Identify and Evaluate How a Knowledge of Human Resource Management Can Improve a Manager's Efficiency and Effectiveness in Managing Cultural Change

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Plymouth MBA| a case study on JOHN LEWIS|

Identify and evaluate how a knowledge of human resource management can improve a manager’s efficiency and effectiveness in managing cultural change Contributors:
Ayisat abiola Akande
Chris Harper
Justina Brown-Biney
Phuti Tebogo Manyathe


Though an examination of human resource management theories, the authors of this document intend to demonstrate how a practical application of this knowledge can assist in effectively managing the process of cultural change in an organization. This will be done through a case study of the company John Lewis. It will outline their current organizational model, examine the impact of and their reaction to, the economic recession since September 2008. Recommendations will also be made to address the necessary actions and changes to their organizational structure in order to increase their chances of survival in the economy of the future.

Background on John Lewis

The company John Lewis was founded in 1864 and since that time has been operating on the basis of profit sharing. Its founder John Lewis later turned over the business to his son John Spedan Lewis in 1920, who continued to build on the philosophies of his father. He went on to formalize the profit sharing concept into what we recognize in business today as a partnership.

Organizational Culture
Since the move from pre-industrialized society, to the division of labour at the turn of the 20th century, there has been an emergence of specific methods of organizing the ways in which these new large groups of workers were managed. Although times have changed and the work force has shifted from the mechanized infantries of the industrial revolution, to the more flexible and contractual workforces of modern times, many things still stand true today as they did back then. Organisations will, over a period of time develop a culture, whether by choice, or by evolution. Culture has been defined simple terms as “How things are done around here” (Jordan, cited by Martin, 2006). It has also been analysed by academics such as Charles Handy in his description of The Shamrock Organization (Handy, 1989a). This is divided into a Professional Core, Contractual Fringe and a Flexible Labour Force. He also dissects organizational culture into four distinct types of cultures, identified as Power, Role, Task and Person (Handy, 1993b). The culture adopted is intended to best serve the needs of the organization. The company John Lewis was build on a culture and guiding philosophy of a partnership where all the workers were also the owners. It would therefore appear that John Lewis’s approach to organizational culture aligns with some psychological theories on employment relationships. This psychological contract is defined as “individual beliefs, shaped by the organization, regarding the terms of an exchange agreement between individuals and their organization” (Rousseau, 1995, Cited by Bratton & Gold, 2003, p. 13). Having a workforce made up entirely of partners who share the profits of the company’s success, has several benefits. These include a “buy in” from most of the partners, job security and satisfaction, high motivation, and lower stress and absenteeism. Others support this belief and stated “We simply do not believe our employees have an interest in coming in late, leaving early and doing as little as possible….They are adults. At Semco we treat them as adults.”(Semler, 1999, p. 256). This would seem to suggest that with ownership comes responsibility. However, Hofstede would view this quite differently in his analysis of organizational culture across international boundaries. Hofstede noticed that there were clear cultural differences between the nationalities, concluding that they were significant enough to be taken into serious consideration by companies conducting business globally. He categorized them into four groups which he identified...
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