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Reflection – Manaswita Manaswita

by on November 18, 2007

Organizational culture change and communication

Few days back when I was looking for articles and journals online on the “issues faced by global IT projects”, for research paper assignment of IMT588: Project Management course, I came across an interesting article by Josep Burcet Llampayas at http://www.burcet.net/b/cultural_change.htm.

The article was written in 2002 and the article opens with the following statements, “Between 2010 and 2025 the conditions for a big cultural change will be met. This will happen as a result of the current communication revolution.” The author anticipated it right and this article can be used to make judgments and see where we are heading as far as the cultural change in organizations is concerned. As we are proceeding towards 2010, are individuals, organizations, countries getting close to the “cultural impact due to the communication revolution” that Josep Burcet has mentioned in his paper?

It’s true that development in communication and technology brought about a radical change in the way the organizations conduct their business today and in their culture as well. However, I don’t think that it would be true to give credit to only one factor i.e., communication for enforcing change. Innovation and change has always been a continuous process since the pre historic age. One reason why we, Homo sapiens are considered superior because we are blessed with finest of the brains that can invent and has the ability to implement and adapt to the changes. Some might consider creation of wheel as the most important invention of mankind and others might view electricity or internet or technology as the factors that revolutionized the world. The fact is that everything is related to each other, every invention and every change that takes place.

The change management class has definitely made me realize and understand one thing that I consider important- change is a cycle, which can either be vicious or virtuous. The point to consider is that it is a cycle- one particular change, whether it is change in structure, process, culture, means of communication, revamp in the governmental or organizational strategies or social, technology, economic or political changes- each kind of change has the ability to push change in the another domain.

Josep Burcet succinctly points out “after 2010 we may expect that humankind will need to absorb a huge amount of novelty in a very short period of time. Meanwhile, the vast majority of people may not be able to handle it.”

It’s true that there are companies, which are scared of expanding business abroad because they resist adapting to the cultural divide and the management systems overseas. Their fear is reasonable as cultural differences of the employees are the most critical topic of concern these days that most of the global managers face in a multi national organizations. The companies hire resources from across the globe, people from different ethics and religions and the net result is fusion of varied cultures in the organization. Companies hire highly skilled resources from the global market and every country has its own customs, local market and business trends, religions, rituals, work culture and norms, social and organization structures etc that its nationals have been following since a long time back and it is not reasonable to expect from them to follow and understand all the cultural differences at the very first instance. Effective communication plays an important role in the interlinked global organizations.

“Ultimately, it boils down to a few areas: cultural gaps, lack of trust in each other, failure to value each other’s skills, and the big one: We just don’t communicate effectively.” (http://www.businessweek.com/careers/content/may2007/ca20070530_521679.htm?chan=search)

Failure to understand the language adds to the issue. George Bernard Shaw said “The British and Americans are divided by a common language”. Even though America and Britain has English as their official language, the spelling, pronunciation and sometimes meanings of the phrase change. For eg., 11th June 1998 is written as 11/06/98 in UK style but becomes 06/11/98 in USA style, globalisation becomes globalization etc.

In spite of the communication and language viewed as the prominent roadblocks that catapult the cross cultural issues in the organizations, companies cross the borders to do business with each other and are pushing the change across the globe. Mergers and acquisitions are the best tool to bring about change in the organizational culture.

Differences in regional culture are the deep-seated roots that make it difficult to materialize changes in the organizational culture. “Organizational culture is similar to, say, regional culture. The same person in different organizations (or parts of the same organization) would act in different ways.” (http://www.toolpack.com/culture.html). Thus, it is a huge challenge to communicate cultural change in the organization. An article published in Business Week (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_05/b4019058.htm?chan=search), on Siemens titled “Siemens’ Cultural Clash” is about how CEO Klaus Kleinfeld’s idea to implement cultural changes in Siemens is not appreciated by his employees. His challenge is to communicate the change to his engineers in 11 business units operating as separate entities with their own corporate culture. Employees resisted change that he wanted to implement and when he opened his blog for his employees to share their views and to facilitate open communication one of the employees wrote “I used to feel good in the Siemens family. But there’s not much of that feeling left.” (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_05/b4019058.htm?chan=search).

Kleinfeld is fluent in both German and English, knows that language is the hindrance that needs to be overcome in order to put the cultural change into operation. He has made it mandatory for his employees to speak in English, which is met with resistance. Employees also find it hard to match to the high level energy of their boss because according to them gets too demanding, when it comes to meeting his goals and his believes in the culture that he wants to implement in Siemens . He said “We commit to something, and we deliver. That is the culture we want to form.” (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_05/b4019058.htm?chan=search).

The presence of a strong leader is important in an organization to make it change because cultural change is always met with resistance. It is difficult to make the people change their norms, views and believes and it takes sometimes more than three years to achieve that goal. Klienfeld is the embodiment of that strong leader for Siemens

References:
1. Burcet Llampayas, Josep. 2002. Cultural Change. http://www.burcet.net/b/cultural_change.htm. Retrieved on November, 17, 2007.
2. Toolpack Consulting. Organizational Consulting. http://www.toolpack.com/culture.html Retrieved on November, 17, 2007.
3. Siemens’ Culture Clash. 2007. Retrieved on November, 17, 2007 from Information Week. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_05/b4019058.htm?chan=search

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