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The Behavioral Approach

The Behavioral Approach

This method of diagnosis emphasizes the surface level of organization culture—the pattern of behaviors that produce business results. It is among the more practical approaches to culture diagnosis because it assesses key work behaviors that can be observed. The behavioral approach provides specific descriptions about how tasks are performed and how relationships are managed in an organization. For example, Table 25 summarizes the organization culture of an international banking division as perceived by its managers. The data were obtained from a series of individual and group interviews asking managers to describe "the way the game is played,” as if they were coaching a new organization member. Managers were asked to give their impressions in regard to four key relationships—companywide, boss-subordinate, peer, and interdepartmental—and in terms of six managerial tasks—innovating, decision making, communicating, organizing, monitoring, and appraising/rewarding. These perceptions revealed a number of implicit norms for how tasks are performed and relationships managed at the division. Cultural diagnosis derived from a behavioral approach can also be used to assess the cultural risk of trying to implement organizational changes needed to support a new strategy. Significant cultural risks result when changes that are highly important to implementing a new strategy are incompatible with the existing patterns of behavior. Knowledge of such risks can help managers determine whether implementation plans should be changed to manage around the existing culture, whether the culture should be changed, or whether the strategy itself should be modified or abandoned.

The Competing Values Approach

This perspective assesses an organization's culture in terms of how it resolves a set of value dilemmas. The approach suggests that an organization's culture can be understood in terms of two important "value pairs"; each pair consists of contradictory values placed at opposite ends of a continuum, as shown in Figure 59. The two value pairs are (1) internal focus and integration versus external focus and differentiation and (2) flexibility and discretion versus stability and control. Organizations continually struggle to satisfy the conflicting demands placed on them by these competing values. For example, when faced with the competing values of internal versus external focus, organizations must choose between attending to the integration problems of internal operations or the competitive issues in the external environment. Too much emphasis on the environment can result in neglect of internal efficiencies. Conversely, too much attention to the internal aspects of organizations can result in missing important changes in the competitive environment. The competing values approach commonly collects diagnostic data about the competing values with a survey designed specifically for that purpose. It provides measures of where an organization's existing values fall along each of the dimensions. When taken together, these data identify an organization's culture as falling into one of the four quadrants shown in Figure 59: clan culture, adhocracy culture, hierarchical culture, and market culture. For example, if an organization's values are focused on internal integration issues and emphasize innovation and flexibility, it manifests a clan culture. On the other hand, a market culture characterizes values that are externally focused and emphasize stability and control.

Table 25 Figure 59 The Deep Assumptions Approach

This final diagnostic approach emphasizes the deepest levels of organization culture—the generally unexamined, but tacit and shared assumptions that guide member behavior and that often have a powerful impact on organization effectiveness. Diagnosing culture from this perspective typically begins with the most tangible level of awareness and then works down to the deep assumptions. Diagnosing organization culture at the deep assumptions level poses at least three difficult problems for collecting pertinent information. First, culture reflects shared assumptions about what is important, how things are done, and how people should behave in organizations.

People generally take cultural assumptions for granted and rarely speak of them directly. Rather, the company's culture is implied in concrete behavioral examples, such as daily routines, stories, rituals, and language. This means that considerable time and effort must be spent observing, sifting through, and asking people about these cultural outcroppings to understand their deeper significance for organization members. Second, some values and beliefs that people espouse have little to do with the ones they really hold and follow. People are reluctant to admit this discrepancy, yet somehow the real assumptions underlying idealized portrayals of culture must be discovered. Third, large, diverse organizations are likely to have several subcultures, including countercultures going against the grain of the wider organization culture. Assumptions may not be shared widely and may differ across groups in the organization. This means that focusing on limited parts of the organization or on a few select individuals may provide a distorted view of the organization's culture and subcultures. All relevant groups in the organization must be discovered and their cultural assumptions sampled. Only then can practitioners judge the extent to which assumptions are shared widely. OD practitioners emphasizing the deep assumptions approach have developed a number of useful techniques for assessing organization culture. One method involves an iterative interviewing process involving both outsiders and insiders. Outsiders help members uncover cultural elements through joint exploration. The outsider enters the organization and experiences surprises and puzzles that are different from what was expected. The outsider shares these observations with insiders, and the two parties jointly explore their meaning. This process involves several iterations of experiencing surprises, checking for meaning, and formulating hypotheses about the culture. It results in a formal written description of the assumptions underlying an organizational culture. A second method for identifying the organization's basic assumptions brings together a group of people for a culture workshop—for example, a senior management team or a cross section of managers, old and new members, labor leaders, and staff. The group first brainstorms a large number of artifacts, such as behaviors, symbols, language, and physical space arrangements. From this list, the values and norms that would produce such artifacts are deduced. In addition, the values espoused in formal planning documents are listed. Finally, the group attempts to identify the assumptions that would explain the constellation of values, norms, and artifacts. Because they generally are taken for granted, they are difficult to articulate. A great deal of process consultation skill is required to help organization members see the underlying assumptions.
Application Stages

There is considerable debate over whether changing something as deep-seated as organization culture is possible. Those advocating culture change generally focus on the more superficial elements of culture, such as norms and artifacts. These elements are more changeable than the deeper elements of values and basic assumptions. They offer OD practitioners a more manageable set of action levers for changing organizational behaviors. Some would argue, however, that unless the deeper values and assumptions are changed, organizations have not really changed the culture. Those arguing that implementing culture change is extremely difficult, if not impossible, typically focus on the deeper elements of culture (values and basic assumptions). Because these deeper elements represent assumptions about organizational life, members do not question them and have a difficult time envisioning anything else. Moreover, members may not want to change their cultural assumptions. The culture provides a strong defense against external uncertainties and threats. It represents past solutions to difficult problems. Members also may have vested interests in maintaining the culture. They may have developed personal stakes, pride, and power in the culture and may strongly resist attempts to change it. Finally, cultures that provide firms with a competitive advantage may be difficult to imitate, thus making it hard for less successful firms to change their cultures to approximate the more successful ones.

Given the problems with cultural change, most practitioners in this area suggest that changes in corporate culture should be considered only after other, less difficult and less costly solutions have been applied or ruled out. Attempts to overcome cultural risks when strategic changes are incompatible with culture might include ways to manage around the existing culture. Consider, for example, a single-product organization with a functional focus and a history of centralized control that is considering an ambitious productdiversification strategy. The firm might manage around its existing culture by using business teams to coordinate functional specialists around each new product. Another alternative to changing culture is to modify strategy to bring it more in line with culture. The single-product organization just mentioned might decide to undertake a less ambitious strategy of product diversification. Despite problems in changing corporate culture, large-scale cultural change may be necessary in certain situations: if the firm's culture does not fit a changing environment; if the industry is extremely competitive and changes rapidly; if the company is mediocre or worse; if the firm is about to become a very large company; or if the company is smaller and growing rapidly. Organizations facing these conditions need to change their cultures to adapt to the situation or to operate at higher levels of effectiveness. They may have to supplement attempts at cultural change with other approaches, such as managing around the existing culture and modifying strategy. Although knowledge about changing corporate culture is in a formative stage, the following practical advice can serve as guidelines for cultural change:

1. Formulate a clear strategic vision.

Effective cultural change should start from a clear vision of the firm's new strategy and of the shared values and behaviors needed to make it work. This vision provides the purpose and direction for cultural change. It serves as a yardstick for defining the firm's existing culture and for deciding whether proposed changes are consistent with core values of the organization. A useful approach to providing clear strategic vision is development of a statement of corporate purpose, listing in straightforward terms the firm's core values. For example, Johnson & Johnson calls its guiding principles "Our Credo." It describes several basic values that guide the firm, including, "We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and all others who use our products and services"; "Our suppliers and distributors must have an opportunity to make a fair profit"; "We must respect [employees'] dignity and recognize their merit"; and "We must maintain in good order the property we are privileged to use, protecting the environment and natural resources."

2. Display top-management commitment.

Cultural change must be managed from the top of the organization. Senior managers and administrators have to be strongly committed to the new values and need to create constant pressures for change. They must have the staying power to see the changes through. For example, Jack Welch, CEO at General Electric, has enthusiastically pushed a policy of cost cutting, improved productivity, customer focus, and bureaucracy busting for more than ten years to every plant, division, group, and sector in his organization. His efforts were rewarded with a Fortune cover story lauding his organization for creating more than $52 billion in shareholder value during his tenure.

3. Model culture change at the highest levels.

Senior executives must communicate the new culture through their own actions. Their behaviors need to symbolize the kinds of values and behaviors being sought. In the few publicized cases of successful culture change, corporate leaders have shown an almost missionary zeal for the new values; their actions have symbolized the values forcefully. For example, Jim Treybig, CEO of Tandem, the computer manufacturer, decided not to fire an employee whose performance had slipped until he could investigate the reason for the employee's poor performance. It turned out that the employee was having family problems, and therefore Treybig gave him another chance. To the people at Tandem, the story symbolized the importance of consideration in leading people.
4. Modify the organization to support organizational change.

Cultural change generally requires supporting modifications in organizational structure, human resources systems, information and control systems, and management styles. These organizational features can help to orient people's behaviors to the new culture. They can make people aware of the behaviors required to get things done in the new culture and can encourage performance of those behaviors. For example, Phil Condit and Harry Stonecipher of Boeing realized that more than culture change in the commercial aircraft division was necessary to turn around the organization's poor performance in 1997 and 1998. To alter the "warm and fuzzy" culture of the division radically, they initiated workforce reductions, fired key executives, made changes in the production standards, and initiated continuous improvement processes in production. These changes reinforced and symbolized the importance of financial performance, accountability, and global leadership in the industry.

5. Select and socialize newcomers and terminate deviants.

One of the most effective methods for changing corporate culture is to change organizational membership. People can be selected and terminated in terms of their fit with the new culture. This is especially important in key leadership positions, where

people's actions can significantly promote or hinder new values and behaviors. For example, Gould, in trying to change from an auto parts and battery company to a leader in electronics, replaced about twothirds of its senior executives with people more in tune with the new strategy and culture. Jan Carlzon of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) replaced thirteen out of fifteen top executives in his turnaround of the airline. Another approach is to socialize newly hired people into the new culture. People are most open to organizational influences during the entry stage, when they can be effectively indoctrinated into the culture. For example, companies with strong cultures like Samsung, Procter & Gamble, and 3M attach great importance to socializing new members into the company's values.

6. Develop ethical and legal sensitivity.

Cultural change can raise significant tensions between organization and individual interests, resulting in ethical and legal problems for practitioners. This is particularly pertinent when organizations are trying to implement cultural values promoting employee integrity, control, equitable treatment, and job security—values often included in cultural change efforts. Statements about such values provide employees with certain expectations about their rights and about how they will be treated in the organization. If the organization does not follow through with behaviors and procedures supporting and protecting these implied rights, it may breach ethical principles and, in some cases, legal employment contracts. Recommendations for reducing the chances of such ethical and legal problems include setting realistic values for culture change and not promising what the organization cannot deliver; encouraging input from throughout the organization in setting cultural values; providing mechanisms for member dissent and diversity, such as internal review procedures; and educating managers about the legal and ethical pitfalls inherent in cultural change and helping them develop guidelines for resolving such issues.

Self-Designing Organizations

A growing number of researchers and practitioners have called for self-designing organizations that have the built-in capacity to transform themselves to achieve high performance in today's competitive and changing environment. Mohrman and Cummings have developed a self-design change strategy that involves an ongoing series of designing and implementing activities carried out by managers and employees at all levels of the firm. The approach helps members translate corporate values and general prescriptions for change into specific structures, processes, and behaviors suited to their situations. It enables them to tailor changes to fit the organization and helps them continually to adjust the organization to changing conditions.

The Demands of Transformational Change

Mohrman and Cummings developed the self-design strategy in response to a number of demands facing organizations engaged in transformational change. These demands strongly suggest the need for self-design, in contrast to more traditional approaches to organization change that emphasize ready-made programs and quick fixes. Although organizations prefer the control and certainty inherent in programmed change, the five requirements for organizational transformation reviewed below argue against this strategy: 1. Transformational change generally involves altering most features of the organization and achieving a fit among them and with the firm's strategy. This suggests the need for a systemic change process that accounts for these multiple features and relationships. 2. Transformational change generally occurs in situations experiencing heavy change and uncertainty. This means that changing is never totally finished, as new structures and processes will continually have to be modified to fit changing conditions. Thus, the change process needs to be dynamic and iterative, with organizations continually changing themselves. 3. Current knowledge about transforming organizations provides only general prescriptions for change. Organizations need to learn how to translate that information into specific structures, processes, and behaviors appropriate to their situations. This generally requires considerable on-site innovation and learning as members learn by doing—trying out new structures and behaviors, assessing their effectiveness, and modifying them if necessary. Transformational change needs to facilitate this organizational learning. 4. Transformational change invariably affects many organization stakeholders, including owners, managers, employees, and customers. These different stakeholders are likely to have different goals and interests related to the change process. Unless the differences are revealed and reconciled, enthusiastic support for change may be difficult to achieve. Consequently, the change process must attend to the interests of multiple stakeholders. 5. Transformational change needs to occur at multiple levels of the organization if new strategies are to result in changed behaviors throughout the firm. Top executives must formulate a corporate strategy and clarify a vision of what the organization needs to look like to support it. Middle and lower levels of the organization need to put those broad parameters into operation by creating structures, procedures, and behaviors to implement the strategy.

Application Stages

The self-design strategy accounts for these demands of organization transformation. It focuses on all features of the organization (for example, structure, human resources practices, and technology) and designs them to support the business strategy mutually. It is a dynamic and an iterative process aimed at providing organizations with the built-in capacity to change and redesign themselves continually as the circumstances demand. The approach promotes organizational learning among multiple stakeholders- at all levels of the firm, providing them with the knowledge and skills needed to transform the organization and continually to improve it. Figure 60 outlines the self-design approach. Although the process is described in three stages, in practice the stages merge and interact iteratively over time. Each stage is described below:

Figure 60. The Self-Design Strategy 1. Laying the foundation.

This initial stage provides organization members with the basic knowledge and information needed to get started with organization transformation. It involves three kinds of activities. The first is acquiring knowledge about how organizations function, about organizing principles for achieving high performance, and about the self-design process. This information is generally gained through reading relevant material, attending in-house workshops, and visiting other organizations that successfully have transformed themselves. This learning typically starts with senior executives or with those managing the transformation process and cascades to lower organizational levels if a decision is made to proceed with self-design. The second activity in laying the foundation involves valuing—determining the corporate

values that will guide the transformation process. These values represent those performance outcomes and organizational conditions that will be needed to implement the corporate strategy. They are typically written in a values statement that is discussed and negotiated among multiple stakeholders at all levels of the organization. The third activity is diagnosing the current organization to determine what needs to be changed to enact the corporate strategy and values. Organization members generally assess the different features of the organization, including its performance. They look for incongruities between its functioning and its valued performances and conditions. In the case of an entirely new organization, members diagnose constraints and contingencies in the situation that need to be taken into account in designing the organization.

2. Designing.

In this second stage of self-design, organization designs and innovations are generated to support corporate strategy and values. Only the broad parameters of a new organization are specified; the details are left to be tailored to the levels and groupings within the organization. Referred to as minimum specification design, this process recognizes that designs need to be refined and modified as they are implemented throughout the firm.

3. Implementing and assessing.

This last stage involves implementing the designed organization changes. It includes an ongoing cycle of action research: changing structures and behaviors, assessing progress, and making necessary modifications. Information about how well implementation is progressing and how well the new organizational design is working is collected and used to clarify design and implementation issues and to make necessary adjustments. This learning process continues not only during implementation but indefinitely as members periodically assess and improve the design and alter it to fit changing conditions. The feedback loops shown in Figure 20.3 suggest that the implementing and assessing activities may lead back to affect subsequent designing, diagnosing, valuing, and acquiring knowledge activities. This iterative sequence of activities provides organizations with the capacity to transform and improve themselves continually. The self-design strategy is applicable to existing organizations needing to transform themselves, as well as to new organizations just starting out. It is also applicable to changing the total organization or subunits. The way self-design is managed and unfolds can also differ. In some cases, it follows the existing organization structure, starting with the senior executive team and cascading downward across organizational levels. In other cases, the process is managed by special design teams that are sanctioned to set broad parameters for valuing and designing for the rest of the organization. The outputs of these teams then are implemented across departments and work units, with considerable local refinement and modification.

The Learning Organization

Organization Learning interventions address how organizations can be designed to promote effective learning processes and how those learning processes themselves can be improved. The learning organization builds on a number of ideas. It has its roots in OD and uses the ideas and philosophies of action research, systems approach, organizational culture, continuous problem-solving, selfmanaged work teams, collaboration, participative leadership, and interpersonal relations. The learning organization is a system-wide change program that emphasizes the reduction of organizational layers and the involvement of every body in the organization in continuous self-directing learning that will lead toward positive change and growth in the individual, team, and organization. According to Peter Senge, “Leaders in learning organizations are responsible for building organizations where individuals continually expand their capabilities to shape their future. Leaders are responsible for fostering learning and are themselves learners.” Learning in organizations means the continuous testing of experience and the transformation of that experience into knowledge accessible to the whole organization and relevant to its core purpose. Learning organizations emphasize creating “knowledge for action” and not “knowledge for its own sake.” They focus on acquiring knowledge, sharing it across the organization, and using it to achieve organizational goals. Participants must liberate themselves from such mental traps as blaming the competition, the economy, or other factors beyond their control. Learning organization realize that they are part of a larger system over which they have little or no control. Instead of complaining, they seek out opportunities and “ride the wave.”

Core Values

A strong set of core values is normally present in learning organizations:
Value different kinds of knowledge and learning styles.

Encourage communication between people with different perspectives and ideas.
Develop creative thinking.
Remain nonjudgmental of others and their ideas.
Break down traditional barriers in the organization.
Develop leadership throughout organization. Everyone is a leader.
Reduce distinctions between organization members. (Management vs. non-management, line vs. staff, doers vs. thinkers, professional vs. nonprofessional, & so on.)
Believe that every member of the organization has untapped human potential. Becoming a learning organization increases the size of the organization’s “brain.” The employees throughout the organization participate in all thinking activities. The boundaries between the parts of the organization are broken down.

Characteristics of a Learning Organization

Four characteristics define a learning organization: 1.

Constant Readiness

: The organization exists in constant readiness for change. By staying in tune with its environment, the organization is ready to take advantage of new opportunities. 2.

Continuous Planning

: Instead of a few top executives formulating fixed plans, the learning organization creates flexible plans that are fully known and accepted by the entire organization. The plans are constantly reexamined by those involved with their implementation – not just top management. The old adage that “the top thinks and the bottom acts” has given way to the need for “integrated thinking and acting at all levels.” 3.

Improvised Implementation

. The learning organization improvises. Instead of rigidly implementing plans, it encourages experimentation. Coordination and collaboration of everyone involved is required in the implementation. Successes are identified and institutionalized within the organization. 4.

Action Learning

. Change is reevaluated continually and not just at annual planning sessions. Instead the learning organization is constantly taking action, reflecting, and making adjustments. In short, learning organizations do not wait for problems to arise. They are constantly undergoing a reexamination that questions and tests assumptions.

Organization Learning Processes

These processes consist of four interrelated activities:

1. Discovery

: Learning starts with discovery when errors or gaps between desired and actual conditions are detected. For example, sales managers may discover that sales are falling below projected levels and set out to solve the problem.

2. Invention

is aimed at devising solutions to close the gap between desired and current conditions, and includes diagnosing the causes of the gap and creating appropriate solutions to reduce it. The sales managers may learn that poor advertising is contributing to the sales problem and may devise a new sales campaign to improve sales.

3. Production

processes involve implementing solutions. For instance, the new advertising program would be implemented.

4. Generalization

includes drawing conclusions about the effects of the solutions, if successful, and extending that knowledge, to other relevant situations. The managers might use variations of it with other product lines. Thus, these four learning processes enable members to generate the knowledge necessary to change and improve the organization.

Levels of Learning

Inferring from the learning processes, we can identify two levels of learning. The lowest level is called single-loop learning or adaptive learning and is focused on learning how to improve the status quo. This is the most prevalent form of learning in organizations and enables members to reduce errors or gaps between desired and existing conditions. It can produce incremental change in how organizations function. The sales managers described above engaged in single-loop learning when they looked for ways to reduce the difference between current and desired levels of sales.

Single-loop learning is like a thermostat that learns when it is too hot or too cold and turns the heat on or off. The thermostat can perform this task because it can receive information (the temperature of the room) and take corrective action. Double-loop learning or generative learning is aimed at changing the status quo. It operates at a more abstract level than does single-loop learning because members learn how to change the existing assumptions and conditions within which single-loop learning operates. This level of learning can lead to transformational change, where the status quo itself is radically altered. For example, the sales managers may learn that sales projections are based on faulty assumptions and models about future market conditions. This knowledge may result in an entirely new conception of future markets with corresponding changes in sales projections and product development plans. It may lead the managers to drop some products that had previously appeared promising, develop new ones that were not considered before, and alter advertising and promotional campaigns to fit the new conditions.

Figure 61

In Single-loop learning the emphasis is on “techniques and making techniques more efficient”. Double-loop learning is more creative and reflexive. Reflection here is more fundamental: the basic assumptions behind ideas or policies are confronted. Hypotheses are publicly tested.

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