• Bureaucratic Model
• Human Relations
• Human Resources
• Systems Theory
Organizational structure and culture has been viewed in four basic lenses the last 50 years or so. The first one is the Bureaucratic model which described organizational behavior in terms of functions, chain of command, and efficiency. This view prescribed that to maximize efficiency and effectiveness, companies should use job specialization.
The Human Relations model came next, and it began with the acknowledgement that there might be a human component to organizational behavior and something that leaders should take into account. This lead to the Human Resources approach, which argues that by treating employees with respect and allowing them to have a high degree of empowerment and creativity in their job duties, that efficiency and effectiveness will be maximized. Leadership theories like transformational leadership and servant leadership are couched within this paradigm.
Another perspective—systems theory—is not offered so much as a contrast to the Human Resources approach, but rather as an alternative view. Systems theory views every organization as a composition of sub-systems within sub-systems. Indeed, the organization itself is a subsystem within the system of its community and economy. The point to this approach is that leaders should be aware of how a company’s environment impacts it and how employees within various departments—the various subsystems interact with one another to learn, develop, and react to the environment. Ultimately, it is hoped that with systems theory, a company will learn to not only react to the environment, but also be proactive in anticipating environmental developments.
WORK SPECIALIZATION & STRUCTURE
• Specialization and SOP’s
• “Quality of Workmanship” & Total Quality Management
As mentioned in the previous section, job specialization was a key means for American businesses in the post-WW II era to maximize efficiency. Along with job specialization comes standard operating procedures (SOP’s) which are put in place to reduce defects in products and deficiencies in customer service quality. This emphasis on control has certainly yielded benefits, but as the rest of the world caught up with American businesses, increasing competition has shown that more is necessary to maximize the competitive edge. This is especially true given what most of us likely know about job specialization—routine and repetitive job functions can seriously undermine employee morale.
When Demming introduced his notion of Total Quality Management, his ideas were highly regarded by Japanese businesses—it was only after Japanese businesses proved to be staunch competitors that American companies began to take his ideas more seriously. One of the main attributes that Demming advocated stands in contrast to the notion of job specialization to some degree. Demming argued that to really achieve success in an organization, leaders and manages should allow employees to enjoy “quality of workmanship”. In other words, employees are not just robots on an assembly line performing minimal tasks but rather they play a key role in developing whole products and services and have the privilege of seeing their efforts form into something tangible—something done with excellence. This, Demming argued, would actually enhance productivity. In many regards, Demming’s ideas have been verified today as companies seek to give employees greater responsibilities. Furthermore, the rigid chain of command that was necessary in earlier times is less necessary today due to the incredible developments in information technology. Likewise, this notion of “quality of workmanship” does not remove SOP’s, but rather prevents SOP’s from being reductionistic. It acknowledges that some components of quality cannot be quantified and reduced to a multi-step plan. However, if a company trains an employee in big picture thinking—thereby giving them an understanding of what quality looks like—and empowers leader with greater control over their work, leaders will find that not only will employees follow the basics of the SOP’s, they will exceed that and produce even greater quality.
Covenantal behavior affirms this view of “quality of workmanship” because it affirms the individual members that are involved in the covenant. It also acknowledges that duties performed in the covenant are more than just duties—they are based upon relationships and an attempt to aspire to a greater, shared meaning. Allowing for “quality of workmanship” allows employees to have more meaning in their work, and to have greater say in how the company behaves. Assuming that the employees are properly motivated and trained, such
behaviors, along with empowerment, participatory decision-making, and “big picture” thinking, should all be encouraged.
CONTROL, EFFECTIVENESS & STRUCTURE
• Rapid access to information has changed the structure
• Emphasis on wider spans of control
• Decentralization allows for greater employee decision-making
• The popularity of self-managed and cross-functional teams
Related to this concept of specialization is control. The degree of control that management has certainly affects structure. How much control do employees have versus management? Several factors have played into the argument that employees should have more control. First of all, as mentioned earlier, rapid access to information has changed the structural requirements—organizations can be flatter and more decentralized now that information is more readily available to employees.
With better flow of information comes the ability to widen the span of control—more employees under less managers which decreases both departmental rigidity and the cost of management (since there are less managers), and increases interaction among employees as well as employee autonomy. With this decentralization comes more opportunity for employee decision-making. This is ideal especially in large companies, where employees are more in touch with customer needs as well as environmental constraints/opportunities than management. Giving them greater decision-making ability allows the company to be more reflexive and allows for better quality of service and products (“quality workmanship”).
Furthermore, self-managed and cross-functional teams are growing in popularity among companies. Self-managed teams, as mentioned previously, allow for greater autonomy and more rapid decision-making on the part of employees. Cross-functional teams encourage “big picture” thinking and help to break down the barriers among departments, along with the “me vs. them” attitude that can come with rigid departmentalization.
DEPARTMENTALIZATION AND STRUCTURE
• The Boundaryless Organization
Beyond this more general, philosophical view of how to structure an organization, there are practical issues in play. Companies structure themselves according to the following categories. First, they can departmentalize by function. For example, it would have a separate department for each function of the business process—accounting, finance, marketing, etc. Or, the company could departmentalize itself according to product, so that each product a company sells has is its own entity with its own decision-making. Departmentalization by geography is another, related way of structuring the company. Finally, a company can structure itself in terms of its various types of customers.
However, as mentioned earlier, what is becoming increasingly clear for many companies in today’s ultra-competitive environment is the need to have cross-functional units in their companies, in order to increase “big picture” thinking. Practically speaking, this could come in the form of using “matrix” structures, using cross-functional teams (whether ad hoc or permanent), or becoming a “boundaryless” organization.
This latter option is certainly the most ambitious one and it involves the use of self-managed teams, limitless spans of control in conjunction with the removal of vertical boundaries, cross-hiearchical teams, participative decision-making, and 360 degree performance evaluation (which goes nicely with the idea of mutual accountability).
CULTURES AS SHARED MEANING
• Structure and culture
• Culture as shared meaning and interaction
• Dominant culture
• Strong culture and rules
Structure and culture closely align. If leaders want a covenantal culture, then they need to structure the organization accordingly. Also, a company’s culture can go a long way to addressing structural deficiencies in terms of covenantal behavior as will be seen shortly.
Ultimately, culture is about shared meaning and interaction. Leaders can say they want a particular culture, and can make official statements to that effect, but until they have buy-in
from employees, such efforts will be limited at best. Leaders may set the tone with regards to creating a culture, but how employees respond to such efforts is also part of what the organization’s culture becomes. If leaders are thinking covenantally, they can work to create an atmosphere of teamwork and community.
Every organization has a dominant culture which pervades how people interact with one another and accomplish tasks. Ideally, in a covenantal organization, this dominant culture is based upon mutual affirmation and accountability, hesed, participative decision-making, and empowerment. Beneath this dominant culture is the potential for subcultures that might exist in various departments or groups. A dysfunctional culture can exist when these subcultures run counter to dominant culture in a subversive manner, undermining positive attributes. Leaders need to be aware of this, and can combat it via servant leadership and the encouragement of big picture thinking and empowerment. But if the dominant culture is a negative one, employees at lower levels can encourage covenantal behavior through subcultures by taking ownership and caring for one another. Sometimes, in discouraging situations where the dominant culture is lacking, this can be a positive force for change in an organization.
As mentioned above, a strong, healthy culture can supplement a successful organizational culture and can do much to encourage productivity. Covenantal behavior encourages self-sustainability, where people take ownership of organizational goals and processes and truly care for one another. When this happens, companies will find a natural momentum for achieving productivity and excellence.
This is far superior to using rules and other authority maneuvers to encourage productivity for two reasons. First, using external motivators (rules, regulations, punishments, etc.) can only provide short-term and limited force, as discussed in the lecture on motivation. Secondly, as discussed in the unit on organizational communication, rules and regulations can become so numerous in a dysfunctional culture that ultimately, they become at best stifling and at worst disregarded. Leaders do well to remember this and to focus on building a covenantal culture, ensuring that intrinsic motivation of employees is the driving force for productivity.
CREATING A POSITIVE CULTURE
• Integrity of leaders
• Build on employee strengths
• Reward more than punish
• Emphasize vitality, growth and learning (Iearning organization)
There are several ways that leaders can create a positive, covenantal culture. First and foremost is through integrity. Leaders need to back up their lofty pronouncements about teamwork and vision by their own actions. Many employees can tell stories of when leaders, through poor communication and conflict resolution skills, disregard of employees’ feelings and insights, and poor management have totally undermined any stated organizational vision or corporate purpose. These negative behaviors are called “vision killers” and when these vision killers are in play, the organization’s dominant culture will suffer.
Secondly, leaders should build on employee strengths. Covenantal building requires a sense of hesed, teamwork and mutual accountability. Learning to access and draw on employees strengths through empowerment, participative decision-making, and the practice of “quality workmanship” are great ways to do so.
Leaders should also focus more on rewarding rather than punishing. Doing so acknowledges employee contributions, which shows employees that leaders care and actually have a clue about the employees’ impact on the organization. It further speaks to the need to provide intrinsic motivators for employees—most people want to know that they are valued members of a team and have skills they can offer to help the team accomplish goals. The use of rewards, even if they are not always intrinsic ones (in fact, intrinsic rewards are good in combination with extrinsic ones so that employees know that leaders are not just trying to be cheap), can help encourage that understanding.
Finally, leaders can encourage vitality, growth, and learning. In fact, this goes a long way to encouraging a covenantal organization. First, it recognizes the value of each employee and focuses on the human desire to grow and excel. This is a type of intrinsic motivation that can keep employees focused on excellence. When leaders than focus this learning on organizational goals and help employees see how their skills and talents will fit in with the goals and objectives, “big picture” thinking will be enhanced. As an aside, these ideas in a formal sense are embodied in Senge’s concept of the learning organization.
SPIRITUALITY IN THE WORKPLACE
• Spirituality in the Workplace (SIW) and Postmodernism
• Not about advancing a particular religion
• Christianity and SIW
• Covenant and SIW
• Insincerity and SIW
A related component to a “covenantal culture” is that of Spirituality in the Workplace (SIW), wherein leaders encourage employees to find inner meaning through their work (quality of workmanship), and includes a sense of shared meaning with others (which is what a covenantal culture is all about), and mutual care and accountability. In today’s Postmodern culture, people are looking for a more spiritual approach to life, and this idea seems to fit in with this desire.
However, spirituality in the workplace is not about advancing a particular religion in the workplace. There will be problems if that is the case (some even legal), and as Christians know, true religion and faith in God cannot be coerced. If however the notion of spirituality in the workplace is more associated with the notion that people working together to achieve excellence is a good goal, and that people should find fulfillment and a sense of community from work, then these criticisms are lessened.
In fact, there are significant differences between a proclamation of Christianity and SIW. First of all, it should be noted that there are many Christian business leaders who have effectively and respectfully shared their faith with their employees and customers. This is a good thing, but the point here is to note that SIW is not directly focused on Christianity per se. In fact, as Christians, we know that true spirituality is linked to a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We know not to substitute relationships with others for the most important relationship we can have with Christ, nor do we force this on others.
Having said that, there is overlap between the two ideas. We affirm our faith in Christ as we love our coworkers, encourage them, and support them, and all of this can occur within the context of a “spiritual” workplace. Furthermore, the notion of spirituality in the workplace is very much related to the Biblical idea of covenant insofar as we are called to live covenantally with one another and recognize that our actions and decisions affect those around us. We do not live in a vacuum. Biblically, the most important thing we can do is care for others as an act of worship and devotion to God. We can’t forget that—there’s a sense of community, mutual care, and teamwork.
On a final note, it should be pointed out that an organization’s insincere attempts at caring for employees can undermine spirituality in the workplace. This goes back to the idea of integrity and “vision-killers”.
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