributed to ways change is viewed. Complexity theory and Chaos theory are two theories which are growing in popularity and use. Pascale (1990) claims that western organizations are behind Asian organizations and need to adopt their Asian counterpart's methods if they hope to remain successful in the future. Stewart (1989) states that organisations are capable of generating stable equilibrium behaviour and also explosive unstable equilibrium behaviour In addition, Gleick (1988) considers nonlinear systems containing both positive and negative loops because the structures flip from stability to instability. Take the example of Ryanair. They were able to reduce competition costs, when they employed a self check-in service. This allowed them to have a competitive advantage but only for a short time before other airlines followed that practice. The competitive edge was lost, which created a new problem, which will need a new solution. This is a positive and negative loop. Successful organisations appear to set their border area between stability and change (Stewart, 1889).
Stability and change are very important for organization culture to grow and develop. The paradoxical nature of organizational culture shows that both change and stability coexist simultaneously. Although it is important for organisations to change, it is also important to retain aspects of stability such as philosophies, learning, knowledge, systems and practices that contributed to their past success. The elements that were pivotal in stabilising the organization in the past should be preserved and maintained.
If culture is a personality, it is necessary to observe the contradictory objects and try to implement a solution that will solve the paradox successfully. However, it is also important to be aware that there may not be a solution that will remove the contradiction. In that situation, the change that is employed needs to incorporate a method that will help to continue the sustainability of an organisation. As it was mentioned earlier, timing is very important, so while patience is required when looking for a successful solution to the paradox, it is also necessary to take too long to make a decision. Robert Frost wrote that two roads diverged in a yellow wood. He made his decision to take one road, but he could have made a new path between the roads. This illustrates that everything is not black and white, as Morgan (2006) wrote that it was necessary to find a way of going beyond a stalemate by creating new contexts that can reframe key contradictions in a positive way
Stability and instability are continuous due to the uncontrolled internal and external forces acting on an organisation. The long term strategies of many organisations involve change, but although it may appear paradoxical, the unstated objective of an organization is to retain its core values and stability. Therefore, it is important to keep a balance between stability and change or it may result in inertia or chaos. Henri Bergson said:
"To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly."
As a change manager, it is important to tell the difference between the different lifecycles. Not all things are endless. To know when to move on or to keep trying is the key to successfully solving the paradox of change.
in the future. Managiing culture is a combination of ming strucultureure (people) and the future that needs to be handled strategically. However, as mentioned cultures are unique and are controlstantly evolving. Whether culture should be managed or can always be managed is debatable, but it is believed that under the right circumstances and with excellent leadership, culture can be managed.