Question ‘Critically examine an example/case of organisational change you have studied during the course, using relevant theory to explain your answer’.
The importance of change and corporate culture for contemporary organisations. A critical analysis of Schein’s cultural change model in the National Theatre. Grade 82%
Corporate culture has become an important element in understanding the constant change in contemporary organisations. It provides a valuable link between different aspects of the organisation such as structure, strategy or leadership. Following the managerialist perspective, leadership is a key aspect to create an organisational culture and to minimize uncertainty and potential resistance in the change process. However, internal and external constraints often limit the extent to which organisational culture can be influenced. These circumstances have to be evaluated carefully to critically reflect upon potential barriers to change.
Consequently, a large variety of frameworks have emerged, which aim to determine, analyse and influence the elements of corporate culture. Due to this complex and extensive nature of corporate culture, this essay will draw its focus on Edgar Scheins model of organisational culture. Scheins framework provides a dynamic analysis of organisational culture and change and will be used as a theoretical basis to examine the successful cultural change programme in the National Theatre in London. In more detail, this essay will emphasise the importance of leadership in an organisational change process, which will be supported by the theoretical underpinnings of Scheins model and the case study of the National Theatre. Yet, the agency of individuals to act upon the organisational environment is often bound by wider constraints. Therefore particular limitations of Scheins model and the cultural change in the National Theatre will critically be assessed to highlight the complex and constantly changing nature of organisational culture.
Edgar Schein defines organisational culture as “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that was earned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration” (2004; 17). This emphasis on co-creation and joint learning provides a dynamic concept and draws important attention to the “long neglected, subjective or ‘soft side’ of organisational life” (Alvesson, 2002; 42). In this respect, emotions and leading individuals through change is one of the most significant aspects. Scholars like Alvesson (2002) or Schein (2004) have highlighted the importance of leadership within a cultural change process. With reference to the managerialist perspective, managers implement cultural initiatives to shape employees beliefs and values towards a desired direction (Boleman and Deal, 2008).
Hence organisational culture reflects the vision and aspiration of top management, which will then be adopted by employees to form a shared understanding about reality (ibid). Brown (1995) argues that a strong organisational culture can result in increased motivation as employees feel a higher sense of belonging and identification. This provides a valuable relationship between organisational culture, ‘softer’ managerial mechanisms and competitive advantage. Thus it is important not just to focus on organisational culture and change as an end in itself, but as a continuous process towards higher productivity (Willmott, 1993).
Schein (2004) developed a dynamic theoretical framework to demonstrate how organisational culture can be analysed. Initially, leaders bring their own personal values and assumptions into the organisation and impose them on the group to accomplish a given problem. If these beliefs then result in a successful outcome, group members will confirm and reinforce these assumptions over time. This process of shared learning suggests that organisational culture is constantly enacted and reshaped by members of the group where leadership...
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