There are three perspectives that are instrumental in the analysis of organisational theory, viz. the modernist, symbolic interpretive, and the post-modernist perspectives. The focus of this paper is the decision by McDonalds to open a new station at Tecoma Victoria, which has been met by opposition and hostility by the limited populace (2085 residents) of this small village located in the Dandenong Ranges.
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The primary objection launched by the villagers is the threat to the ranges’ tourism industry and the anticipated pollution that shall result from having such an outlet as the various customers litter the streets and pollute the environment with such waste. On the other hand, McDonalds is pushing for the establishment at Tecoma, most likely because of the hundreds of thousands of tourists that visit the area during peak seasons.
Modernist theorists construe the environment as an external element of the organisation so that in diagrammatic expression it would resemble the figure below:
However, this external entity imposes constraints and restrictions on the performance of the organisation and requires compliance. Nevertheless, in most cases, scholars argue that what happens within an organisation carries more weight compared to what happens outside the same. This assertion might be true to some extent, but external environment to an organisation cannot be overlooked and thus failure to comply usually results in the risk of failure to survive.
Additionally, the organisation’s structure is influenced by these external pressures, which are not usually fully understood by the organisation’s leaders albeit forming a significant motivation for the organisation’s policies (Scott 2007).
Therefore, the decision by McDonald’s to open an outlet in Tecoma indicates one such reaction to environmental factors. The possible factor in question is the lack of an avid competitor in the region especially in light of the fact that during peak seasons, hundreds of tourists flock the ranges.
The three elements of modernist organisational environment include the inter-organisational network, the general environment, and the international or global environment. The inter-organisational network entails employees, suppliers, distributers, customers, and special interest groups. In the case of the Tecoma outlet decision, McDonald’s has already burnt several bridges with the local residents, who would usually form the bulk of employees and consumers.
This aspect is hazardous and unwise and some major damage control is necessary for the McDonald’s quest to materialise (Greenwood et al. 2008). In a bid to ensure better relations, it is necessary for the McDonald’s organisation to readjust its entrance strategy into the Tecoma market. Without the goodwill of the target market segment, it would be almost impossible for McDonald’s to make a successful entry into the region.
One of the possible ways it can undertake this venture is by ensuring that it regulates its pollution policy to align it with the standards established by the Tecoma residents.
Since one of the primary reasons why the Tecoma residents feel that they should not have a McDonald’s restaurant in the neighbourhood is the littering that usually accompanies the organisation’s outlet locations, one way to resolve these concerns would be for McDonald’s to go green with its packaging at Tecoma (Oltedal et al. 2004).
It is imperative that if they resolve the public outrage by assuring the residents of a green packaging policy, they should ensure that they maintain the green packaging throughout their stay at Tecoma, even and especially during peak seasons when there is high demand.
Additionally, McDonald’s has a Ronald McDonald’s charity program that it could use to assuage the irate citizens of Tecoma. Jones (2012) notes that corporate social responsibility programs can assuage the target population and the aforementioned charity program can play this part to the benefit of McDonald’s entry in Tecoma. Part of how it could use this strategy would be identifying the areas that Tecoma has weaknesses at and improving on the same.
One such way is by providing the kindergarten, which is located on the opposite of the site that McDonald’s is proposing to have its outlet constructed, with nutritional meals as well as lessons. The parents of the children who attend the kindergarten are understandably concerned that a fast food restaurant is setting up shop opposite their children’s school.
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This concern is in light of the worrying statistics regarding obesity rates in children, especially viewed against the backdrop of the very sustainable environment at Tecoma as well as the apparently organic lifestyle that the residents there enjoy, which is the primary attraction of tourists to the area.
Perhaps one way that McDonald’s could restore public trust would be to suggest to the council a proposal for having the local community establish a nutritional as well as ‘sustainability’ committee, whose primary purpose shall be oversight and coordination with the McDonald’s outlet in the area. This assertion holds because the community is clearly afraid of losing its grasp over the indigenous composition of Tecoma.
On the other hand, McDonald’s has some very healthy packages that the members of this healthy community could easily embrace and accept. Adam et al. (2000) note that giving people what they need is the backbone of any successful business venture. What is lacking is an open channel of communication between McDonald’s and the opinion setters in the community.
However, it is important to mend the relations between these two entities, as there shall be constant interactions between the two in the process of business operations in the region.
The second aspect of modernist perspective that has a bearing on McDonald’s decision to set up an outlet at Tecoma has to do with culture. The Tecoma residents manifest a native spirit that is devoid of the city influence. They are homemakers and families that enjoy the native landscape instead of suburbia, which is also the primary reason why those residing in the city enjoy visits to this peaceful and serene neighbourhood.
McDonald’s decision to set up an outlet in the neighbourhood is not utterly repulsive if closely analysed especially in light of McDonald’s history. For instance, when McDonald’s set up base in Asia for the first time, it shifted its focus to fishy foods including fish burgers because the oriental people prefer fish to meat (McDonald’s Corporation, 2008). The same is the case with the Tecoma area.
It would suit McDonalds nicely if it came up with a strategy that matched the Tecoma kind of lifestyle and one that was a reflection of the spirit of the area. As aforementioned, connecting with and meeting the clients’ tastes and preferences form the backbone of any successful business venture.
In short, it would not be beneficial to set up a shop that looks or operates in a manner that is clearly out of place (Hoffman & Ventresca 2003), as such a move would make McDonald’s a social pariah and defeat the purpose of the new establishment capturing the tourist market.
McDonald’s may argue that the tourists that visit the place would like to get a Mac burger is a place that is so far out of town, and whereas that may be true, it is also true that to create an establishment that is completely out of place is imprudent.
Eventually, the tourists’ experience of a life out of suburbia would diminish and since McDonald’s is a pacesetter, many other city establishments would soon infiltrate Tecoma in their indigenous city forms and this move would destroy the native area.
In a bid to avoid this chain of destruction, McDonald’s could come up with a genius idea of producing a unique product that is both environmentally and nutritionally sustainable while still being different from the local competitors (Hatch & Cunliffe 2012). This aspect would mean that competition is based on an equal basis and locals do not feel like they are losing their modest means to a bully and/or a tycoon.
Culture also has to do with the local culture versus the organisation’s culture. McDonald’s is originally an American organisation and this aspect means that by default, its system and structure reflect the American culture. Indications of this American culture include: a) individualistic as opposed to collectivist; b) Low power distance; c) equal masculinity versus feminity d) low uncertainty avoidance, and d) short term orientation (Brown, Gudis & Moskowitz 2006).
In brief, these dimensions reflect various opposites with the Tecoma culture. For instance, judging by the reaction that was depicted by the citizens over a bid to open a new outlet in the area, Tecoma indicates that it has high uncertainty avoidance, which is opposite to the McDonald’s culture of low uncertainty avoidance and clearly is one of the conflicting points (Hatch 2007). Tecoma residents are unwilling to risk having McDonald’s as a competitor in the region.
One of the reasons that they cite is that McDonald’s expatriates profits back to the United States and this aspect would remove from the revenue making process enjoyed by the tourism industry.
One way that McDonalds could avoid this trap would be perhaps to come up with a way of ensuring corporate social responsibility in the area as aforementioned. The tourism industry is already thriving.
However, it could be better with the input of ingenious stratagem by both the locals and McDonald’s. McDonald’s has the luxury of enjoying an international presence, as some of its outlets are being located in places with similar endowments as the Tecoma area. Therefore, it could use this knowledge to build Tecoma, with the aid of the locals and thus gain trust and acceptance amongst the locals.
The rest of the cultural dimensions come into play when considering the employees of McDonald’s. As indicated in the rebuttal offered by McDonald’s to the council when it was bidding for the available space, the organisation would come in handy in providing the local residents’ children with employment opportunities.
This element is a strong point; however, it requires a cautious approach because the Tecoma society seems traditional to say the least and some matters may yet prove sensitive. One such matter would be that of employment ration of men versus women and another would be the power distance.
The Tecoma society depicts a high power distance affiliation, which means that the majority of the residents would be more comfortable with a system with leadership hierarchies and where decision making comes from the top. However, this strategy is not a sustainable plan and McDonald’s could make this point. Additionally, the reduction of power distance might yet be the solution that McDonald’s needs to become integrated into the Tecoma society.
To further explain this point, since the Tecoma society is going to need a more indigenous version of McDonald’s before it can fully accept the change, it would be better to coach the new McDonald’s on the ways of Tecoma, which means the company should use local residents to influence the society. In essence, it may turn out that the Tecoma residents feel comfortable simply because their own are working at McDonalds.
Whereas the modernist perspective is basically explaining the cause of the decision as well as opposition of McDonald’s setting up shop in Tecoma, a symbolic interpretive perspective seeks to promote an understanding of both the decision and the implications. In a bid to achieve this goal, it becomes imperative to bring out the epistemological aspect of the decision, which is basically “what is known” and the go further to explain “how it is known”.
In terms of the environment, Tecoma enjoys a lush rainforest climate with regular rains and moderate temperatures. This aspect means that the nature walk trails are a treasured feature among the residents of Tecoma and that is helpful in understanding the cause of the violent reaction of the locals. It is noteworthy that Tecoma has a resident population of 2085 citizens.
Most of these are families and they have their source of income set up in the area in its close knit structure and it is thus understandable that they would feel threatened when a major player like McDonald’s comes knocking on their doorstep and this aspect explains why they have fought McDonald’s from the beginning.
Additionally, as the council responded to the community’s petition to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court indicating that they did not have adequate means to sustain such an appeal, the local governance is not too wealthy in terms of resources.
This realisation means that Tecoma is a small town with people who know each other and who share the same values and at least the aversion to city life. It follows that from this kind of orientation, the citizens would have difficulty adjusting to the prospects of city players such as McDonald’s. They would correctly argue that besides during the peak seasons when the tourists visit the area, McDonald’s has no justification to stay on continuously.
Moreover, the fact that McDonalds is not a local organisation, meaning that the profits that are made from the sale of fast foods to tourists shall repatriate back to the home country, the United States of America, is another thorn in the flesh.
Another cause of dissatisfaction and contention, which bears most weight, is the matter of pollution, in other words, sustainability of the environment. McDonald’s throughout Australia and the world are known for their packaging and since they cannot control what the various consumers do with the wrappings of the meal, and thus they cannot guarantee 100 percent no littering.
They may state that they shall come up with a garbage collection plan to ensure that they collect any of the waste that is directly sourced from their outlet, or that they shall use paper, which is organic and thus friendly. However, none of these solutions shall remain adequate for the Tecoma residents who have until McDonald’s entry enjoyed a clean and litter free environment.
It follows that the possible solution that McDonald’s can offer does not lie in the garbage plan, but in a different sector that may somehow cover the eyes of the Tecoma residents. The question is answered in yet another problem and that is the nutritional hazard that is posed by McDonald’s. McDonald’s is a fast food restaurant and with the term ‘fast food’ these days comes the associated fear of obesity, which now is an epidemic in the United States, thanks to fast foods such as McDonald’s.
This aspect may seem like a paltry concern of the residents, but it is probably at the root of their opposition. Opposite the site where McDonalds wants to set up shop is a kindergarten school where most of the residents’ children go to school.
In a bid to settle the fears of childhood obesity, McDonald’s would do well to come up with a healthy menu to market to the children as well as nutritional lessons to offer to the schools around, perhaps as part of the corporate social responsibility. In every challenge there lies an opportunity and McDonald’s should perhaps focus on the opportunity and make the best out of it.
However, it is also noteworthy that this suggested solution is based on other research that has proved successful in other areas and that herein lays the risk of overgeneralisations, meaning that the researcher could be assuming (wrongly) that the other research is applicable to Tecoma.
It is also risky that the suggestions could be mistaken from personal subjective experiences based on the data collected from the media reports of the Tecoma incidents. These are the risks that are attached to the symbolic interpretative perspective and they could be at play in this particular analysis as well.
The Postmodernist Perspective
The modernist analysis of the McDonald’s decision to open a new outlet in Tecoma is based on two primary core assumptions. First is the notion that the decision was probably made by those in management without any consultation with those in lower ranks such as the various employees who would be posted to Tecoma or with the Tecoma council to avoid the backlash that the McDonald’s organisation is currently suffering from its potential stakeholders.
Secondly is the modernist idea that uncertainty is not desirable, as this is the presumption that has caused the opposition by Tecoma residents.
In a bid to deconstruct these assumptions in order to provide a critique, which would lead to a better appreciation of the decision by McDonald’s, would require a shift in thinking. For instance, instead of looking at change as an undesirable aspect, the Tecoma residents could choose to look at this notion as a thrill. The same applies to McDonald’s.
As proposed in the modernist perspective, perhaps the solution to the opposition lies in the changing of McDonald’s modus operandi, and whereas on the face of it this may seem like a risky idea, it is in fact a genius idea. To further explore the issue, the idea of suiting up McDonald’s as a local Tecoma outlet would for instance include a face lift. Contemporary McDonald’s outlets have an urban look towards them and this aspect is part of the brand identity.
It is understandable that the organisation would at first balk at the thought of having their outlet designed in an outlandish manner. However, if the organisation would like to be welcome at Tecoma, part of the price it would have to pay would be to be as the residents. This move would refer to both the physical external design as well as the structural design.
As indicated above, Tecoma is a place where people go to escape the hectic life of suburbia. It follows that each year, during peak seasons, hundreds of thousands of tourists flood Tecoma to enjoy the simple livelihoods of the residents in the place, which includes nature walks through Tecoma’s rainforests and other sightseeing activities.
McDonald’s is also interested in attracting these tourists to its outlet, which is why it targeted Tecoma in the first place. Consequently, it defeats the purpose of the context if it were to set up shop in the traditional style of all McDonald’s outlets across the world. Firstly, it would be repulsive to the tourist who just left the suburbs to find an identical McDonald’s outlet at the place where they went to seek refuge from the hustle and bustle of suburbia.
This aspect would remove from the feeling and wholesomeness of Tecoma and would eventually lead to the cropping up of other suburb stores. In no time at all, Tecoma would be just another town. However, if McDonald’s were to take a different approach and put on a traditional outfit to help it stay camouflaged in the face of the simplicity of Tecoma, the residents would not be too opposed to having it there.
The second modernist aspect of the decision is the lack of consultation with the relevant stakeholders before the formulation of the game plan. With proper consultation and preparation, McDonald’s entry into Tecoma would have been unimpeded by all the civil action that shall now be more costly to control or assuage.
The primary stakeholders being the residents of Tecoma, through the council, McDonald’s would have been in a better position if it had allowed the residents to suggest possible entry means into the market. The venue that was selected in front of the kindergarten would perhaps have been different and this aspect would have gone around the concept of nutrition with half as much resources as shall now need to be dispatched to put out the fire.
In short, it would have been better to consult with the primary stakeholders before apparently bullying in its way into Tecoma. This assertion holds for although McDonald’s have had its way after VCAT found in its favour, it still has the residents of Tecoma to contend with in the process of its operations.
In the end, these people shall have to be appeased in order for McDonald’s stay at Tecoma to be productive or fruitful. It is imprudent in any perspective to begin a business interaction by burning bridges with the locality wherein the business shall be based and it is not too late for McDonald’s to mend fences and make peace with the people of Tecoma.
This analysis has provided a modernist, symbolic interpretative, and finally a postmodernist perspective into the decision by McDonald’s to open a new outlet in Tecoma. Among the various theories that it has reviewed as relevant were the environmental and the culture theories of organisation under the modernist perspective. The modernist perspective sought to provide an explanation to the decision as well as the implications.
The symbolic interpretive perspective sought to bring an understanding that was based on a subjective analysis of the decision and finally, the postmodernist perspective gave a critique of the modernist analysis of the decision, including its solution.
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