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Organisational Culture And Management Strategy

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This paper is prepared to analyse the organizational culture of Quinlan's, and to discuss the reasons behind the low levels of staff morale and the problem of flexibility for Quinlan's, based on the information in the case study and literature. In the first part, the organizational culture of Quinlan's is analysed; the factors explaining this culture and the extent to which the culture is responsible for the company's current difficulties are discussed. In the second part, causes of low workplace morale and possible solutions that can be applied by the Director of HRM at Quinlan's, who has become aware that the underperformance of the company has affected workplace morale, are mentioned respectively. Lastly, the meaning of flexibility in practice for organizational and management strategy is explained; and the challenges that Quinlan's faces in responding to its competitors who operate more flexibly are mentioned.

Organizational culture is a pattern of basic assumptions that are developed by a given group as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, and that has worked well enough to be considered valuable; therefore, it is taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems (Schein, 1992, cited in Rollinson et al., 2002). There are different views in the literature as to whether culture is something that the organization has, or organization is a culture itself. However, at Quinlan's, the prevailing idea seems to be that culture is devised by management and transmitted or imposed on the rest of the organization as part of the seductive process of achieving membership and gaining commitment, which is referred as corporate culture by Linstead and Grafton Small (1992).

According to Schein's view (cited in Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001: pp. 626) "culture is the sharing of meanings and 'basic' assumptions among organizational employees"; and it consists of three levels, each distinguished by their visibility and accessibility to individuals. Schein's first level is the surface manifestations of culture that are its most visible and accessible forms. Artefacts, courses and heroes are the most important surface manifestations for Quinlan's. First one is evident in the priority given to store refurbishments to signal that Quinlan's is changing and freshening up its image. Secondly, courses for induction, orientation and training, used to educate new members are so important for Quinlan's that its recruitment process is found similar to that of the civil service. Thirdly, the importance given to hero, the individual who established and personifies the values and beliefs of the culture, and provides role models for emulation, is evident in the dominant presence of Thomas Quinlan, and the strong commitment of his followers to his values (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001).

Schein's second level concerns organization values and beliefs, which refer to those things that have personal or organizational meaning to the founders or senior management (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001). An important source of values for Quinlan's is the views of Thomas Quinlan, as modified by the company's current senior management. Thomas Quinlan's paternalistic agenda for his staff and people-centred policies within the company have shaped Quinlan's values, and provided a common direction for all employees, making unions unnecessary. During his employment, employees knew that when they followed the specified practices, they would be rewarded by high level of benefits.

Finally, basic assumptions are located at Schein's third level and they include the assumptions that individuals hold about the organization and how it functions. They are invisible, preconscious and relate to aspects of human behaviour, and the organization's relationship to its environment (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001). When evaluated according to the Schein's list of basic cultural assumptions (cited in MPO Module Book, 2003: Section 13), Quinlan's was considering itself as dominant due to the high-quality goods symbolised by its Britannia own label, which in turn led to high popularity and profitability. The company was product oriented, assuming that consumers are interested in quality (Brassington and Pettitt, 2003), so, it was confident that as long as the quality was high, it would be able to sell. This confidence resulted in ignorance of innovativeness and flexibility; and the company did not take the competitive threats into consideration until it faced with decreases in sales. Moreover, Quinlan was past oriented. Relying on its past success, it missed the radical changes in the environment. Finally, Quinlan's had paternalistic authority system, and the environment seemed to be cooperative due to the generous reward system.

Nevertheless, these values and assumptions were valid until the customers started to be drawn to more fashionable competitors. Instead of seeing itself as the leader in the market, Quinlan's began to develop new management structures, such as project groupings and marketing orientation. Furthermore, new harsher style of management, instead of paternalistic one, has made the work environment uncomfortable. Life has become competitive for employees since their performance started to be evaluated based on individual targets, and poor performers have faced with reduced hours. Employees have been expected to be more active to attract customers, and they have faced with uncertainty in their employment due to flexible contracts, instead of previous life-long career. In summary, the new methods are inconsistent with the traditional ones, reflecting the change in the company's beliefs and assumptions.

When culture and structure are thought as "the two sides of the same coin", as suggested by Meek (1988: p. 465), it is necessary to mention the structure of Quinlan's to highlight its culture. Quinlan's was applying mechanistic structure, which stresses rules, policies, and procedures (Carrell et al., 1997). Quinlan's, which was viewed as a civil service, had a tall hierarchy with many promotion steps for employees to climb, and the key positions were occupied by family members. However, when the environment of Quinlan's became more turbulent, Lester Townsend tried to augment the organization's structure from mechanistic towards organic, and made the organization's hierarchy flatter by slimming down the senior management team, simplifying lines of communication, forming project groups, and involving staff in decision making, due to the latter's innovativeness and adaptability to changing conditions (Carrell et al., 1997).




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