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Humans are the base of any organization, its essence and its wealth. People act differently; they have different skills, and different approach to what they are doing in the organization as a whole and to their duties. With globalization on the rise the requirements for "more interaction with people from diverse cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds" is more prevalent than ever (Wallace, Hunt and Richards, 1999). Therefore, modern management considers organizational culture to be a powerful strategic tool which helps to direct all divisions and employees, regardless of their personal differences, to the common organizational goals. This paper intends to discuss the role of an organizational culture in the approach of achieving organizational goals. The organizational culture of Ayoun Co. will be analysed, based on the theory of Edger Schein, to ascertain the significance and supportiveness of its organisational culture in fulfilling the goals.
Stock, (2007) describes organizational culture as the "atmosphere and the social climate in an organization". A strong culture is recognized for its innovations and risk taking, the amount of attention given to details, overall outcome, the people, team development, aggressiveness, and stability. There are four main functions of organizational culture, firstly, to define organizational identity; Secondly, organisational culture can be used as a "sense making device"; thirdly, culture can be employed to "promote collective commitment" (Daft, 2004). Lastly, culture acts as a social system stability device; when a member fully understands the culture, he can predict the actions of other members and the organization itself which serves as stability for the member. Due to these functions, organizational culture is the foundation of every organization and it can "make or break" the organization's "ability to function" as a whole (Anon., 2008).
Generally, organisational culture originates from the founder of the organisation who incorporates his own ideas, values, beliefs, and norms into the organization. This culture functions like a "well oiled machine" with new employees being hired and "socialized into the organization and its culture" (Rollinson, 1998). After a period of time, diversity sneaks in, changes in technology and competition force an organization to re-evaluate its current culture. Audits are performed and questions are asked. Martin and Siehl, (1983) report that the small effect these two actions have will send a "vibration" throughout the whole organization and some of the resistance factors can be "hit head on [in the beginning] ...by involving the employees in the decisions being made". Thus, organisational culture begins from the personality of the founder and keeps on changing from time to time to adjust with the appointment of new employees and their new angle of thinking.
Schein (1985) proposes that organisational culture can be classified into three levels: artefacts, values and basic assumptions. All three layers must be working in conjunction with each other for the culture to be clear to all members. The different layers of organizational culture are similar to building blocks supporting one another. Further explanation of what each of these levels mean will be provided along with real examples from Ayoun later in this discussion. However, it is essential to comprehend the organisation and its background before analysing its culture. Thus, the following section will introduce Ayoun to familiarise the readers with its internal and external environment.
Profile of Ayoun:
Ayoun Inc. is an innovative company in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia that provides technical support for companies' network products since 1990. Moreover, Ayoun has been providing various network management services, such as technological support for networking needs, including support of networking devices, network planning, network designing and network implementation services (Anon.1, 2010). Ayoun renders the highest possible quality of products and services through the use of the latest technology. Strict measures are taken to keep improving operational efficiency by cutting costs, for example, downsizing or closing down loss-making units, introducing new systems and managerial practices, innovating and pioneering products, and penetrating new markets relating to business environment proactively. Ayoun is the leader in its industry due to its well established reputation of rendering best services that are tailored as per the requirements of customers. Ayoun employs 600 individuals who are experts in various fields and who are the core of Ayoun's success (Anon.1, 2010).
Ayoun follows a decentralised organisational structure which permits flexibility of approach and decision-making to enable the organization to scale the challenge of growth and diverse business requirement. Ayoun's organizational structure is a part of labour as well as the patterns of organization, workflow, communication, and formal power that affect directly to organizational activities. Smircich (1983) points out that an organizational structure also affects the power relationships and organization's culture. Ayoun's management appears to be primarily focused on team and group rather than on rigid rules and policies which restrict creativity. Ayoun's employees are encouraged to make decisions in the absence of management pre-approval and resolve problems quickly and smoothly.
Organisational culture of Ayoun:
In the following sections, the organisational culture of Ayoun will be viewed under the theory of Schein(1985) to analyse how effectively its culture supports in achieving its organisational goals.
Martin (2002) defines artefacts as those "physical manifestations" of an organizational culture that are "easily observable or tangible in a sense such as the myths, stories, language, dressing code, furniture layout, rituals, ceremonies etc". Growing in alignment with the espoused values, Ayoun's organisational culture enables the organization to maintain a high level of productively and competitiveness in the market. Ayoun's Culture motivates its members to live and work according to a common value system and enhances the feeling of self-belonging towards the organization. When one walks into the offices of Ayoun, one will "come face to face with technology in action", as the office is equipped with the "latest technical hardware and software" that are necessary for the smooth functioning of the organisation's daily jobs (Higgins and McAllaster, 2002). Every employee is facilitated with his own private cubicle assembled with the necessary equipments and utmost equality is observed in the office.
In Ayoun, we have a motto to be "always ready", posted throughout the organisation in most of the offices (Anon.1, 2010). Our motto serves as an observable artefact showing all members that we are to be vigilant and ready to respond in all types of crisis. While observable artefacts serve an important purpose, the goal of Ayoun's management is to create a strong organizational culture without turning to formalization. They accomplish this goal by making sure that all layers of organizational culture are "as strong as the observable artefacts [and that] ...all values match each other" (Kilmann, Saxton and Serpa, 1986). Moreover, to give this decentralised structure of organisation a sense of family, Ayoun organises yearly functions celebrating the two Islamic festivals and observing the month of Ramadan and Dhu al-Hijjah (Months of Islamic Calendar) with adjustable timings so that the employees, out of which majority are Muslims, do not face any complications to keep up with their job and their religion. This signifies how Ayoun's visible artefacts, such as the time and schedule, are matched with its organisational values, such as respecting religion with the highest priority. Furthermore, other ceremonies are organised by Ayoun for special occasions such as the Saudi National Day and Annual day every year to give its employees a break from the hectic working life.
Sherwood (1988) emphasizes that communication is a vital component for any organization to have and help employees improve by "leading by example" and supplying organizational members with specific training "...to improve their communication skills". Ayoun's managers realize the importance of developing and possessing the ability to communicate in today's world. Thus, they ensure that proper communication takes place throughout the organization so that tasks are completed on time and without careless and avoidable mistakes. Communication, whether they are "written, verbal, or non-verbal" are conducted through "both formal and informal channels" in English language throughout Ayoun's offices which is a crucial component of its organizational success, as it has "added a sense of professionalism [to Ayoun's] working environment" (Brown and Starkey, 1994). Ayoun has developed some practices that helps eliminate barriers in communication. Recently, Ayoun started a 360 feedback program. This program helps ensure people are communicating and communicating effectively.
Moreover, Ayoun listens to their employees and responds to their needs. Ayoun has long been recognized because of how highly it regards its employees. The appeal of Ayoun's organizational culture is that it appreciates its employees. It offers flexibility that few other companies do. This is particularly appealing to me in that I have observed over the years that many companies forget that if an employee feels like a stakeholder in the business, then he takes extra steps to walk the extra mile to perform to the highest of standards. An unhappy, disgruntled employee, on the other hand, will merely show up, do just enough to keep the boss off his or her back and call it a day. Ayoun offers a myriad of perks to its employees including but not limited to: firstly, access to on-site childcare; secondly, e-learning courses; thirdly, formal and in-formal flexibility of work hours that allows for the "integration of home and professional life in a comfortable, manageable way" (Daft, 1998). Fourthly, on-site Weight Watchers Programs is provided and fifthly, Elder Care Assistance has been made available. These are but a few of the benefits that Ayoun offers. The decision of executives at Ayoun to reward employees with these benefits, have created positive and substantial results and increased moral and satisfaction throughout the organization.
Moreover Ayoun gives recognition to its employees through rewards, both monetary and in terms of personal satisfaction. One such method of recognition is the 'Values in Action Reward'. Any employee may submit a recognition request for co-workers whom they feel have demonstrated "exceptional organizational values and behaviour" (Brooks, 2006). In this ever-changing business world, job security has become a big concern with many employees. Though job security is always a concern amongst employees, Ayoun has implemented the Personal Development Plan (PDP) which is designed to develop skills of individuals and provide a clear career path. Wiener (1988) advocates that such processes help employees "to feel more secure" in their jobs and "to become more valuable in terms of developing the skills", the organization needs, to achieve company goals. Further, Ayoun understands the need for employees to have a healthy balance between personal and professional lives. They offer flex time, shared work programs, work from home opportunities, and seminars to educate employees in such areas as stress and health awareness. Additionally, they offer bonus incentives in addition to yearly merit increases and other good employee benefits.
Espoused Values and Norms:
Sims,White & Bednar (1992) express espoused values and norms as the "traditions and habits on how things are going on and done, which symbolizes the organization's identity and working methods". Ayoun embodies the many characteristics of a company that values its employees as much as its clients. One key component that gives an organization a sustainable competitive advantage is its culture. In essence, culture is an internal environment of shared beliefs and values that influence behaviour. An organization's culture usually develops and blossoms over time but its origin is often from the organization's founder, as mentioned earlier. Correspondingly, many factors have shaped Ayoun's organizational culture such as the values of its founder. Ayoun's founder has created a strong culture characterized by innovation and strong team commitment. He practiced a "hands-on management style" that emphasized on enthusiasm for work and encouraged an "atmosphere of problem sharing and exchange of information and ideas" (Peters, & Waterman, 1982). These values were reinforced by frequent meetings which provided opportunities for interactions and sharing, and social interactions such as the ritual 'koffee klatches'. Over time, myths and stories were passed on to new members of Ayoun who helped to sustain the cultural values created by the founders.
The seven characteristics that Ayoun employees possess are: stability where growth comes in a balanced manner, outcome orientation, innovation, team orientation, people orientation, organizational easygoingness and detail orientation. Each and every one of these characteristics must be present in a manner that is balanced. Otherwise, an organization will find itself in deep trouble. Ayoun has managed to find and maintain the delicate balance of all of these and their success is reflected in their continued growth and prosperity. However, if I had to narrow the field of Ayoun's values to the best one, I would have to say its orientation to the team concept, team organization, is its primary embodiment. Virtually all of our professional activities are organized around partners and teams. Ayoun possesses a very strong cultural appeal. The organisation has earned the respect of its employees and partners because of this organizational culture. This culture is ethical in nature because the organisation treats its employees fairly and as human beings, "not just bodies that fill the seats in the cubicles" (Sackman, 1991). High business morals are consistent with high business ethics. It cannot be denied that Ayoun is a model for other organizations to emulate when the layers are peeled away.
Ayoun's environment is consistent of loyal employees, leaders and managers who share missions and visions. All the employees work together to achieve success and share knowledge, responsibility, and accountability. Ayoun's values and beliefs are well communicated and understood. Values such as appreciation, delivery through teams, integrity, and raising the bar are demonstrated daily by individuals and teams. We have worked diligently to provide an internal climate of inclusiveness. When an employee feels like the company believes in and cares for them as a person, then they believe in that company too. I share the core value of employees coming first with Ayoun. All too many companies forget that "business is like an upside-down pyramid [and that] ...the employees are the foundation", no matter how management may try to think otherwise (Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959).
Organizational values are specified from an organization's past and present to what is supposed to be. This provides all members with an idea of the character of the organization. Kotter & Heskett, (1992) argues that research presents the significance of leaders to form employees' values. Moreover, Ayoun's employees value home, family, a good education, and friendship living in a multicultural society based on different values and traditions borrowed from our ancestors based on Islamic foundations.
The last layer of Schein's theory of organisational culture is basic assumptions. These are the things that become so ingrained into an organization's culture that everyone just knows it. There is no need to write these down as they are unspoken assumptions that are an essential part of the organisation. Eldridge & Crombie, (1974) state that basic assumptions bind the organization into one team with "common reactions to similar environments and situations". In Ayoun, there are many basic assumptions just as in any other organization. For instance, when an employee is promoted to a higher level, there is no technical responsibility difference but everyone knows that there is much more expected of him. This is when everyone quits treating the promoted employee like a new guy and starts relying on him. I can personally attest to this as I was promoted just over five months ago. I've noticed a difference in the way that others treat me, and in the way that I respond to situations and challenges.
According to Schein, basic assumptions are the cornerstone of the three layers because they influence the organizational effectiveness and efficiency which indicates how well an organization is performing. Ayoun, being in the technology industry is highly market driven and has to adapt quickly to changes in customer needs. Therefore, the most basic assumptions in Ayoun are to stress on innovation, risk taking, people orientation and team-work efforts. Ayoun has several approaches in place that help ensure organizational effectiveness and efficiency. It analyzes how efficiently external and internal resources are utilized and relies heavily on its key performance indicators as a measurement of success.
Further, strategic planning and awareness of the impact the organization has on stakeholders and their interest helps uphold organizational effectiveness and efficiency (Gabriel, 1999). Consequently, Learning is a very important assumption in Ayoun. One can't assume they know all they need to know to do his/her job, because "roles and responsibilities are [constantly] changing in this turbulent time" (Wallace, Hunt and Richards, 1999). Learning from the mistakes an individual might have made in Ayoun is one another basic assumption as an organization is often measured by how they grow from the experience of making a mistake and correcting problems internally and externally. Therefore, Ayoun's management has prioritised that its employees must continually learn so that as time passes they will better adapt to the changes in the industry or changes in technology.
Another basic assumption prevailing in the organizational culture of Ayoun is to work in peace by respecting one's superiors, co-workers, juniors and their privacy. This assumption ensures that the organization achieves its shared goals of transparency and integrity. However, in any organization there will be conflict, Ayoun is no exception. Here, the assumption is that all conflicts must be resolved as quickly as possible to "eliminate negative attitudes and decreased performance" (Anon., 2008). All conflicts are to be dealt with at the lowest level possible and if conflict cannot be resolved, a higher level of authority addresses the issue. This ensures that the conflict can be resolved and the minimum amounts of people are involved. If the conflict escalates, all decisions and resolution are documented for future reference if needed. Whatsoever, such incidents are very rare thanks to the "deep ethical values and assumptions" of Ayoun's employees "to give respect and take respect policy" and to follow their superior's orders with no objections (Brown and Starkey, 1994). Furthermore, all employees assume that every one's religion and family are to be given the most importance and esteem, and to follow strict policies of adhering to equality and impartiality in all walks of life inside the organization or outside the work.
Oganisational culture supportive role in achieving goals:
Ayoun has a strong culture with team orientation as its highest embodiment, as per which work activities are organized around teams and partners to foster coordination among employees. Ayoun flourishes as organisational members see "how their efforts are making a difference", and they aren't afraid to share creative and highly valuable new thoughts and concepts that lead to "greater levels of innovation" (Sherwood, 1988). This aspect of Ayoun's organizational culture is essentially aimed at achieving organisational goals as the company is serving to the rapidly changing markets and also being a disruptive influence of introducing a high degree of technological change into the world as well. According to Sims,White & Bednar (1992), culture is always set by senior management. From the above discussion, it is evident that Ayoun's management provides the right examples pertaining to everything from valuing excellence and delegating authority to zero tolerance for harassment. Ayoun's management controls and maintains their organisational culture by ensuring that its employees uphold the values and visions of the company.
However, new employees may not recognize the importance of the up-keep of the company culture. Ayoun's managers help to introduce issues such as company standards, core values, mission, and goals through new employee orientation wherein the importance of their company culture and how it will affect performance and worker expectations is informed. Such trainings not just benefit the employee, they also act as benefits to the entire company as the "employees will know exactly what they are working towards and they will not feel clueless" and feel like their work has no purpose (Daft, 1998). With such trainings, new employees of Ayoun are able to move into the company with ease and immediately contribute to the organizational culture because they will have full knowledge of what is expected from them as an individual and what is expected from the workers as a group unit.
As a valued employee for Ayoun, organizational success rests on the hard work done by them so on-going training is considered a must in the workplace due to the ever-changing external environment. Employees need training when changes occur to help stay competitive with other organizations and to help them stay ahead of the game. Moreover, Ayoun's employees are recognized for their hard work from time to time. Doing so has helped workers to sustain high work ethics because they feel like their individual work does not go un-noticed. According to Kilmann, Saxton and Serpa, (1986), "certificates of recognition and fun acknowledgement" help [workers] feel supported and appreciated. Managers in Ayoun want to create a sense of value for all employees so that they will want to put forth their best efforts individually as well as when working in a group unit which indirectly helps in achieving the organisational goals. Therefore, Ayoun holds awards banquets which act as a fun place to publicly recognize achievement as well as become an incentive to other employees to do their best so they may be recognized in this fashion as well.
These fun events such as awards banquets, Saudi National day, Religious festivals etc help to create an environment of socialization between superiors and employees. Being able to see superiors or employees in an outside environment and mingle with them has provided a new perspective on both employees and superiors. Moreover, besides these formal recognitions, Ayoun's managers adopt informal approaches such as little notes of encouragement and appraisal which also help to continue good work and to let the workers realize that even successful completion of little tasks deserve applause as well. As Ayoun's employees feel secure and supported by their superiors they are more inclined to work efficiently and in conjunction with them.
The organisational culture of Ayoun was effectively analysed in this discussion, with the application of Schein's theory that drew out the artefacts, espoused values and basic assumptions of Ayoun Inc. Its organisational culture has created a well balanced atmosphere of harmony inside Ayoun as the employees know that their superiors are paying attention to them and do want their input. These aspects of Ayoun's organisational culture have triggered workers to strive for their personal best and helped to create a friendly competitive work atmosphere to push them to constantly produce top notch work. Ayoun's management keep the employees focused on moving towards the objectives by motivating them to overcome whatever obstacles stand in his or her way. Hence, this discussion has evaluated that the organisational culture of Ayoun is highly dynamic and active in playing its role of supporting the organisation in achieving its organisational goals.