An approach towards an integrative dynamic framework for understanding and managing organizational culture change

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According to Umuteme (2018, p.1), “Research has shown that culture is one of the determining factors of organizational effectiveness (Right Management, 2010). Within the radically changing business landscape of today, many managers and scholars are more interested in the issues around understanding the key elements that can ensure competitive advantage of organizations.

Many have come to acknowledge the fact that effectiveness of any institution depends on several cultural aspects which if not understood may hinder such. Along these lines, an integrative dynamic framework has been put forward as a way to go for managing culture change and organizational effectiveness.

The essay will first summarize the various approaches to understanding culture. It will highlight the dimensions of the concept of organizational culture which are relevant to the recommended framework; offer an operational definition of organizational culture; as well as the relationship between organizational culture change and organizational effectiveness in the context of the integrative dynamic framework.

Lastly, it will identify and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the recommended framework in terms of its capability to establish a new type of organizational culture. It will conclude with policy recommendations associated with associated with the ways in which today’s businesses are able to manage organizational culture change effectively.

To begin with, Schneider and Barbera (2014, p.3) have noted the fact that,

Culture research has focused on the shared meaning employees derive about the basic assumptions, values, and beliefs that underlie their experiences at work as transmitted to them via myths and stories they hear, especially in their socialization experiences to a new setting (Schein, 2010; Trice & Beyer, 1993).

The reasons for continued interest by both scholars and managers in organizational culture have grown. All the key actors have been interested in understanding what organizational culture change is and how such can be managed for the survival of businesses.

This is because effective knowledge creation and transfer within the corporate world is a non-negotiable. Many have come to appreciate the fact that cultural changes are inevitable and as such it is important that managers have a degree of control over such changes so that change can be constructive.

Kucharska and Bedford (2019, p.3) highlighted the fact that,

Many researchers have claimed that organizational culture has an impact on knowledge sharing (Hofstede, 2001; Ford and Chan, 2003; Lai and Lee, 2007; Lin and Dalkir, 2010; Ling-Hsing Chang and Lin, 2015). A suitable climate for knowledge sharing is found particularly in a collaborative culture that promotes patterns of interaction and communication that foster employees’ learning and creativity (Pinjani and Palvia, 2013).

Also, many efforts have been made in an attempt to define and understand culture. Mc Manus et al. (2016) cited in Kucharska and Bedford (2019, p.3) defined this in terms of standards, theories, philosophies as well as organizational traditions upheld within the business entities with the aim of ensuring the survival of the entity through effectively pursuing organizational aspirations while ensuring the satisfaction of employees.

For example, Kassen, Ajmal, Gunasekaram and Helo (2018) stated that, “In industrial firms, organizational culture was used to explain the low productivity environment and why rules and procedures failed to improve unhealthy relationships between supervisors and subordinates (Jaques, 1951)”.

Equally important, many models have been developed by scholars who sought to understand the nature of organizational culture and the processes underlying its formation. The idea behind these efforts was that, understanding the issue of organizational culture can help managers in enhancing the effectiveness of their respective business entities.

Previously, three approaches were developed namely: the sociological approach, anthropological approach and psychological approach. Each of these models sought to identify cultural constituents as seen within different organizations from a slightly different angle. 

For instance, the sociological approach is based on the assumption that culture occurs within a specific, organizational social reality. Umteme (2018, p.4) stated that according to this model, this it is viewed as consisting of signs, dialects, theories, tenets as well as relics within and/or distinguishing different groups (Barkan, 2016).

This is highlighted by Deal and Kennedy (2000, cited in Maximini 2015) model which centers on the nature of choices facing decision-makers aimed at keeping the above elements and reservations associated with such choices (Maximini, 2015). However, the identified limitation of this model is that it may fail to deal with drastic shifts within the corporate world.

Additionally, Umteme (2018, p.4) posited that, “Anthropologists see culture as “customs and rituals that societies develop over the course of their history” (Schein, 2004, p. 7). As indicated by Schneider and Barbera (2014, p.7) scholars under this discipline engage in focused investigations of this phenomenon using emic methods, noting the life engagements of groups under the study. The central concern with these methods is that they look at distinctive elements and also rely on surrounding beliefs in informing scholars on what is deemed essential, the ways in which such conclusions were reached, the mechanisms which are employed for the building up of individual members, those responsible for socializing others and the such. 

Yet, as noted by Umteme (2018, p.5), “The weaknesses of the anthropological model include – being highly abstract and not holistic in predicting cultural variance(s) in the organization (Hall 1981), and that it is not validated experimentally (Maximini, 2015)”. This led to the emergence of the psychological model of organizational culture. One perspective following this model is the competing values framework (CVF).

All the three models have different contributions with regard to understanding organizational culture and its impact on organizational productivity.  There is no one model that has satisfactorily brought comprehensive assumptions in this regard. Umuteme (2018, p.5) has captured that fact that, “Bolman and Deal (2013) suggest that one model cannot effectively address all the complexities tied to culture in organizations”. This is the one area that has justified the arguments for the development of the integrated dynamic framework.

Literature review indicated that there is no single definition that scholars have come to agree on as the most comprehensive, which has called for efforts to develop a more operational definition.

Following Hofstede’s model, an operational definition has been coined as follows, “Culture is the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others based on shared values, beliefs and assumptions about how to behave, interact, perform, lead and make decisions” (Lecture notes on Defining organizational culture, 2020).

On the other hand, Tharp (2009) noted that, “In focusing on “effective organizations”, research has uncovered many critical dimensions”. Of course, some dimensions of organizational culture that can rightly be viewed as the most relevant to the integrative the recommended framework.

According to Schein (2010, p.73) it has been argued that in order to note these corporate areas, two fields- social psychology as well as group dynamics offered a suitable approach. This is because, businesses have to deal with common difficulties which have some permanence within them plus realigning their systems to the context, as well as incorporate in-house systems that enhance the chances for sustainability of the organization.

These dimensions have been captured within the competing values framework. Schneider and Barbera (2014, p.106-107) noted that,

The competing values framework (CVF) is an organizing taxonomy around three dimensions designed to understand the effectiveness of different organizational cultures. The first dimension ranges from an internal person-oriented emphasis to an external organization-oriented focus.

The second dimension describes preferences for structure ranging from an orientation toward control and stability to an orientation emphasizing flexibility and change. The third dimension is a mean-ends continuum based on the degree of closeness to desired organizational outcomes.

In other words, different aspects put more emphasis on different objectives. For instance, according to Tharp (2009) some give pre-eminence to ideas around openness to change, thoughtfulness as well as vitality or vibrancy on the other extreme, while placing value on steadiness, directive including strong regulation on the other.

Another aspect involves centering on in-house structures esteem alignment, incorporation as well as oneness on the one extent, with emphasis on diversity including competition as per the other extreme as per the outside environmental influences.

Moreover, various perspectives exist aimed at explaining the correlation amongst workplace activities as well as elements relating to corporate philosophy.

Based on previous perspectives, Martins (1987) came up with another that aimed to explain the phenomena of corporate philosophy relying on what is deemed as an ultimate business structure including the significance of management in developing commendable business values, beliefs and ethics. This approach centers on connections amongst smaller corporate structures as well as psycho-social structures, sustainability mechanisms including levels of corporate beliefs (UKessays, 2018).

This has been identified as an all-inclusive approach entailing the entirety of the business structures within with corporate values have their impact, which in turn impact on such (Ukessays, 2018). Also, it has been noted that organizational culture is a very fluid thing- that is it is very dynamic and bound to change.

This is, in part, owing to the fact that the business landscape is itself changing drastically. Failure to acknowledge this fact has been deemed detrimental to the life and sustainability of the organization. It has been noted that, “In the context of rapid changes taking place in the economic and business environment in the country/organizations need to transform themselves radically in order to seize new opportunities” (Bhatnagar & Bhandaris, 1998, p.83).

Furthermore, it has been noted as a fact that no organization is static and that adaptation is built into them so that they are self-sufficient in relation to industrial situation within which they operate.  Ability to deal with change, progress and thrive necessitates the capacity to keep disastrous effects of change in check within the organization (Schein, 2010, p.300).  As a result both scholars and practitioners have become more inclined to understanding the issue of culture change and how such can be managed.

Organizational change is a very broad area. It addresses a variety of time spans, interests in broad patterns (industrial/professional trends) or organization-specific transformations, and types of changes (technological, mergers, downsizing, etc.). There is a lot of variety concerning the theoretical perspective employed; some emphasize agents of change, others environmental driving forces (Alvesson & Sveningsson, 2016, p.4).

Additionally, it has been noted that some scholars (Allen 1985; Davis 1985; Trice & Beyer 1985; Kilman et al. 1986, Schneider & Rentsch 1988) argued that effectively engaging the issues around handling transforming corporate guiding beliefs or theories and values, thorough understanding of such is essential both those belonging to the old and/or the emerging identity (Willcoxson & Millett, 2000, p.96-97).

Cameron and Quinn (2011, p.1) have also brought to light the fact that, “Unremitting, unpredictable, and sometimes alarming change makes it difficult for any organization or manager to stay current, accurately predict the future, and maintain constancy of direction”.

Based on these it is evident that it is essential that a framework is developed that will help the management of both the dynamic nature of culture and change. Rai (2011, Abstract) also posited that, “Organizational culture is a critical factor in building and reinforcing knowledge management in organizations.

However, there is no theoretical framework that explains comprehensively the effect of organizational culture on knowledge management in organizations”. Owing to these observations, the need for a more inclusive framework has been identified.

Also, because organizational culture does interact with the external world, it is important that practitioners have a framework to guide them in bringing together such issues. The development of the recommended framework is highlighted by Umuteme (2018, p.3) who indicated the fact that, in order to respond there have been suggestions that called for the joining together of approaches, forming a more comprehensive framework in order to deal with several areas of this phenomenon as well as understanding what the resulting combination can mean both for theory and practice.

It has been established that historically scholars (Lee et al., 2010; Levy et al., 2001; Thorpe et al., 2005; Zeng et al., 2010) on corporate values, beliefs and theories, business model as well as creativity, perceived this either as in-house issues; viewed these issues independently (Hogan & Coote, 2014; Prajogo et al., 2007; Uzkurt et al., 2013), or else sought to understand them from a narrow point of view (Berson et al., 2008; Naidoo, 2010; Prajogo et al., 2007).

Yet, these are multifaceted, with various aspects influencing and being influenced by others in bringing about creative organizational capacities (Wu, Huang, Huang, & Du, 2018).

This framework has the potential to bring about new type of organizational culture in many ways. For example, Gray and Densten (2005, p.597) highlighted the fact that a variety of theoretical similarities support perspectives that are integrated in this regard as they aim to explain corporate efficiency.

In this case, competing values framework centers on this issue in light of foundational systems of corporate beliefs and values (Quinn & Kimberley, 1984), on the other hand, SECI framework proposes the idea that production and circulation of narratives depends on corporate plans (Nonaka & Takeuchi 1995) the aspects that are key to productivity.

The significance of the development of this model is also underlined by the fact that culture has a great deal of influence on knowledge transfer within the organization. According to Umuteme (2018, p.1-2) empirical studies have established the fact that it is one of the influencing elements in corporate productivity or resourcefulness (Right Management, 2010).

Corporate resourcefulness is viewed as the efficient utilization of means of production following relevant approaches that enable the aligning of corporate goals and sought organizational atmosphere (SHRM, 2018).

In light of this, Mickahail and de Aquino (2019, p.28-29) posited that studies (Sarros, Cooper, & Santora, 2011) have highlighted the influence of organizational atmosphere- beliefs, values and philosophies- and the management on the efforts to securing corporate transformations needed for sustainability and effectiveness. Organizational theories and/or norms are maintained by employees and have a part in influencing transformation (Belias & Koustelios, 2014). 

Scholars (Gumusluoglu, & Ilsev, 2009) pointed out that creativity and advanced products are likely to be encouraged as well as prohibited by the prevailing organizational belief systems. Also corporate norms, ethics and assumptions influence managerial potential (Belias & Koustelios, 2014).

But now, because of rapid changes in the corporate world there is a desperate need to understand how cultural change predictions can be made that will secure a future for organizations. “Yet, understanding the desired culture that can enhance organizational effectiveness is a difficult task, especially as the organization grows in size and function” Umuteme (2018, p.2).

The integrative framework can provide the more inclusive approach to understanding and managing culture changes within the broader context, since it is capable of bringing together both external and internal factors influencing cultural changes.

To illustrate this, in their study of organizational failure, Mellahi and Wilkinson (2004, p.20-21) indicated that,

At the firm level, the framework shows that, typically management actions alone do not yield an organizational failure. To increase the predictability of management actions, the latter should be examined within the framework of the dynamics of the industry and the wider context in which a firm operates. The framework proposes that there will be significant differences in the outcomes of the same internal factors across firms in different business environments.

Likewise, it is important to note that the pursuit of an integrative dynamic framework is based on several underlying benefits. According to Rai (2011), “The proposed integrative framework would facilitate organizational learning and lead to the improvement of knowledge management practices in organizations as it helps managers to understand the linkages between culture and knowledge management”.

Also Umuteme (2018, p.15-16) added that this framework can enhance the capacity to anticipate the influences of transformations within the corporate world as they relate to organizational sustainability and progress. The assumption has also been that this resulting model can motivate organizational actors, especially subordinates, to engage in processes freely.

In other words, a fundamental axiom of the integrative framework is that the different theoretical assumptions and linkages underlying each perspective are not only reconcilable but that together they provide a more comprehensive understanding of organizational failure than any single perspective by itself.- (Mellahi & Wilkinson, 2004, p.20).

However, this framework has limitations. One limitation is that this framework is too abstract as a result not readily implementable in some organizations. This is because, not much has been documented on it that can be availed to many practitioners. Another limitation is that, implementing this can cause disruptions within organizations, particularly where there are rigid structures, as this will mean emergence of new culture that can translate into systems change. The reorientation of staff can be costly at times and resistance by employees is inevitable.   

The framework has implications for transformational integrative leadership as it pertains to the enhancement of organizational value. It has be indicated that, “integrative leadership is conducive to the improvement of the synergy innovation performance among enterprises in a supply chain cooperative network”- Zhang, Sun, Liu, Zhou and Zhang (2018, p.15). Therefore, transformational integrative leadership has the potential to keep organizations relevant within the global environment.

Finally, it is recommended that integrative dynamic framework should be operationalized as the basis for both managerial leadership and employee development. This is based on the assumption that this initiative has the potential to help frontrunners in systematically guiding organizational conduct to enhance interactions between key actors which are critical to effective organizational culture change. Also because this framework encompasses both the internal and external aspects of culture it can also be beneficial in diagnosis of the factors that can impede effective culture change management.

In conclusion, this essay highlighted the dimensions of the concept of organizational culture which are relevant to the framework; gave an operational definition of organizational culture; as well as the relationship between organizational culture change and organizational effectiveness in the context of the integrative dynamic framework. It ended by identifying and discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the recommended framework in terms of its capability to establish a new type of organizational culture.

It has been established that integrative dynamic framework can assist in creating new cultures, which will translate into more vibrant leadership approaches and satisfaction of subordinates. This will significantly increase organizational effectiveness.

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Teboho Polanka
Teboho is a Social Worker, Writer and Inspirational Speaker. He is in pursuit of MSc. in Managerial Psychology. Graduates are able to apply psychological principles and methods to tackle challenges in the work environment and provide effective practical solutions. Acting as industrial-organizational psychologists.