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Visa Europe transformed into a standalone organization, requiring changes in the internal company structure and operations. The case study describes the approach taken by the executives – a change in the organizational culture. To achieve this, Visa Europe engaged personnel willing to share their aspirations and vision to create alignment with the overall strategy. However, other approaches can be used in similar cases to establish a new company culture. This paper aims to examine the Visa Europe case study, evaluate the primary issues and implications of culture change and peak performance, and provide three alternative recommendations for the organization.
In the past, Visa Europe operated as a part of Visa International, providing services such as product or marketing solutions and transaction services. In order to be listed as a private stock company and operate successfully under a new model, Visa Europe had to change its organization and culture. The main aspects that characterize the discussed problem are the impact on the strategic direction of the company and the morale of the employees since the changes would affect the core aspects of daily operations and the overall vision for Visa Europe’s development. Visa Europe would make independent decisions and be independent of Visa Inc. This is reflected in the fact that Visa Europe was established as an independent company with the rights to the intellectual property of the Visa brand.
The main elements that would affect the operations of Visa are the need to establish a back-office that would support operations, a processing center managed by Visa Europe, the need to hire 1,100 people, and redefining the existing roles within the organization. Hence, the central question of this case study is how to transform the culture of a medium-sized branch into one suitable for a large independent company. According to Kaplan, Dollar, Melian, Durme, and Wong (2016), culture is perceived as a competitive advantage by 86% of the businesses examined by Deloitte because “culture drives people’s behavior, innovation, and customer service” (para. 2). The authors argue that one can define culture as a measure of success during changes, which is applicable to the case of Visa Europe because the company used culture to transform its operations.
This section will focus on the cause and effect aspect that led to a need for establishing a new organizational culture at Visa Europe. The main issue is the fact that the existing culture could be described as follows – creative, entrepreneurial, small, highly networked organization. While all of these elements are excellent characteristics of an organization that would allow Visa Europe to grow and introduce new services to its clients to overcome the increasing competition in the market, the approach was unsustainable for a large organization. Hence, the gap between the existing culture and a need to account for the new requirements of the business existed.
In this case, the executives at Visa Europe decided to achieve peak performance within the new organization by employing a culture change. Firstly, it is necessary to analyze the background of Visa Europe to determine critical factors that have an impact on the culture change process. As stated in the case study, the industry of financial products became highly competitive, and Visa Europe had to make changes to improve its performance. The product they offered included financial services for businesses as well as marketing and product solutions. People and processes are the key elements of this change initiative of operating as a large organization. Visa Europe would have to establish a new company structure and re-establish or redefine many of the existing roles. People would be affected by the new approaches to work, decision making, and internal networking, as well as aspects such as rewards.
The relevant stakeholders, in this case, are the executives of Visa Europe since they would have to determine how to operate as an independent business. Additionally, the 400 existing employees would be the ones affected the most by the changes since 1,100 that would be hired by Visa will join the new culture instead of being part of the transformation process. Finally, the customers of Visa Europe are also stakeholders in this case since the company aimed to achieve an improvement in the service quality and additional competitive advantage with this move.
The constraints associated with the culture change and significant transformations of Visa Europe’s internal structure are connected to the desire to preserve the creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit present in a medium-size company. It is a common issue within large establishments that bureaucracy and hierarchy can obstruct the adoption of new strategies, mitigating the positive aspects of creativity. Pisano (2019) argues that this is an essential element of culture since both managers and employees recognize the impact of creativity on work engagement. However, Piscano (2019) argues that most executives associate creativity with non-hierarchical organizational structures. This is a problem for Visa since one can assume that a large financial enterprise cannot operate without clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
Key Decisions Criteria
The decision that had to be made by the company is how to transform a small and flexible organization that operates as a branch of a large international company into a standalone business. This meant that Visa Europe would be fully responsible for its operations and decisions, requiring a support system in the form of human resources, accounting, and legal departments. Key decision criteria, in this case, will be based on the implementation process used by Visa Europe during its peak performance changes, such as an ability to implement within 12 months, engagement of all employees, and freedom provided to personnel regarding participation in the change process. Additionally, the approach should be consistent with the new company strategy, retain flexibility, and improve employee morale.
As was stated in the previous sections, culture change is among the most difficult changes that a company can undergo. However, it is also essential for achieving competitive advantage and improving performance. The concept of company culture, its impact on performance, and strategies that can be used by companies to facilitate changes and support the new culture are well-researched by scholars. Hence, several alternative options, such as preserving the existing creative and flexible culture, employing a top-down approach for performance improvement, and market culture, were available for Visa Europe.
The decision made by Visa to examine the core beliefs and values of their executives and employees and build a new organization based on the alignment of the vision for their personal or professional development with business objectives is a key to successful culture change. As stated by Stoner (n.d.), the process cannot be established by merely presenting a new culture statement or by introducing training programs. One alternative that resolves this problem is firing people and hiring new personnel whose values align with the new vision. The cons of this approach are evident since Visa did not have any issues with the existing employees, and they needed to change the culture to align it with the new strategy.
Hence, alternatives proposed in this paper will be based on similar criteria as the strategy chosen by the Visa executives and will derive from the basic principles of company culture functioning. According to Kaplan et al. (2016), the concept describes the way people perform their daily tasks, as well as the motivation or reward they receive for their work. Additionally, culture is driven by the leadership and should be reflected in their behavior and the decisions they make for the organization.
The first alternative is to preserve the existing culture at Visa Europe and aim to engage the new employees in the creative and highly networked environment that the company has. Using the decision criteria, one can argue that this approach can be implemented within 12 months since the focus would be on teaching the new employees the key values of the organization. Also, the morale of the existing employees would remain at the previous level. However, the issue arises with the flexibility and alignment with the new company strategy since a more significant number of employees would require a different approach to management processes and discussing ideas. Implementing a certain plan within a 400 people organization differs from doing so in a company employing 1,500 people. Hence, this alternative is not suitable for the scenario because it is possible Visa Europe would not achieve its key target – efficient independent operations and improved competitive advantage.
The second alternative is to employ a top-down approach to transforming culture. In the case study, Visa Europe used a large group slice strategy, as defined by Stoner (2015), meaning that that representative from different company’s departments, including managers and employees, were engaged in discussion sessions. As an alternative, Visa could start facilitating change by focusing on the company’s leadership as the primary change agent. Regardless of the chosen strategy, the executives and managers would have to display the values of the new culture that focuses on performance while remaining flexible. Using the top-down strategy, Visa Europe would be able to save resources since the discussion sessions with employees would not be necessary. However, it is possible that the engagement would suffer because of this element.
The proposed alternative would ensure that the company’s employees receive a consistent and comprehensive message regarding the new culture. This approach would include appreciating and encouraging creativity and flexibility for the benefit of achieving peak performance. When compared to the strategy described in the case scenario, the top-down approach would be easier to implement, and arguably the process would take less than twelve months. Also, as stated by Stoner (2016), leaders who showcase the changes using their own example positively impact employee engagement and morale, which is another decision-making factor. Regarding the rest of the criteria, Visa Europe would be able to align the culture promoted by the executives with the new strategy for the company. However, as opposed to the original company culture strategy, this alternative does not imply free choice regarding participation since the leadership would shape the processes and structure within the organization based on their vision.
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The final alternative is to establish a market culture where the focus would be on performance and results. This aligns with the need to face competition in the financial services industry and produce better results. Unlike the approach chosen by Visa Europe, the focus of this strategy is on the external elements and not internal aspects of operations. This is more beneficial for the bottom line of Visa Europe and can be used to address the increasing competition in the financial services market (Morgan & Vorhies, 2015). In addition, this change can be implemented in the same timeframe, and the executives can use strategies to ensure support of the staff’s morale within this culture.
Based on the analysis of the problem, alternative solutions, and critical decision criteria, the choice to implement market culture should be made as an alternative to the culture change approach used by Visa Europe. This choice is based on the fact that Visa Europe had a small timeframe for implementing the changes and needed to develop a support system for the new structure. This alternative is suitable for resolving the problem because of the issues that Visa Europe faced. Examples of these difficulties are competitors obtaining contracts and overall competition in the market, and a need to align the structure with the requirements of the private organization. Hence, this company needs to focus on performance and improving its operations, which can be done by setting clear targets and ensuring that the personnel works towards achieving them.
In regards to the alignment with the strategy, the market culture would help Visa Europe transition towards private ownership and expansion. The new employees would see clear targets, which would contribute to the main goal – achieving maximum performance. Also, the new culture would not require any obligatory meetings participation since the main decisions would be made by the executives. To ensure morale and engagement, the leaders would discuss the goals with the staff members, assessing feedback and input from them.
Action and Implementation Plan
To implement the chosen alternative, Visa Europe would have to focus on company performance as the principal value. Since the focus of the market culture is on performance, setting clear goals for each department is a necessity. This is especially important considering the fact that Visa Europe would need to hire a large number of new employees that may struggle with understanding the objectives and values of the organization. Hence, the leadership should set and communicate goals such as quality improvement, enhanced cooperation with customers, the introduction of new services to emphasize the focus on the company’s results. However, the employees should not feel unnecessary pressure to meet goals. Instead, the emphasis should be on a flexible approach to problem-solving and on providing opportunities for the employees, which would align their goals with those of the company.
The first step would be to gather the primary stakeholders – Visa Europe executives and discuss the main objectives and elements of the company vision that should be achieved. This element would include the establishment of the new departments, quality of services, competitive advantage, and profitability. At this stage, the leadership would be able to establish the primary evaluation criteria for the performance. Next, communicating the new culture and ensuring the employees can adhere to the set metrics is necessary. This step can be done by organizing company gatherings and training sessions. At this stage, the executives can identify the gaps in regards to knowledge, competencies, or workforce that they can fill by hiring new personnel and reorganizing the structure of the organization.
Feedback from Visa Europe’s employees is a crucial part of this initiative. The case study mentions that some staff members were concerned or perceived the chosen strategy skeptically. The concerns may be addressed by assessing the opinions of the personnel and addressing them in a corporate meeting. This approach should also help improve morale and engagement since the staff will be reassured that the leadership considers their opinion. Another approach is discussing the objectives of performance with staff members from different levels of the company to ensure alignment of values. Additionally, Morgan and Vorhies (2015) argue that within this culture, employees are more inclined to learn new skills contributing to the development of the organization. Therefore, Visa Europe should create additional opportunities for employee training, such as workshops or help with additional education. This would also help align the professional goals of the employees with those of the organization.
The final element of this strategy is result evaluation since the executives will have to assess the performance and set targets for the future. Due to the fact that market culture is result-driven, it is vital to examine the performance of each department and discuss improvements that can be made. Another aspect that has to be considered is employees’ perception of the culture since, according to Morgan and Vorhies (2015), the personnel can often become overworked, which can negatively affect the operations. Hence, the human resources department should pay additional attention to activities that help reduce burnout and stress and adjust them based on the evaluation.
Overall, this case study presents a successful example of changing a company’s culture in a structured manner that engages all stakeholders and aligns their vision to the business-specific metrics. The scenario provides details of the issue that Visa Europe encountered – a need to change its culture to ensure peak performance after reorganization and transformation into a large independent enterprise. This paper suggests focusing on a market culture that embassies performance and setting clear targets as an alternative to the culture developed by Visa Europe’s executives.
Kaplan, M., Dollar, B., Melian, V., Durme, Y. V., & Wong, J. (2016). Shape culture drive strategy. Web.
Morgan, N. & Vorhies, D. W. (2015). The business performance outcomes of market orientation culture and behaviors. Review of Marketing Research, 15, 259-286. Web.
Pisano, G. P. (2019). The hard truth about innovative cultures. Harvard Business Review. Web.
Stoner, L. J. (n.d.). 3 approaches to culture change. Web.