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Role of Culture in Change Management Report


Executive Summary

Culture refers to “a people’s way of life”. In the business context, the values and norms of an organization or company form the organization’s culture. Enhanced technology together with the increase in the number of products in the global market has led to a turbulent and dynamic business environment.

For companies to remain afloat in the competitive environment, they must always be ready embrace change. Every organization in the 21st century is aware the change scenario, the only challenge lies in the manner in which the change strategy is implemented (Cameron and Quinn 2006). A company’s culture is lies in mission and vision.

This paper looks at the role of the role of organization culture in managing change. In understanding the impact of a company’s culture on change management, the “integrated cultural framework” is used as a measuring tool (Krastchmer 2005).

This takes into account the ability to influence, need to maintain the status quo, need to achieve, time and space as parameters of measurement. The paper also looks at the different organization cultures and how each of them affects change management in the organization.

The Scope of Organizational Change

The working environment in any company is faced by four types of change. These are classified under process, power, culture and functions. In the process dimension, companies are forced to adapt new working processes as they seek to align to changes brought about by technology.

Recurrent innovations are yielding new and better ways of transacting businesses, making the old models obsolete and unprofitable. For any company or industry to survive in this scenario, it must put its operation processes on top and be ready to welcome new innovations every time.

Functional change entails possible changes that can be effected from time to time in the company’s organization structure. These changes are both vertical and horizontal. Most organizations in the current business era are finding reason to shift their management styles from bureaucratic models to open and network based models.

Another model that has been in use in most organizations is the leader-follower model. The model develops an enhanced leader, follower relationship that results in a stable “internal locus of control” (Krastchmer 2005).

Power change is about sharing of power as concerns decision making in the organization. This type of change dimension revolves around the formation of dominant centers of power that direct the rest of the actors in the company. The power change has been cited as the most difficult to apply, and is often met by a lot of challenges in organizations.

Formation of team coalitions in an organization helps in achieving effective and functional workforce as opposed to having a single centre of power (Cameron and Quinn 2006). The single centre of power is often responsible for formation of rebellious forces in the organization, which aim at countering the authority.

The cultural change, which is the main part of this paper focuses on the values and norms of the people in the organization. Every organization has norms and values which are either productive or counterproductive to the organization’s set objectives. It is the duty of the leaders in the organization to weed out the unproductive norms and retain the ones that are aligned to good production. An organization can only succeed on changing the culture by ensuring total commitment to change by both the management and employees.

There are three main steps to eliminate cultural resistance in an organization. The first step is to ensure every member of the organization feels worthy to be in the organization during the period of change. When members perceive the change as being directed to the benefit of the organization, and them being part of it, they commit themselves to the change.

The second step is for the management to allow employees to take up the task of implementing the change. Employees should play the role as agents of change so that it is not perceived to be a forced idea on them from the management. The third step is to ensure respect of the leadership decision right from below.

Leadership teams often encounter problems implementing change decisions because their decisions are not respected. The final step in eliminating cultural resistance is to “practice leadership through leaning” (Krastchmer 2005).

Leadership is a learning process, every time a leader makes a decision, he or she learns lessons from the impact that the decision has on the organization. The learnt lessons should also be shared with the members of the organization to provide them a similar learning opportunity.

Change Management Approaches

There are two main approaches used in change management; they are planned and emergent approach. The planned approach is based on the assumption that what determines change can be planned for in advance. The approach also takes into account technology as an integral part of change management. In this approach, the organization managers are charged with the responsibility of directing the change process.

This approach is slowly being replaced by the emergent approach due to high failure rates in its application occasioned by the complex nature of organizations in the current era (Cameron and Quinn 2006). The approach also puts more emphasis on technology as a component of the change process at the expense of other socio-cultural factors.

The emergent approach takes into account the current behavior aspects of the organization in the change process. The approach does not vest all the responsibilities of directing change process to the senior management, all actors are encouraged to implement the change process in the organization. The approach looks at change as a continuous process in the organization thus helping the actors to understand the influence of culture on the change process.

The Effect of Culture in Managing Organizational Change

There is a concerted effort in every organization directed towards elimination of old cultural modes to more current business oriented modes. This involves a consistent “shift from cultural conformity” to a mode that is open to new ideas on ways of doing things (Cameron and Quinn 2006).

Cameron and Quinn (2006, p. 35) note that there is a record number of failures in change management at organizational level, suggesting a fresh approach to “thinking and perceiving change”. Culture affects an organizations change management in a number of ways as will be described below.

Strict Organization Management

This is a culture where the management makes decisions in a dictatorial manner without consulting the staff. This could be seen in the manner in which the management decides to sideline the views of the junior staff in making decisions concerning buying of company equipment or machines and other resources.

Without consulting the actual user of the machine for example, the management can buy wrong equipment or even obsolete ones. In some cases, the management restricts the staff to using only certain types of technology platforms, and as a result impede on the productivity of the staff. The management in such cases aims at saving on the cost of training staff on the new processes or buying sophisticated machines.

This culture tunes the mind of employees to work according to the orders without question the authority. It is difficult to effect and manage new changes in such organizations as workers are not usually part of the decisions body. Organization management needs to invest in research and development all the time to ensure they fully understand the effect of the changes effected in the organization.

The Centralization Culture

There are organizations in which core services to employees are centralized in one place. Such services could include; ICT support, staff welfare and human resource benefits. A centralized culture is quite cumbersome especially in large organizations where employees have to go through a lot of bureaucracy to get services (Schein 2010). A lot of time is wasted as one tries to go through a bureaucratic chain to get service.

For example, in a large higher learning institution with several campuses operating in a centralized mode, services such as printing, course admission and examinations department would have to be coordinated from one place. This mode of operation leads to lose of time, results and poor performance (Krastchmer 2005).

Centralization only helps in achieving uniformity in terms of the service provided by the organization. Proponents of this type of approach associate it with efficiency and low cost on facility maintenance (Cameron and Quinn 2006). The system however reduces the freedom of employees to carry out their duties, and also hampers knowledge creation in the organization.

For organizations that apply knowledge for operation like schools, it’s not just enough to look at every operation in terms of efficiency and profitability. It matters also to look at how knowledge is created and shared across the organization. Employees need to have freedom to create knowledge that helps the organization to grow its network.

Cameron and Quinn (2006, p. 52) note that some of the excellent organizations in the world have learnt to create small teams within the organization and setting them upon each other in a completion that is all geared towards the same goal. Changes in such an organization may proof difficult to effect as everything has to follow a long chain of bureaucracy causing a waste of time.

Disregarding the Views of Employee’s

In some organizations, the management does not consider the views of the employees especially on matters that regard their welfare. Before embarking on any change initiative, the management must seek to find out the effect the proposed change will have on the production of the workers.

It’s important that they consider the views of the employees before phasing out or introducing any program so as to align the changes to the needs and aspirations of the workers. By locking out the views of the workers, the management propagates the status quo, which creates resistance to the change that could be suggested by employees (Schein 2010).

Organizations need to invest in properly qualified workers whose ability and opinion they can trust. If a management team is in-charge of lowly qualified staff, they tend to make every decision without considering their “substandard” opinion. This often happens when an organization transits from small to large enterprise. It’s common for small organizations to hire employees with low qualifications, whose opinions can ignore (Alvesson and Sveningsson 2007).

Such organizations develop the culture of disregarding the opinion of the workers. Organizations are now moving to appreciating and looking at employees as an important asset of the organization, who should be consulted in every decision. Schein (2010, p. 46) points out that appreciating employees’ opinion makes them feel part of the organization and gives them a feeling of ownership.

Resistance to Change

Research indicates that employees tend to resist changes that require further learning to acquire the necessary skills (Alvesson and Sveningsson 2007). A change involving new computer software in an organization may require that the intended users attend training to acquire new relevant skills to use the software. The old generation employees are often on the forefront to reject such changes; they instead prefer processes that they are used to.

Organization Support Culture

Support to employees by organization creates a sense of emotional belonging to the organization. This is especially when a staff member is in critical situations such as; sickness or grieving the loss of a loved one.

It’s important for an organization to show support to employees who find themselves in such situations by standing with them during the period of the problem (Schein 2010). Most organizations have welfare committees that cater for the welfare of their staff by providing moral support in times of sickness of death of close ones.

Besides support during difficult moments, organizations also need to develop a support culture to members who come with innovative ideas. Members of staff are more likely to come up new ideas mostly in their fields of specialization, which can help the organization grow.

If the management fails to show support and even recognize such workers, other workers with similar ideas in future may shy away from presenting them to the organization. Members of staff can sacrifice and spend time to research and bring useful ideas to the organization, if they are assured of the organization’s support in the implementation of the idea.

Collaborative Culture

Organizations must seek to foster “a participative culture” in the organization. Organizations that fail to foster “a participative culture” often end up with employees who are always unwilling to take part in voluntary projects in an organization (Alvesson and Sveningsson 2007).

An organization may want to take part in a voluntary activity such as tree planting or a charity walk, but if the employees have not developed a participative culture, only a few may take part. This attitude affects employees’ willingness to take part in free trainings or seminars organized by the organization. Alvesson and Sveningsson (2007, p. 89) claim that in the case of learning institutions, students and teachers may refuse to take on extra lessons or even participate in extracurricular activities.

Sharing Knowledge in an Organization

Knowledge grows when it’s shared, knowledge based organizations such as schools, colleges and universities have a duty to grow a culture of knowledge creation and dissemination. University professors must make contributions in academic journals in their areas of specialization in order to attain certain qualifications.

Academic institutions peg promotions to the number of publications a professor has on his or her account in various academic journals. This attitude breeds a habit of concealing ideas from the public in order to be the first to publish just to have an edge over the rest (Schein 2010).

Organizations that organize the need of knowledge sharing organize forums that bring together both internal and external participants to share knowledge on various topics. If this is developed as a culture in an organization, more staff members can be willing to research and share information with their colleagues various issues.

In the current era, where technology has taken the centre stage in every process, the internet is becoming an important platform for knowledge sharing. Blogs and social media such as facebook and twitter are gaining popularity in providing a forum for information sharing.

Company or organization websites are also used as points of getting sharing information in between the organization and the public. This can be in form of a database containing information of employee and organization’s achievements and services offered by the organization (Schein 2010).

This besides acting as a marketing tool, it provides a cheap and easier way for organizations to communicate with the workers. Most organizations do not provide forum for employees to engage the management especially on matters affecting their welfare. This is because the fear that employees can use the forum to send attacking messages to the management or to incite other workers.

The Learning Culture

Because of the dynamic nature of the business environment today, organizations must provide their employees with opportunities to learn and expand their skills in line with the core business of the organization. Learning opportunities include; part time classes, short skills training courses, conferences and seminars that are relevant to the core business of the organization.

An organization can also develop a learning culture by providing fee subsidies or scholarships to members that are willing to pursue studies at higher levels (Alvesson and Sveningsson 2007). Through the information gained from the learning sessions, the staff members gain vital information to deal with change in the organization. Most of the current changes in business organizations require new skill sets that can only be acquired through learning.

The Mentorship Culture

Organizations should develop a mentorship and skills transfer program where senior and experienced members of staff transfer their skills and knowledge to new members. The senior members need to co-opt junior members of staff and walk them through the various operations processes of the organization.

In this regard, the junior staffs learn from the seniors through skills transfer process. Though the junior members of staff have little working experience, they may be well informed in emerging issues especially in areas of technology, which may be of great help to the organization (Cameron and Quinn 2006).

Mentorship culture also helps in maintaining the culture of the institution, by allowing senior staff members to pass on the values and norms of the company to new entrants in the organization. It also offers guidelines to the junior staffs to manage change as they transit either from college to work or one organization to another.


This paper demonstrates the extent to which organizational culture can impact on change management in an organization. Its proposition is that the changes that come along in the course of operation should be anchored on the culture of the organization. The organization management should take a participatory approach in implementing changes in the organization.

The paper also shows that cultures of strict firm control, centralization and ignoring workers’ opinion is detrimental to realizing change management in an organization. The management is responsible for the formation of cooperative teams in the organization that support change implementation. The teams should be empowered and to encourage every member in the organization feel part of the “family” in the organization.

Reference List

Alvesson, M and Sveningsson, S 2007, Changing Organizational Culture: Cultural Change Work in Progress, Routledge, New York.

Cameron, S and Quinn, E 2006, Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture: Based on Competing Values Framework, John Wiley and Sons, New York.

Krastchmer, P 2005, Organizational Culture is highly resistant to Change- Discuss, Books on Demand, Nordestedt.

Schein, H 2010, Organizational Culture and Leadership, John Willey and Sons, New York.

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