Based on the case brief, the following involves the critical analysis of theories to aid in analysing the case of Smartbuild Ltd. and making arguments with regards to teamwork, culture and change.
Teams and Teamworking Theory
Tuckman’s group development sequence model
To analyse the case brief with regards to teams and team working, the Tuckman’s group development sequence model has been selected for the analysis of Smartbuild. This model consists of four-stages namely; forming, storming, norming and performing, with Tuckman categorising them as the framework of teambuilding(TUCKMAN, 1965). A fifth model, adjourning, after Tuckman and Mary Ann Conover Jensen, a doctoral candidate, revisited the model and reviewed the literature on team development (Bonebright, 2010).
Figure 1 – Tuckman’s model; Production against time (Wilson, 2010).
This stage basically marks the inception of the team formation. It is here that people come together to form a team in most cases having no prior connection with one another (Wilson, 2010). The group is oriented towards the tasks, coupled with the creation of ground rules and testing of boundaries for interpersonal and task behaviours. Furthermore, it is a stage characterised with establishment of relationships between one another as well as leadership and organisational standards (Bonebright, 2010).
Conflict is the theme here with conflicts generally rooting from resentments and annoyances tucked away in the last stage or even clashes between distinct personalities and working habits (Hinz, 1999). Storming is seen as very important stage because suppressing conflict, leads to bitterness and resentment and permitting it to exceed controllable limits leads to tension. Ergo it is crucial to maintain a manageable level of conflict which will facilitate healthy growth and development of the team (Hinz, 1999).
Here, the ‘storm’ has quiet down and cooperation and relationship cohesion sets in. Rules and standards are set and group members comfortably express opinions and accept each other’s idiosyncrasies. Furthermore, the top-notch work effort creates a mixture of openness and harmony which in return increases group morale and team building efforts (Bonebright, 2010).
Performing is the final stage of the original model with (TUCKMAN, 1965) stating that the group now develops a “functional role relatedness”. There is a familiarity of roles, responsibilities and duties by team members as well as the overall goals and objectives. There is interdependence and team members provide valuable contributions in the path to achieving work expectations (Bonebright, 2010).
“Everything that has a beginning has an end” (Oracle, 2003) and this stage marks symbolises that; end of the group as a whole. Here, the team breaks up after completing the task after having concluded things like final reports and cleaning up undone tasks. Typically, a planned group conclusion is agreed upon whereby there is recognition for participation and achievement with farewells saved for last (Hinz, 1999).
“Organisational culture refers to the patterns of beliefs, values and ways of coping with experience that have developed during the course of an organisation’s history and, which tend to be manifested in its material arrangements and in the behaviours of its members” (Brown, 1998). This definition essentially explains that organisational culture is a system of shared values, beliefs that is synonymous to a certain organisation and by extension, meaning that it is a unique part of every organisation. Such is the case as every organisation provides its own unique way of doing things with rules and guidelines set out for its members (Gochhayat, Giri, & Suar, 2017).
To analyse Smartbuild, Handy’s model of organisational culture has been chosen after careful appraisal.
Handy acknowledged the difficulty in analysing culture and postulated that there was a similarity between culture and structures which aided in his analysis (Onyango, Otieno, Bii, & Otieno, 2016). He also made use of the power of the roles and functions of individuals within an organisation to classify organisational culture into four sub-cultures;
Power culture, also known as the Zeus culture, is characterised with a spider web; symbolising the centralised source of power. Handy further explains that this is because “the key to the whole organisation sits in the centre and the closer you are to the spider, the more influence you have” (Handy, 1999). It is generally found in small organisations that are generally entrepreneurial whereby the founder is the central control and wields the most power. This leader is normally characterised by their charisma thus enabling them to lead the company using an almost flat structure. The nature of the structure makes the company to be highly flexible however, rules and regulations still exits albeit a few of them.
Figure 2 – Spider web – Power Culture (OpenUniveristy, 2017).
(Brenyah & Obuobisa-Darko, 2017) explain that power culture is rational when the power holder has complete understanding of what is expected of him and at the same time, he has the necessary traits and qualities to influence the conduct and behaviour of the employees to be in line with the company’s aims. Additionally, trust in employees by the power holder is also important as he is the decision maker / problem solver with the employees carrying out his directives on how or who will implement a change which will solve a problem for example. Another major characteristic of power culture according to (Handy, 1999) is that organisations with this kind of culture have the ability to respond to events and make decisions very quickly with the quality dependent on the Zeus. Size is often an issue however since control of resources is the main power base with elements of personal power exerted by the central source. As such, they usually succeed when they for new organisational subsidiaries whilst retaining central financial control of the whole organisation.
Role culture is commonly known as the Apollo culture who is the famous Greek god of art and wisdom and is mainly characterised by bureaucracy. This culture is illustrated by (McGrath & Bates, 2017) as Greek building supported by pillars with each pillar having a specific role in keeping the building upright and stable. Essentially, the working personnel are the role occupiers with the role continuing to exist should these personnel leave. These pillars in general often include certain departments such as financial and purchasing with inter-relations and interactions governed by rules and guidelines.
Figure 3 – Pillars – Role culture (OpenUniveristy, 2017).
This kind of culture is characterised by a clear hierarchy with a narrow brand of senior management that coordinate the normally strong functionality and acute specialisation of areas of the company (Menetje, 2017). Here, rules and guidelines basically control work and interactions which further define jobs, authority and modes of communication. Furthermore, these rules and regulations are normally labelled as the primary methods of influence in the organisation and they are normally managed by the upper echelon of management.
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In this kind of culture, legitimate power is the prevalent kind of power in role cultures with expert power also tolerated in some case while personal power is discouraged heavily (Menetje, 2017). With regards to individuals in a role cultured organisation, (Harrison & Stokes, 1992) states that they “operate on the assumption that people are not to be trusted, so they do not give individual autonomy or discretion to members at lower levels”. This further reinforces the hierarchical system and chain of command in such organisations which in return breeds stability and predictability. Its efficiency is normally tied to the reasonability of allocated work and responsibilities rather than the individuals themselves and offer security in the organisation by facilitating movement up the corporate ladder (Menetje, 2017).
Task culture, commonly referred to as the Athena culture named after the Greek goddess Athena, is a kind of culture found predominantly in project or job-based organisations. It is famously illustrated as a net with some strands of the net being stronger and thicker than other and much of the power and influence lying at the ‘interstices’ of the net (Cacciattolo, 2014). Here, organisation and its members focus on realising the set purpose and goals of the organisation with (Harrison & Stokes, 1992) stating that it is “the aligned culture which lines people up behind a common vision or purpose”.
Figure 4 – Net – Task culture (OpenUniveristy, 2017).
Power in task culture is different from role and power culture as the general theme is expertise in profession which translates to more of an expert power. (Brown, 1998) further clarifies this by stating that “a task culture is one in which power is somewhat diffuse, being based on expertise rather that position or charisma” which circles back to the net illustration. Also, unlike role-culture where personal power plays a major role, skills and competences are the core in task culture with the resultant authority being based on appropriate knowledge and competence (Onyango, Otieno, Bii, & Otieno, 2016).
Teamwork is the engine that drives this culture when it comes to production of results. However, great emphasis is placed on getting the job done which is why such a culture aims to bring talent people and pools of resources for the purpose of carrying out a specific project. An example is NASA which in the mid-90’s had the sole task of sending a man to the moon and back safely. Furthermore, this culture offers a high degree of autonomy, judgment by results and mutual respect based on ability the allocation of projects and resources is handled by senior managers who serve as control managers but they have to exert little control over modes of working without tampering with the norms of the culture (Onyango, Otieno, Bii, & Otieno, 2016).
Person culture, often referred to as Dionysus culture, after the Greek god of dance and pleasure, is a people-oriented kind of culture. This is an unusual kind of culture in the sense that the individuals that make up the organisation are said to be superior than the organisation they work for (Cacciattolo, 2014). This type of culture is illustrated by a loose cluster of molecules which translates to no one individual dominates it. The individuals are the focal point of this kind of culture, with their own ambition and goals being the predominant reason for them being there and the organisation acting mostly as the means to get to where they want (Mancoba, Mentasti, & Karodia, 2015).
Figure 5 – Cluster of molecules (OpenUniveristy, 2017).
(Harrison & Stokes, 1992) explain that a person culture, with its benevolent cluster structure, is characterised with minimal hierarchical structure thus translating to less power control of employees. Essentially, these control mechanisms and management hierarchy, are only possible by mutual consent between individual and the organisation. Incidentally, like role-culture, authority is assigned on task competency basis and as such influence is only exercised where there is need for expert or taskcompetence (Cacciattolo, 2014). Furthermore, this culture allows for an individual to exit from the organisation at will as alternative employment is relatively easy to secure due to specialisation with the organisation most time having little power to evict an individual. The Dionysus culture is generally found in professional organisations which is characterised by complete work independence for the employees as well as having the freedom to further improve on one’s expertise such as law firms and health companies (Menetje, 2017).
To analyse organisational change, the Lewin’s change model has been selected. This model was developed by Kurt Lewin using the analogy of the changing shape of an ice block as it melts and becomes refrozen. This gave birth to the three-stage process; unfreeze, change and refreeze (Sarayreh, Khudair, & Barakat, 2013).
Figure 6 – Organisational change process (Hussain, et al., 2018).
This step involves the discarding of old behaviour or as (Kritsonis, 2005) technically put it, “unfreeze the status quo or existing situation”. Lewin however acknowledged that this was a mammoth task requiring different techniques for different situations as all cases were different (Sarayreh, Khudair, & Barakat, 2013). He also identified that unfreezing was necessary in order to “overcome the strains of individual resistance and group conformity” (Kritsonis, 2005). He developed the force field analysis and identified three methods to achieve this;
- The driving forces that act direct or push behaviour away from the existing situation should be increased;
- The restraining forces that negatively impact the movement from the existing stable state should be decreased and;
- Finding a combination of the two aforementioned methods to cap it up;
Activities such as making awareness to the need for change and motivating employees by preparing them for change can assist in the unfreezing step (Kritsonis, 2005).
Figure 7 – Force field analysis (Lock, 2017).
This step is characterised by the necessity to move from the old stable state to the new equilibrium state to achieve the new sought out culture. In this stage, there are three crucial actions that can aid in facilitating organisational change;
- Persuasion of employees to agree that the existing situation is not beneficial to them;
- Working hand by hand all the way on the mission to gather new and relevant information;
- Ensuring that there is a connection between employees and leader, that also support this change, on the direction and views going forward (Kritsonis, 2005).
This is a crucial step as it seeks to make sure that the new equilibrium state is stabilised, and employees are safe from reverting to their old ways. It involves the actual integration of the new values, procedures etc. agreed upon into the system of values and tradition. The theme in this stage is the stabilisation of both the driving and restraining forces identified in the unfreezing stage. This can be achieved by employing formal and informal means to reinforce new patterns including procedures and policies (Kritsonis, 2005).
Smartbuild, having been established and been in service for about 35 years under the sole leadership of Mr. A Bloggs, developed a strong sense of cultural identity synonymous to him. His reign as the leader of the company, saw the company grow commercially etc, with him being primarily the central source of power. From available projections and information, it can be said that Smartbuild was operated under a power culture during his reign. This kind of culture proved effective as there was inherent belief in him by his employees which led to trust. The almost flat structure of the company was able to allow for success due to his charisma as a leader. Power culture is further evident in the fact that he handled financial issues on his own and operated the business majorly in an informal way. His decision to swiftly strike a 5-year deal with TiesRUs due to the economic recession is evident of the quick response to events and change which is characterised by the Zeus culture.
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Today, Smartbuild is headed by Mr. B Bloggs as the managing director of the company with Messer’s C Jones and D brown occupying the roles of operations and commercial director respectively. This change in leadership and organisational structure has moved Smartbuild away (subtlety) from the predominant power culture to more a role culture under Handy’s model. Unlike the power culture which was embodied by Mr. A, a role culture is characterised by a “strong functional or specialised area coordinated by a narrow band of senior management at the top and a high degree of formalisation and standardisation” (Cacciattolo, 2014) which symbolises a hierarchical structure. This is evident in today’s Smartbuild whereby departmental and site managers’ report to the directors who in turn reported to Mr B Bloggs and also all HR activities were controlled by the line managers under the overall control of the managing director. Another major feature of this brand of culture is the fact that power is essentially stemmed from a person’s position within the company where in Smartbuild’s case, Mr. B as managing director holds the supreme power based on this brand of culture. The two directors can also be said to hold various degrees of power as they occupy the next branch of senior management within the company.
Going ahead, Smartbuild is best suited to go back to its previous glory by adopting a task culture which aligns perfectly with the industry and market it finds itself in. The company did not fully consider what the effect in change in leadership, structure as well as moving away from informal running of the company could do to it. Employees were not eased into the change which led to their downturn and low morale as the slight changes ensued. The present role culture was clearly born out of change in management rather than a deliberate change in culture, so it was not concrete enough to prevent fallouts and issues. Also, the power culture, it can be argued with or without Mr. A might have suffered in the current climate as well as the systems in running organisations especially in such markets have changed and moved towards other directions. The upper management needs to be in support of this change wholeheartedly to be able to “sell” it to the employees who have become used to the prevalent power structure built on trust. Mr. B should understand that he is not his father and thus, cannot run the company that way and since he is not adept in the construction industry. It is of paramount importance that if he wants to remain as the de facto head of the company and guide the company back to prosperity, he should work religiously towards gaining thorough knowledge and understanding of the construction industry which he has experience working in for quite a while. This will enable him to gain expert power which is still crucial in running the company.
Having identified the need for change, the management needs to carry the employees during this process. There needs to be constant direct communication between management and employees for Smartbuild to be able to move from the unfreeze stage. The driving forces which may include reminding employees of the solid reputation of the business, the huge TiesRUs contract or even the fact that the economic recession may result in periods of unemployment for them need to be made aware of and magnified. The restraining forces such as employees being used to Mr. A’s informal approach need to be addressed and “downplayed” in such a way that employees see them from a different perspective which is that Smartbuild cannot progress while still adopting them. Again, direct communication thus providing a personal touch is key by the top management to be able to calm the fears of employees which will mean moving away from the use of newsletters to pass on messages. It is going to be a long process but once the change in culture has been embarked on and is in place, the top management need to work even harder to sustain it. This is because of the very strong and profound effect of the power culture that was in place since human beings are creatures of habit. The simple fact that the conducive nature in which the company was run by Mr. A can make employees go back to old habits should they begin to feel uncomfortable with the new systems.
As Smartbuild has been in service for a long time, teams in the company have already been formed and have been successful. A change in culture may result in a change in the organisational structure of the company and as such forming and sustaining new teams will be of paramount importance. Employees may be familiar with each other but since maybe having not worked as part of the same team before, it is crucial that management monitors the way the group is working with each other. Disputes will definitely ensue, and it is up to the management to keep it (forming stage) at a manageable level to allow for healthy growth and development of each group. In the event that certain projects for example are carried out by a previously formed team, it is necessary that management monitor that as well. They should try to decipher where the team is under Tuckman’s model and act accordingly if need be.
Based on the evaluations of Smartbuild, it clear that a shift in culture is necessary with the Athena culture being the most suited considering the industry it is in. The very predominant power culture ingrained in the employees will no doubt be difficult to move from, but it is definitely possible if the top management employs the use of the Lewin’s change model. They should identify the driving and restraining forces and approach the change with effective direct communication for ease of change as well as reassurance to employees. Should this succeed, there may be a need for new teams for be formed since Smartbuild is a project-based company as well as the resultant new task culture and in which case management would need to monitor the progress of the team as it goes from forming to performing or adjourning depending on the project.
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