EDUCATIONAL MANAGEMENT in TESOL
Unit 1 - Introduction
This Unit aims to provide you with a series of reference points for your own exploration and analysis of organisational structures and organisational cultures. This exploration may be of the organisation for which you currently work, or for those for whom you have worked in the past. When we look at organisational structure and culture, we also need to begin an examination of issues such as leadership and organisational objectives. We will also begin to look at definitions of strategy, policy and operations in organisations. Again, these are intended as starting points for your own explorations and definitions of these topics. Essentially, we are beginning to define a management “vocabulary” which we will take with us through this double module and which will, in its turn, expand and develop as our awareness expands and develops.
The Unit contains two types of Process Tasks which we ask you to work through; those indicated by the symbol ? are optional, the others are not! You may also find “Reading Tasks” to accompany Articles in the Articles File. Below is a “map” of this Unit, which will show you the direction we will take in our examination of structures and cultures.
Organisational Structure - Why Bother?
Analysis of organisational structures can be viewed as an interesting, but
ultimately pointless, activity. After all, the structure of our organisation
is not, generally, something that we can directly and immediately alter. We
just have to work along with it to the best of our ability.
However, in any organisation, we are affected by the structure as well as being part of the structure. The arrangement of our organisation will affect, to a very great extent, how all other issues in our organisation are viewed; I’m thinking here about issues such as communication, staff development, and appraisal among others. Many ELT organisations, particularly in the private sector, would describe their structure as “organic” – it’s grown and developed along with the company’s growth and development. The organisational structure in these types of organisations is therefore not conscious or deliberate. However, even in an “organic” growth, existing models of structure have been an influence, either as something to aspire towards, or something to shy away from. At its most basic level, the organisational structure indicates how the organisation views those who work within it.
Structure – Definitions
“Structure is the pattern of relationships among positions in the organisation
and among members of the organisation. The structure defines tasks and responsibilities,
work roles and relationships, and channels of communication. The purpose of
structure is the division of work among members of the organisation, and the
co-ordination of these activities so they are directed towards achieving the
goals and objectives of the organisation.” (Mullins, 1985, p 72)
From this definition, we can see that the structure of an organisation cannot be totally accidental. Paisey, (1981, p.64) defines structure as “the deliberate patterning of relationships between organisation members.” Depending on the size of an organisation, the structure can hold good for the whole organisation or can be different for different departments. The main point is that the structure serves the goals and objectives of the organisation. The implication here is that all those who have a work role in the structure have at least some awareness of what the goals and objectives are, and generally, this is true in the broadest sense. I would also argue that your view of the structure of your organisation is affected by where you are in that organisation. The perspective of the director may well be very different from that of a temporary member of staff, for example, and it is interesting to consider how far this difference might manifest itself in your current or previous workplace. White et al (1991, p.13) add an interesting point to the discussion of organisational structure:
“…A list of titles in a school provides a kind of snapshot of organisational structure at one point in time and will show the observer where – in theory at least- occupants of each position stand in relation to one another. What such a structural list does not include, however, is the dynamic aspect of the organisation. Nor does it indicate the informal structure of the organisation as realised through the relationships, which are not actually specified in formal titles and procedures. …. Such models specify what should be rather than what actually is.”
Process Task One
Taking the quote from White et al above, set it against your current or previous workplace. Can you see examples where the organisational “diagram” did not accurately reflect the actual structure of the organisation? Was there any evidence of any kind of “alternative hierarchy”, if you like, which was not part of the formal structure? You might like to think about the types of influence different staff members had in the organisation, and where this influence came from. (I’m thinking here about aspects such as longevity of service, experience, position as staff representative etc.)
As an educational manager, it is important to be aware of the “dynamic nature of the organisation” and what alternative fields of influence are at play in our organisations. You will be asked to reflect on this area again in Unit 2, when we talk about management styles.
Models of Organisational Structure
We will begin an exploration of organisational structures by looking at some different models which have been put forward. It is worth pointing out that these models are precisely that, and that organisations do not conform to them exactly. You may well see elements of your existing or previous employers in the models given.
The following models cover the most basic configurations that organisations can take.
The Pyramid Structure
This is probably the model that most of us are familiar with. There is a clearly defined line of responsibility at the apex of the pyramid, which is where the control and most of the ultimate decision-making power also rests. It depends on the organisation how “tall” or how “flat” the pyramid is, i.e. how many layers of control or levels of responsibility there are. An example of a tall pyramid could be the Civil Service, which seems to have a tall hierarchical structure in most countries in the world. (The situation in your country may, of course, be different; I appreciate that this is a broad generalisation). Organisations such as the police also often operate on a tall pyramid structure; in the case of the Metropolitan police, the pyramid has 24 levels, for example. In contrast, the Catholic Church, a world-wide organisation with 18 million members, operates with five levels of (earthly) authority – parish priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal and pope.
This type of structure is often referred to as a hierarchical model, in that the lines of responsibility and promotion are very clearly delineated. This type of structure is relatively formal, and is centralised; i.e. the Chief Executive of the company holds most of the power. This model gives priority to authority, and is often somewhat inflexible in its mode of operation. However, there are also cultural factors which make this type of structural model more attractive and appropriate for certain national cultures, and equally less attractive for others. There is certainly a trend for organisations to operate with a flatter hierarchy, but the changes which are made to transform a “tall” pyramid into a “flatter” pyramid, are often only at a cosmetic level. The respect for authority and procedures will still dominate, however “flat” the pyramid may be.
The Centralised Structure
In this structure there is a central “control post”, which can be one individual or a core team. Groups or teams revolve around this central control post, reporting directly to the “centre” but also reporting to/communicating among themselves. Responsibility can be shared among team members within departments, or individual departments may be more hierarchical in style. This depends on the tasks and roles of the departments involved. Each node of the cluster is expected to perform fairly autonomously, but all must report to the centre in a formal way. Communication between the groups may be formal or informal, regular or intermittent, depending on the tasks that the teams are involved in.
This is a fairly modern and complex structure. Examples of this would be relatively “young” companies, such as advertising agencies, publishing companies or dot.com enterprises; operations which we could describe as entrepreneurial in scope and approach. Within this structure, there is often a need for certain groups to be extremely efficient yet less “fast-moving”. An example of this would be an independent music recording company, which is clearly dynamic and fast-moving. However, the tape operator and editors in this company need to be extremely painstaking and thorough in their work, and may not be seen as so “creative” and therefore dynamic, by other groups within the same company. While the relationship in this example is symbiotic, there is also a “creative hierarchy” at work. This could be paralleled in an ELT institution with educational staff and administrators, for example.
The Decentralised Structure
This model mirrors the “pyramid” model to a large extent, but is
generally divided either by product line or by geographical area. An organisation
which operates in more than one area may not consider these areas “different”
for their purposes - all operations may come under “Europe”, for
example, and report to one Chief Executive or regional manager. In this model,
the function of the Chief Executive is more to oversee the operations in the
different areas or with the different product lines. Short-term and long-term
planning is the responsibility of, for example, the regional manager. The Chief
Executive plays a major role in strategic planning for the area or the product
lines, but on a day-to-day operational level is less involved. In this model
the middle-level managers have greater immediate responsibility for decision-making
than in the hierarchical model. This model is basically “divisionalised”,
and the different operations are considered as separate divisions. In large
ELT organisations, there can be a reflection of this type of structure, with
different areas of the organisation’s operations being regarded as “independent
profit units”, with separate accounting and marketing strategies in place.
Most national and international companies operate with this structure. The decision-making power in this structure is often far removed from the front-line workers. The problem which is said to occur with this type of structure, which is often organised by area, is that Head Office can, for example, take a decision to restructure the company on what they deem to be a more logical basis. This can mean re-defining the geographical areas, resulting in breakdown of previous working relationships and different priorities being set for different areas. Decisions of this type can also have a significant impact on the local environment, but in a decentralised structure, this is not the main concern. This type of structure is often seen in companies where the “bottom line” is viewed as most important.
Process Task Two
a) Consider either your current organisation or a previous organisation for which you worked. Which structural model does it parallel most closely? How effective was the structure in terms of achieving the goals and objectives of the organisation? Was the structure coherent (i.e. the same throughout the whole organisation) or divergent (i.e. different in different departments/sections of the organisation)? Why do you think there were these differences, if any?
b) Having reflected on the structure of the organisation, you might like to consider how this impinges on your own day to day experience of working in that organisation. You could perhaps reflect, during a typical day in your organisations, how far you are affected and, perhaps, frustrated by the organisational structure, and why these affects and frustrations (if any) occur. Is it to do with the actual structure, or with the personalities and styles of those in positions within the structure?
Different views of structure/form/design
There is a temptation for the analysis of organisational structure to resemble a foray into design or mathematics. After all, there are only so many diagrams that one can devise to exemplify the “patterning of organisations.” However, it is worth looking at how the question of organisational structure has been addressed, if only to give us a “template” against which we can map our own organisations. One of the values of such models is that they can help us to see, in a more objective way, how our organisation is set out at a big picture level, rather than simply at the level which most affects us. In other words, they can help us to move from a micro view of our organisation to a more macro view. However, there is also a temptation to shoehorn our organisation into one of these models simply for convenience of reference. Many organisations have a mix of structures in different operational areas, or may conform more closely to, but not be fully representative of, one model than another. There are also clearly issues of national culture and expectations to bear in mind when looking at the appropriacy of organisational structure and, more particularly, cultures.
Bearing all this in mind, let’s see how some specific writers have discussed the question of organisational structure, which we may express as form/design/patterning etc.
Burgoyne, Pedlar and Boydell (1996) suggest four “forms” for companies which mirror some of the ideas we have discussed regarding organisational structure. They put forward the following models:
The familiar diagram of an organisation led from the top.
This is a classical, bureaucratic form, which ensures
control and is predictable in its style. This type of
organisation is low on risk-taking and innovation,
high on security and slow to change.
A Matrix Organisation
The form of the hierarchy remains but is overlaid by project teams and different groupings in response to market demands and new problems. The emphasis on task forces enables the company to draw widely on available skills and knowledge. However, the power of the “hierarchy” which is a background feature of this organisation, is often strongest around areas such as finance or human resources decisions - so the innovative work of teams or groupings can be curtailed.
This form has virtually eradicated any hierarchy - except at the very centre of the cloverleaf. A small core team manages often-changing work groups. The work groups may contain a lot of short-term or temporary staff, and groups can be dissolved easily once the need for them has disappeared. In a climate of rapidly-changing circumstances, this is a popular form to choose, as the emphasis on calling in appropriately qualified staff for the life of a project makes this form fast-acting and responsive to change. (This depends, of course, on the availability of suitably qualified staff at the time they are needed.)
Loosely coupled sets of people that work together. There is no hierarchy of central control, but leadership emerges and is adopted by by the best-equipped person or by the team leading a particular project. Each member or group has many links both within and outside the organisation. Up to now, this form has been less evident in ELT organisations, but as more client-specific course and training provision emerge, networks seem to becoming more common. This is the type of structure one might find among a small group of teachers employed by a language organisation, who provide on-site training for a corporate client or who undertake a specific teaching or training project off-site (or in a satellite centre).
Process Task Three
Which of the forms put forward by Burgoyne, Pedlar and Boydell is, in your opinion, appropriate for the ELT provision in your context? Factors you may wish to include in your considerations might be current state of the market, type of provider (e.g. private vs. state-funded), organisational development over the next five years, availability of qualified staff, organisational objectives….
Essentially, there is an alignment between the structural models we have looked at so far. There is a central grouping and elements which move around that grouping in various directions, in all except the “Networks” model.
A Different View
However, we can gain a different view of organisational types when we look at the work of Henry Mintzberg (1993). Some of you may already be familiar with Mintzberg’s ideas. For those of you who have not encountered his work before, the two chapters from Mintzberg in the Articles File will provide a useful introduction to his work. The concepts Mintzberg puts forward in these two chapters will be referred to throughout the rest of this Module, as they form a useful shorthand for us. When you have read the first extract, (Chapter 1) you might like to work through the Reading Task below.
Reading Task A
Taking Mintzberg’s “structural configurations” in the readings, work through the questions below. Where possible, relate your thoughts on what Mintzberg says to your own experience of working in organisations (not necessarily educational organisations – be as wide-ranging as you like here.)
a) Can you see examples of the different “basic parts” of organisations, as defined by Mintzberg, in the organisations you are thinking of? Are there any parts which are absent? If so, why do you think this is?
b) Which configuration would you most like to work in? What are your reasons for this choice?
c) Which configuration do you work in? (You may find that your answer covers more than one type.)
d) How useful and how real do you find these models?
Now that we have looked at some different forms and patterns of organisations,
as described by various writers, we can now begin to evaluate how effective
these different models of organisational structure are. If we refer again to
the quote from Mullins cited earlier, we can see that:
“The purpose of structure is the division of work among members of the organisation, and the co-ordination of these activities so they are directed towards achieving the goals and objectives of the organisation.” (Mullins, ibid.)
Evaluation of the effectiveness (or otherwise) of any organisational structure needs to take, as its starting point, “…the goals and objectives of the organisation.” John Child (1984, p.9) says: “A full consideration of structural design has to be informed by the objectives which are selected for the organisation…The objectives selected for an organisation are in principle translated into a strategy.”
We will begin to examine the process of defining organisational goals and objectives in the next section. You may feel that this process of goal definition is somewhat far removed from your own position in the organisation, and is therefore not directly relevant to your work as an educational manager. However, there are two points to bear in mind here. The first is that an understanding of the over-arching organisational goals will give you a better understanding of how your own work fits in to those, and should, in the best case, enable your work to be more coherent and in line with the organisational objectives. The second point is that the issues of vision, goals and objectives operate at departmental as well as at organisational level; so within your own sphere of work you can implement the ideas put forward here, as far as is appropriate within your context.
Vision in organisations
It is hard to read any article or book on management nowadays without coming across reference to vision as an organisational “must have”. If you are interested in finding out more about this, and about why it is important, then you can look at Senge (1993), where this issue is fully explored. However, before we can bandy the term “vision” around, we need to clarify for ourselves what we mean by this term. (You may like to use the Process Task, which follows this section, as a starting point for discussion on this topic with colleagues at all levels within your organisation.)
Collins Cobuild Dictionary defines vision as: “A mental picture of a possible situation or state of affairs, in which you imagine how things might be different from the way they are now….a mental picture which you have as a result of divine inspiration, madness or taking drugs.” For all our sakes, it is probably better to work with the first part of this definition, although we may have referred, in the past, to the second part when describing our organisations.
It is important to separate a “vision” from a “mission”. If we return to Cobuild for a definition of “mission”, we read “If you have a mission, there is something that you believe you must try to achieve, as your duty.” Within these two definitions, it is clear that the vision is the “what”, if you like, and the mission is the translation of “what” into a task that you try to achieve. An example of a person with vision would be Dr. L. L. Zamanhof, who proposed Esperanto as an international language in 1887. His vision was “a language that would allow people who speak different languages to communicate, yet at the same time retain their own languages and cultural identities.” (Esperanto League of North America website.)
The vision of any company, to be truly meaningful and translated into operational reality, must be a shared vision. Senge (p.206) is specific on this point, and we can see why.
“At its simplest level, a shared vision is the answer to the question “What do we want to create?” Just as personal visions are pictures or images that people carry in their heads and hearts, so too are shared visions pictures that people throughout an organisation carry. They give a sense of commonality that permeates the organisation and gives coherence to diverse activities.” He says later “For those in leadership positions, what is most important is to remember that their visions are still personal visions. Just because they occupy a position of leadership does not mean that their personal visions are automatically the organisation’s vision.”
The majority of successful businesses are those where the vision of the company are clearly articulated to those who work for the company and where all workers have “bought into” that vision. If this is to happen in real terms, then there must be an organisational openness and willingness to learn. If a vision is transmitted top-down, there may be compliance on the part of the work force, but not real commitment. How an organisation approaches the defining of a vision, and how far that process is truly shared, tells us a great deal bout the organisational culture. Without a clearly defined and clearly articulated organisational vision, the goals and objectives of the organisation cannot themselves be made clear; thus, the structure cannot achieve the objectives. This means that the vision must be clearly laid out both at management level, and also throughout all levels of the organisation. This point is key to both this unit and subsequent units in the Module, and you will find that we refer back to this topic of vision, shared vision and organisational goals and objectives throughout this Module. It is fair to say that the entire organisation is there to serve, and service, the organisational vision. Bill O’Brien, (President and CEO, Hanover Insurance) says: “Being a visionary leader is not about giving speeches and inspiring the troops. How I spend my day is pretty much the same as how any executive spends his (or her) day. Being a visionary leader is about solving day-to-day problems with the vision in mind.”
An early example of a widely transmitted and clearly understood vision is that of the Tesco supermarket chain. When Tesco entered the business in the 60s, their philosophy as a company was unambiguously expressed in the following slogan: “Pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap.” In other words, price and availability were of greater importance than quality or customer service. In response to changing times, Tesco has had to re-state its vision of itself as a major competitor in the UK supermarket field. However, it has had quite a struggle to shrug off the “cheap and cheerful” image expressed so cogently in its original slogan.
To read more on vision and its role in marking the change processes in an organisation, read Kotter 1996, Chapter 5, which you can find in the Articles File.
Process Task Four
What would be an appropriate slogan for your workplace? What would best express the current philosophy or vision of your organisation?
What would you like the philosophy or vision of your organisation to be? (If different from above.) How could you express this in a slogan?
Strategy and Strategic Planning
If we turn again to the Cobuild Dictionary for a definition of strategy, we find the following: “a plan you adopt in order to get something done, especially in politics, economics or business”. As a very broad brush definition, this probably comes close to what many of us think strategy is. The role of strategic planning in an organisation is vital to its success. For managers to be able to contribute effectively to this process it is necessary to clearly understand what is meant by strategy, and how that translates itself into the range of activities undertaken in any organisation. However, if we look at the multiplicity of literature on the subject of strategy and strategic management, a number of different or amplified definitions appear. Bearing in mind the quote from Child we read earlier: “the objectives selected for an organisation are in principle translated into a strategy” we can begin to examine what strategy and strategic planning and management involve.
Strategy – Two Definitions
“The essence of strategy is for a firm to achieve a long-term sustainable advantage over its competitors in every business in which it participates. A firm’s strategic management has, as its ultimate objective, the development of its corporate values, managerial capabilities, organisational responsibilities, and operational decision-making, at all hierarchical levels and across all business and functional lines of authority.” (Hax , in Robson 1997, p.5)
“Strategy is the pattern of resource allocation decisions made throughout an organisation. These encapsulate both desired goals and beliefs about what are acceptable and, most critically, unacceptable means for achieving them. (Robson, 1997, p.5)
Following on from her definition, Robson says, “…it follows that it is always possible to see what an organisation’s strategy is by inspection of the whole of what it does. This inspection / deduction process of seeing a strategy is a social process of interpretation, so different groups see a different pattern.” (Wendy Robson, ibid.)
The link between vision and strategy now becomes clearer. If a vision is the “what” of an organisation, its raison d’être, its definition of its overarching objectives, then the area of strategic planning is where the translation of vision into reality begins. This is where an organisation begins the process of defining and deciding which steps to take to articulate the vision in real terms. You will read more about different approaches to organisations in this unit, particularly regarding Learning Organisations. How any organisation approaches this task of translating
vision ? strategy ? goals ? policy ? procedures
is reflective of how the organisation views itself, those who work for or within it as well as how it views its relationship with the environment as a whole.
This is where the role of strategic management appears. The role of strategic management, essentially, “encompasses the entire enterprise and looks beyond day-to-day operating concerns in order to focus on the organisation’s long-term prospects and development.” (Robson, 1997, p.6.) This is true whether you are a large multi-national, an emerging dot.com enterprise or an owner managed language school with four teachers. In the last example, strategic management may seem a rather grand title for what occupies a lot of your time. You may feel that you don’t have time for this, as you are already covering for a sick teacher/teaching your own classes/sorting out a teacher’s flat/meeting a disgruntled parent etc. However, at some level, you are considering the company as a whole and making decisions about how best to move the company forward. It is also worth bearing in mind that there may be a number of interdependent areas of strategy; these may be designated as corporate strategy for the group, in large operations. However, all these must be consistent with each other, as they are all aspects of a single whole. Again, the corporate strategy must always have the vision in mind, and ensure that the steps different departments take are in line with, and are an articulation of, the organisational vision. There is a common complaint that “this organisation has no vision” or “there is a vision and a mission statement, but it doesn’t really change anything around here.” This failure to transform the vision into reality is often because the framework surrounding the vision is incomplete, so the translation into action is fractured or not apparent.
The framework overleaf is adapted from that suggested by Torrington and Hall
(1995) and allows the vision to cascade down throughout the organisation.
• Vision: the picture of where you want the organisation to be in the future
• Mission: clarifying what the organisation is for and where it is going - of necessity general in tone.
• Strategy: implementing the overriding mission by developing a programme of initiatives to Procedures: specifying who does what, when, in what order and with what authorisation. Procedures are essentially drills which implement the policy.
• Policy: the overall mission and strategy are guided by a series of policies to channel decision and action, shaping the organisation and providing the direction that is needed
• Procedures: specifying who does what, when, in what order and with what authorisation. Procedures are essentially drills which implement the policy
• Planning: a stage which co-ordinates strategy, policy and procedures, to ensure that all three are thought through and put into operation together.
• Practice: the final element, where something actually happens. The
effectiveness of policy can only be determined by the practice that ensues.
Clearly, it’s impossible to have a procedure for everything (and a great
waste of expensive management time to try and devise procedures which cover
every eventuality). Interpretation and judgement are needed, and therefore practice
is a mixture of implemented procedures, ad hoc decisions and reactions to policy.
If an organisation is truly a Learning Organisation, then these ad hoc decisions
and reactions to policy will themselves be subsumed into discussions on policy
• Evaluation: reflecting on and evaluating the practice in order to adapt and modify the strategy and policy of an organisation is a key characteristic of a Learning Organisation, and a useful stage to build in to this framework to help towards defining and achieving the organisation’s objectives.
Reality, however, is rarely as clear cut as the list above would suggest. The boundary between stages is often blurred, and so there can be a policy which bears no relation to the mission, or practice without procedure. In this case, the management of the organisation cannot be described as strategic; strategic management serves the vision of the company.
Identification of the elements above help us to see how strategy and policy interact, and you may wish to return to this framework when we discuss the role of human resources strategy.
Models of Organisational Culture
Having examined how organisations can be patterned, formed or structured, and also having looked at how organisations define their vision, goals and objectives and how this definition translates into strategy and strategic planning, it would be tempting to think that all organisations of a similar structure should be, broadly speaking, the same. Experience of working in two organisations which have a matrix structure, for example, should very closely parallel each other. However, our own experience tells us very definitely that this is not the case, and that working for organisation A is markedly different from working for organisation B, however close their structural configurations may be. One reason for this difference in our working experience can very often be ascribed to differences in the organisational culture, which is what we will explore in this section of the Unit.
Some of you may be familiar with some of the ideas in the next section. If you have already read the work of Charles Handy, then some of this section will be familiar to you too. However, you may find it helpful to work through this section of the unit again, to refresh your memory and also to try and make explicit links between the organisational structures we have previously examined and the models of organisational culture we will now discuss.
In this section, we will look at Handy’s explorations of organisational cultures. We will see where Handy fills out the notion of organisational structure by discussing the type of culture, which grows in different structures. We will also look at how Hofstede defines organisational cultures. We will examine the tensions between organisational structure and organisational culture, and evaluate our own organisations in the light of these.
Process Task Five
Do this task before reading through the next section. This task does not require you to have prior knowledge of organisational culture as a topic.
Many companies go through a phase of restructuring, re-engineering, downsizing etc – all activities which amend or alter the structure of the organisation. However, it is extremely rare (in fact I have never come across this) for an organisation to talk about “re-culturing, or re-engineering the culture.” Why do you think this is? What would inhibit a management team from re-culturing?
While reading the following, it is worth bearing in mind that Handy also states: “...there are no wholly good cultures and no wholly bad structures. All cultures are OK, in the right place, because each culture is good for some things, and less good at others.” (C. Handy 1986, p.85)
He also points out that “...few organisations have only one (culture). They are more often a mix of all four. What makes each organisation different is the mix they choose. What makes them successful, is, often, getting the right mix at the right time.” (C. Handy, 1986,p.91.)
I have paraphrased Handy’s descriptions in the following section. A fuller description can be found in Handy (1993).
Handy’s Four Cultures
The Power or Club Culture
This structure is best pictured as a web with rays or lines of power and influence spreading out from the centre. Lines of concentric circles depicting groups of intimates or layers of influence surround the power source. The groupings in these circles are not necessarily reflective of the roles or status of individuals within the company. The organisation which matches this culture is often small and entrepreneurial in type, and depends on trust and empathy for its effectiveness and on telepathy and personal conversation for communication. This type of organisation reacts quickly to threat or danger, and tends to be proud of their differences from other organisations. A club culture is rich, exciting place to work - if you are a member of the club. If you are outside the personal relationships which characterise this organisation, or if you are unable to identify the inner and outer circles of intimates, then you could feel very isolated.
The person or people in the centre of the web is vital in this type of organisation, and they have particular skills in picking key people for posts and making quick political decisions. The central people tend to be risk-takers and encourage this behaviour in their employees, whom they judge by results rather than by the means used to achieve those results. This type of organisation can be seen as very competitive, and those individuals who thrive on risk and challenge and who do not place a high premium on security will be well suited to working in a club culture.
In my view, this type of culture is typical of a small school, particularly those which are owner-managed. But as White et al (1991, p.18) point out: “Problems can and do arise, however, when such an organisation grows beyond the size where it is possible to sustain the kind of intimate, face-to face communication which is the hallmark of such a culture in a small organisation. Similarly there can be problems of succession when a particularly charismatic central figure is replaced by one who lacks the leadership skills of the retiring Principal.”
2. The Role Culture
The role culture is often defined as bureaucratic or hierarchical, and is best pictured as a Greek temple. This type of organisation is characterised by procedures and rules. There are procedures for roles, procedures for communications, rules for settling disputes etc. In this type of organisation, memos are copied to all relevant departments, for example. The organisation rests a narrow band of senior management based on “pillars” of specialists, e.g. marketing, finance, production etc., which are extremely competent within their specialities but who do not communicate freely between departments. In this type of organisation, there is little cross-fertilisation of ideas from one section to the other. In this culture, the role is more important than the person who fills it. This is not an organisation for the free-wheeling non-conformist. Newcomers are trained to fit the role and the ethos of the company. In this organisation, you are not expected to perform above the role prescription, and indeed it could prove problematic if you did.
Role cultures operate effectively if the surrounding situation is stable. But if the situation changes, their reliance on roles and procedures makes it hard for them to respond quickly to change; rather they tend to plough on, convinced of their superiority.
Role cultures are comfortable and secure places to work for the right type of person. They are predictable, reward effort to the accepted standard and reward those who work for them. For the individual who wants power, control over their own work and methods of work, or who is uncomfortable with procedures, the role culture is a frustrating place to work.
In my experience, administration within a school can often be characterised as a role culture, and we can see why. The systems that are needed to ensure a school runs efficiently are generally clearly defined as are the responsibility of designated staff members (accounts, students services, caretaking etc.) It is easy to see where conflicts could arise in this case. Administration may require teachers to complete certain paperwork by a given date. This paperwork is essential for the smooth running of the administrative side of the school. Teachers may well dismiss the paperwork as “irrelevant”, and get on with the “real” business of the school, i.e. teaching their classes.
3. The Task Culture
This culture is job or project oriented, and is best pictured as a net. The cords of the net can be pulled in different directions depending on the particular task in hand at the moment. This culture seeks to bring together the right people at the right level in the organisation, make the resources available and let them get on with it. Influence is based more on expert knowledge than personal power, and much of the power and influence here lie in the “knots” that join the strands of the net together. However, influence in this culture is generally widely dispersed. This is very much a team culture, where the objective is to achieve the team’s goal by utilising their resources. The power of the team maximises the efficiency both of the individual and of the organisation.
This culture is extremely adaptable to change. Relying as it does on teams, new teams or project groups can be formed or dissolved in response to particular challenges. This culture is appropriate where flexibility and sensitivity to the market is important, where the market is competitive and where the speed of reaction is important.
Task cultures are challenging and exciting places to work. The individual has a high degree of control over her work, and is judged by results. Working relationships tend to be easy and relatively informal, and respect is based on ability rather than on age or job status. This type of organisation tends to review progress rather than appraise past performance. It is forward-looking rather than reflecting on its past. This type of organisation is often preferred by most managers, certainly at middle and junior levels. It is the culture most in tune with current ideologies of change and adaptation, individual freedom and low status differentials. However, in this culture it is hard for top management to retain control of projects, given the reliance on teams and team working. This is not problematic when things are going well - but if things go wrong, and top management feel the need to control, there can be conflict between management and staff. Top down control never sits well in this type of organisation, and any attempt to impose it will either change the ethos of the organisation, so it becomes more of a role or power culture, or cause a sharp drop in morale and motivation. Individuals in this organisation do not take kindly to management “steering the ship”.
This type of culture seems to be becoming more prevalent in ELT institutions, where small teams work for a limited period on a particular contract, often one requiring specialist knowledge, for example certain types of in-company teaching, or running pre-service training courses such as the RSA CELTA or DELTA programmes.
4. The Person Culture
In this culture the individual is the central point, and any structure that may exist is there only to serve the individuals within it. The image here is of stars loosely grouped in a constellation, with a ring of management subservient to the stars.
This is a very unusual culture, as most organisations tend to have goals and objectives over and above the objectives of those who work in the organisation. In this culture, the organisation has less power than the individual within it, and the organisation depends on the individual for its existence. The individual can leave the organisation, but the organisation can rarely evict the individual. Influence is shared as is expert opinion, but there is little or no power base. An example of this type of organisation is barristers’ chambers.
Individuals within this organisation are not easy to manage. There is little influence that can be brought to bear on them. As they are specialists or “knowers” in their own field, they can easily find alternative employment elsewhere - and they have the confidence and talent to do precisely that. These individuals have little respect for personality and do not respond well to coercion. This type of culture can be found, to a certain extent, in the academic world, but less often in ELT organisations, at least in my experience.
Process Task Six
In many organisations a “them” and “us” (“management” and “workers”) polarity often emerges. To what extent do you think this is
Of all the models we have considered in this unit, which ones do you think most/least lead to this kind of polarisation? In thinking about the question, refer specifically to workplaces you have experienced.
Changing Structures, Shifting Cultures
No organisation can afford to remain static. All organisations should be prepared to change in response to the changes in their external environment. It follows, therefore, that organisational structures should also be prepared to change. As any business grows and develops, different posts of responsibility will be created. In ELT organisations, these posts may call for specialist knowledge (co-ordinator of Younger Learners’ Classes, co-ordinators of in-company classes etc.) or, within an already existing role (Director of Studies), a wider range of expertise may be needed. ELT organisations may attempt to provide a “career ladder” by creating specific posts (e.g. Head of Advanced levels, Head of FCE classes) which they hope will both develop and motivate staff. The creation of such posts is in response to perceived needs from staff, and is rarely, I would argue, part of a conscious process of re-evaluating the organisational structure per se. The posts are more part of a “bolt-on” process. The advantage of this is that if the external environment changes or the business has a downturn in profits, then the posts can be “bolted off” as quickly as they were bolted on. This, of course, is not a proper substitute for a properly considered re-evaluation of your organisational structure; “… finding the right form or forms is important, because inappropriate ones can constrain rather than support the action and learning of the people in the company. Moving from one form to another is a long-cycle process, best taken carefully and with due consideration, reflection, discussion and dialogue.” Burgoyne Pedlar and Boydell (1996, p.131)
The organisational culture, in contrast, cannot be a part of this “bolt-on” process. It is, as we have examined what the organisation is – the common definition is “the way we do things around here.” Many ELT organisations in the private sector seem to move through Club culture to Role culture to Task culture, but I am not suggesting that this is a conscious process on their part. It is part of the organisational response to the environment, and the effects of the strategic management of the organisation. Partly because strategic management does not always fully recognise the existing culture (as we have discussed, culture can vary depending on your viewpoint and position in the organisation) then the process of structural change can be more painful than is strictly necessary. It is apparent, for example, that an organisation which is moving from a Club to a Role culture, due to re-structuring, is going to encounter resistance and distress from staff who are forced to change their working patterns and, in deed, view of the organisation.
If the vision of the organisation is a shared vision, and if this vision is
“owned” by all internal stakeholders, then any alterations in the
structure of an organisation stand a better chance of success. Once the goals
and objectives of the organisation are agreed on by all, and the organisation
vision is established, then a process of culture re-definition is already beginning
to take place. In the following section, we will look at approaches to organisations
which attempt to synthesise structure and culture, and whose approach to organisations
is more holistic than the previous descriptors.
Your Own Organisational Culture
Hofstede (1991) defines organisational culture as being:
• holistic - referring to a whole which is more that the sum of its parts
• historically determined - reflecting the history of the organisation
• anthropologically related - connected to, e.g., rituals and symbols
• socially constructed - created and preserved by the group of people who together form the organisation
• difficult to change - although this last aspect is open to debate.
Both Hofstede and Handy seem to agree that an organisational culture is something that an organisation has - a series of attributes and characteristics that make working for school A so very different from working for school B.
The following process task is adapted from a questionnaire described by Hofstede. As well as completing the questionnaire yourself, you may find it interesting to give the questionnaire to different staff members who work in different circumstances (e.g. admin. staff, permanent vs. temporary teachers, long-stay vs. newer teachers, Directors) as the answers can often be quite different. The interesting point about these differences, if they emerge, is how they have arisen and what can be done to resolve them.
Process Task Seven
Answer the following questions from your perspective.
About organisational symbols:
What are special terms here which only insiders understand?
Do all departments understand the in the same way?
About organisational heroes:
What kind of people are most likely to advance quickly in their career here?
Whom do you consider as particularly meaningful people for the organisation?
Do you think the organisation considers the same people as meaningful?
About organisational rituals:
In what periodic meetings do you participate?
How do people behave during these meetings?
Which events are celebrated in this organisation?
Does your organisation have any particular rituals?
About organisational values:
Which things do people very much like to see happening here?
Which is the biggest mistake one can make?
Which work problems can keep you awake at night?
When I tried these questions on staff members in my own organisation, the responses were fascinating. There was a clear divide in terms of perceptions; not only between educational and administrative staff, which one might have expected, but also mainly between temporary and permanent educational staff, which I should also have predicted, I expect. However, when I was thinking about the difference in responses, what became clear to me was that the temporary/hourly paid staff viewed the organisation mainly in operational terms, whereas the longer-serving temporary staff and the permanent educational staff took both a more strategic and an operational perspective – and were fiercely critical on both fronts! This led me to think about how managers often justify their decisions in strategic terms, perhaps forgetting that, for many of their staff, this strategic perspective is irrelevant. Glass (1996, p. 122) says “With depressing regularity, managers try to gain acceptance for change by appealing to their people’s logic, while staff consistently interpret any change through the filter of their emotional and political anxieties.”
Culture in Company Practice
Based on this and other surveys that were conducted, Hofstede (ibid.) came up with six factors reflecting dimensions of (perceived) practices. These six dimensions were all mutually independent, i.e. they occurred in all possible combinations. As much as possible, the labels had to avoid suggesting a “good” and “bad” pole for a dimension. The terms finally arrived at are the following:
1. Process oriented ? Results oriented
2. Employee oriented ? Job oriented
3. Parochial ? Professional
4. Open system ? Closed system
5. Loose control ? Tight control
6. Normative ? Pragmatic.
Dimension 1 opposes a concern with means (process oriented) to a concern with goals (results oriented). In process-oriented structures, “people perceive themselves as avoiding risks and making only a limited effort in their jobs - every day is pretty much the same”. In the results-oriented culture, people perceive themselves as comfortable in unfamiliar situations “and put in a maximal effort; each day is felt to bring new challenges.”
Dimension 2 opposes a concern for people (employee oriented) to a concern for completing the job (job oriented). In employee-oriented cultures, people feel that their personal problems are taken into account, that the organisation takes a responsibility for employee welfare and “that important decisions tend to be taken by groups or committees.” In job-oriented units, people experience strong pressure to complete the job. They perceive the organisation as only interested in the work the employees do, and uninterested in their personal and family welfare. Important decisions tend to be made by individuals. Hofstede goes on to say “Scores on this dimension reflected the philosophy of the company’s founder(s), but also the possible scars left by past events”.
Dimension 3 opposes units where employees derive their identity largely from the organisation (parochial) to units in which people identify with their type of job (professional). Members of parochial cultures feel that the organisation’s norms cover their behaviour at home as well as on the job; they also feel that social and family background play as large a part as job competence in the company’s recruitment policy. These people also do not look far into the future - they probably assume the organisation will do this for them. Members of professional cultures, on the other hand, consider their private lives their own business, they feel the organisation hires on the basis of job competence, and they do look far into the future. Hofstede also says that the scores on the dimensions are correlated with respondents’ level of education - parochial units tend to have members with less formal education.
Dimension 4 opposes open and closed systems. In open units, members consider the organisation and its people open to newcomers and outsiders - almost anyone would fit in, and newcomers need only a couple of days to feel at home. In the closed system, the organisation and its people are felt to be closed and secretive, even to insiders; only very special people “fit in”.
Dimension 5 refers to the amount of internal structuring within the organisation. People in loose control units feel “ no-one thinks of cost, meeting times are kept only approximately, and jokes about the company and the job are frequent”. In contrast, those in tight control units describe their work environment as cost-conscious, meeting times are kept punctually and jokes about the company are rare. He also says “it appears from the data that a tight formal control system is associated, at least statistically, with strict unwritten controls in terms of stress and dignified behaviour”.
Dimension 6 deals with the popular idea of customer satisfaction. Pragmatic units are market driven; normative units see their task towards the outside world as implementing a set of unquestionable, inviolable rules. Normative units are keen on following organisational procedures (rather like a role culture) and these procedures are more important than results. In the matter of business ethics and honesty, the unit’s standards are felt to be high. In pragmatic units, there is a major emphasis on meeting customers’ needs, results are seen as more important than following correct procedures, and in matters of business ethics, a pragmatic rather than a dogmatic attitude prevails. These opposing dimensions are well illustrated in the field of ELT, particularly in the private sector, where there may be considerable procedural demands on the teacher (filling in forms, marking homework, grading and evaluating students), but where organisationally a more pragmatic attitude is dominant - sometimes to the concern and dismay of the “professional bureaucracy” involved.
Process Task Nine
Place your organisation on the following matrices, depending on where you think they fall according to Hofstede’s dimensions.
Process oriented Results oriented
Employee oriented Job oriented
Open system Closed system
Loose control Tight control
The Learning Organisation
Many current management theorists (most notably Senge and Burgoyne, Pedlar and Boydell) have moved away from the analysis of a company’s structure and culture, and onto the untapped potential that exists within any company for which we work. The emphasis is on “learning at the whole organisational level” (Burgoyne, Pedlar and Boydell, 1996, p.3) Looking at organisations from this perspective offers us an opportunity to examine the workings of an organisation in, perhaps, a less restrictive way. Revans (1998) offers the ecological formula L ? C, which holds that learning in an organisation must be equal to or greater than the rate of change in the environment. If learning within the organisation is less than the rate of change outside, then the organisation is by definition declining.
Here are two definitions of a learning company.
1.”A learning company is an organisation that facilitates the learning of all its members and consciously transforms itself and its context. “ (Burgoyne, Pedlar and Boydell, p.3)
2. “...Organisations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together.” (Senge, p.3)
Any organisation or company which aspires to become a Learning Company, has a difficult road to travel, and a number of significant change processes to embrace. One of the most vital factors that a Learning Company embraces is that of diversity, of opinion, of approach, of response, of ideas – the list is also diverse! The growing body of writing on the field of knowledge management is directly linked to organisational learning, and the creation, retention and transfer of knowledge within organisations. This approach means that many of the traditional “demarcation” lines within a company cease to have the relevance or resonance they once did.
All contributions, however diverse and from whatever source, have a validity and provide an opportunity for an organisation to learn. Against this backdrop, mistakes are learning opportunities at both an individual and organisational level.
Four Disciplines for a Learning Organisation
Senge defines four dimensions, called “core disciplines” which he believes are crucial in building organisations which can truly learn. They are as follows:
systems thinking - this involves looking at a circumstance or set of circumstances as a whole rather than as a series of parts. With systems thinking, we are aware of the past causes, present realities and future possibilities of any event. This rather scientific term in fact encapsulates a more instinctive and artistic approach to circumstances. It involves how individuals “perceive themselves and their world” and “…from seeing problems as caused by someone or something ‘out there’ to seeing how our own actions create the problems we experience.” (Senge, p.13)
personal mastery - here Senge means “…continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience and of seeing reality objectively.” (Senge, p.7) There is clearly a connection between personal mastery and organisational learning, where one encourages or feeds off the other symbiotically.
However, it is worth stating that we cannot force people to develop personal mastery. An imposed programme of self-development is an oxymoron. Senge argues that only by creating a climate where the skills of personal mastery are fostered and encouraged can a manager expect her staff to see its value.
mental models - here he refers to our assumptions, generalisations and maps of how we view the world and how these affect our behaviour. These assumptions can be racial, gender-based or take a wider form. Schools can have a “mental model” of their market which means that they may miss marketing opportunities because of the unspoken assumption that their students don’t come from that particular “pool.”
building shared vision - meaning a shared picture of the future we wish to create. Senge argues that this will help to bind people together “around a common identity” and people will inevitably excel and learn” because they want to. The key to the success of vision is that it is shared, and becomes a set of principles and guiding practices. An example of this would be Oxfam “Fair Trade”, which has firmly articulated principles about aid to Third World countries. This shared vision should result in all organisational members being fully committed rather than simply “going along with it.”
Case Study. (While you read this Case Study, consider how the ideas expressed by Senge are or are not being applied.)
The Milton Academy is a medium-sized language school. It runs general English classes in the morning (9 - 10.30 / 10.30 - 12.00) twice a week, and evening classes ( 6.00 - 7.30 / 7.30 - 9.00) also twice a week. Its client base is mainly young adults. It has a couple of small groups in local companies, which run twice a week either in the morning block or the afternoon block. The student numbers have been dwindling over the past few years; not to a worrying level, but a slow decrease nonetheless. It has eleven teachers, two administrators, and an owner/Director. One of the teachers functions as the Director of Studies, with a reduced teaching load.
• Several new language schools have opened in the same town in the last three years.
• The Director sees the school as a local “centre for excellent teaching”.
• The teachers want a pay rise, but are pessimistic about receiving one.
• Two of the newer teachers are keen to set up an English Club.
• The majority of the other teachers are unenthusiastic about this, because it would involve them in extra work.
As the above case study shows, there are several points where the principles that Senge details are not being applied. There is no shared vision, as demonstrated in the optimism of the Director and the expressed pessimism of the teaching staff. The mental models of the Director and the staff mean that they are restricting their client base to what may be a dwindling sector of the market, and the principles of systems thinking, which could help the school to move beyond a reactive response to their current situation to looking at more creative ways of dealing with their current reality, are not being applied. The eagerness of the newer teachers to create an English Club and perhaps diversify the schools operation is counterbalanced negatively by the reluctance of other staff to take on more work. This is also an example of dislocated “mental models” – the whole staff do not view the potential market of the school in the same way, nor do they view the school’s marketing activities from the same perspective. Many people equate salary with appreciation/recognition of good work, so if the teachers do not expect a pay rise, they may also be feeling unappreciated in other ways. Again, it is clear that the Director’s view of the school is clearly not a “vision” that is shared by all the staff, and his view of his staff may not be being adequately expressed to them. It is not uncommon for Directors to present their school and staff to the outside world as “excellent”, while consistently missing the opportunity to reassure staff of precisely this fact.
Changing organisations in a Changing Environment
Much of what Senge says, and the concept of a Learning Company itself, could be dismissed as common sense dressed up in New Age clothing. It is, one could argue, ridiculous and unnecessary to expect people to work on their own personal development and seek opportunities for learning and enhancement in their work life. People work for money, status and satisfaction, the argument could go - work is not the place where we consciously try to develop ourselves as individuals. We acquire and hone a particular set of skills which we need for our jobs and that’s as far as it goes. Anything else is the individual’s personal choice, in terms of how far they want to deal with their personal development.
Put like that, I am sure many of us would have certain sympathy for this point of view. However, I think it is necessary to go a little further. In the current climate, skills alone are not enough. Clients in business today expect a far higher level of service and quality than they did 15 years ago. In this relatively short time, ELT institutions have had to alter their attitudes to marketing, student services, student testing, in-service training, premises, facilities and a host of other issues. If the change of attitude is only operational at a cosmetic level, then this quickly becomes apparent to the client. A receptionists who answers the phone with a polite set phrase yet is unhelpful or brusque when dealing with an enquiry is more likely to lose the school a client than gain one.
Awareness of the changing needs of the market, the changing needs of work by both employers and employees and the even greater changes brought about by new technology mean that we are all in a process of change. For a company to survive and excel in this climate, it is important that it views this “change” as a challenge from which it can learn. A company or organisation that clings to its established “mental models” may well find itself, a few years down the line, to be a declining company rather than a thriving one.
This constant embracing of change means, inevitably, that we never actually “get there” -” for as we solve one problem or issue, another emerges, the seeds of which were sown by our previous solution.”(Burgoyne, Pedlar and Boydell, p.12) For a traditional company, this could lead to a constant state of “fire-fighting”, i.e. dealing with problems when they become urgent and providing a quick fix. In a learning company, by contrast, we anticipate a fresh set of concerns arising form any course of action, and we are prepared to deal with them in a holistic way.
For a further exploration of alternative views of organisational types and the role of management within those, look at the second of the two extracts by Mintzberg in the Articles File (Chapter 10). While you are reading, you can work with the Reading Task below. I have selected this chapter for further consideration as, in my mind, the Professional Bureaucracy he describes is the one which most closely parallels that of many ELT organisations.
Reading Task B
a) Can you think of “examples of measuring the outputs of professionals’ work” in order to standardise them, in ELT? (ref page 4). If you can, how objective and effective do you think these are in your organisation? Remember here that you are looking at the teachers’ outputs, not the students’.
b) Mintzberg discusses “decentralization in the Professional Bureaucracy” (Page 7). Thinking of your own organisation, how far do you agree with the points he makes in the first two paragraphs? What issues does this raise for educational managers? (I’m thinking here about issues such as observation and in-service training programmes with experienced members of staff, for example.)
c) Think about your own role, if you are an educational manager, or that of your manager, if you are currently in a teaching position. How closely does it conform to Mintzberg’s description of the roles of the professional administrator? (Ref page 10). Or, how and why does your role (or that of your manager) diverge from this?
d) Mintzberg raises “issues associated with Professional Bureaucracy” (Ref page 17). Are these issues reflected in your own organisation? As you read, try to think of:
i)specific examples of each issue
ii)other issues which might, in fact, fall into these categories, but which
you/colleagues might ascribe to other causes.
Rotating the Diagrams
In an article in the IATEFL ELT Management SIG Newsletter, (No. 12, 1993)
Charles suggests that by turning the traditional diagram of an organisation
on its side, we can change the way we view our organisation. A traditional hierarchical
model, as Burgoyne, Pedlar and Boydell describe, or as Mintzberg implies in
his descriptions of structure, can become a “Fronted Organigram”,
where teachers/producers are placed at the front and interfacing with clients.
The knowledge they gain from their position would be acknowledged and they would
be encouraged to channel this information back into the administration and management
of their school. In this configuration, teachers have more of a marketing role
to play, and teams or work groups could be set up to deal with specific client
groups and to achieve specific changes in the school’s programme. The
idea of placing teachers in a more prominent position in the design of an organisation
is a welcome one, and reflects many of the points Mintzberg makes about the
concept of a professional bureaucracy. We can see, by looking at the following
diagram, how this concept of an organisational structure can be represented.
Current thinking on organisations emphasises the desirability of a “flatter” structure, of the need to reduce or “flatten” the pyramid, to make the workers on the shop floor more responsible for their working decisions, more empowered and more autonomous. This is in part due to the increased expectations of the workforce and the desire to share information and involve workers more in decision-making, which is a feature of many companies nowadays. The influence of Deming (1986) and his emphasis on constant improvement, removal of barriers which “rob people of their right to .........pride of workmanship” and his encouragement to organisations to involve all workers in “ the transformation of the company” is crucial in this field, and you will be reading more about his working Unit 5 (Exploring Quality). Once managers began to realise that a modern workforce needed more modern methods of management, there began to be less emphasis on control from the top, and more on participative decision-making at all levels within a company. The focus on teams, high performance teams and self-directed work teams is further proof of this, as is the present explorations of “knowledge management” as being one of the major assets of any company.
However, the change in any company is often a change of a cosmetic nature rather than a “real” change. There can be re-organisation of departments, re-designing of work processes and re-drawn organigrams to reflect the changes which are occurring. In many cases, this type of surface-level change is greeted with enthusiasm which rapidly fades once staff realise
that in fact, little has changed in how the employees are treated and in the expectations the employer has of them. Peters (1995) is quoted in one of his lectures as saying: “What does a manager see when he looks at a front-line member of staff? Does he see someone who will cheat him, loaf on the job and generally do the bare minimum? Or does he see someone who could fly to the stars if we would just equip her to do that and get the hell out of her way?”
In this unit, we have looked at the differences and alignments between organisational structure and organisational culture, and also at writers who take us, to an extent, beyond conventional analyses of structure and culture and who present us with a more augmented view. Having worked with this unit, you would probably agree that in many cases it is hard to specify exactly where your own organisation falls. That is because, to a large extent, the models we have provided are very broad in scope, and as we said before, most organisations contain elements of more than one model. However, even within this restriction, the models provided should have helped you to have a clearer idea about the shape and ethos of your organisations. Many of the irritations or difficulties we face at work are because the company has grown beyond its original structure, which then starts to chafe however appropriate it was at the beginning. If you have ever tried on what was a favourite item of clothing several years after you first bought it, then this situation will be familiar to you - the item may no longer fit properly, it may be slightly out-of-date or laughably out of fashion, it may be inappropriately youthful for you and so on. However, unlike our old clothes, we often have to live with our organisation’s old structure or old mental models. This process can be trying at times. It is tempting to assert that we can “do nothing” in the organisation as it is currently structured, and the structure is the cause of all ills. I do not think this is the case.
The structure of organisations can be problematic, but change and adaptation can occur at a departmental level and even at an individual level, if we are to accept Senge’s premise. This “independent” change (independent, that is, of the company as a whole) can have a visible knock-on effect to other departments and individuals within them, over time. A change in your department’s structure and culture can become an inspiration or an irritant for others - both responses can be catalysts for change. For change to occur, however, the change in your department must be consistent, and this process may well demand great stamina as well as commitment from those involved. This type of change, to the “external world”, if you like, needs then to be reflected in your own management style. We will be examining management style in detail in the next unit.