Edward Demming, the father of modern Total Quality Management put forth one of his most enduring lessons for managers is his 85–15 rule. This set out that, when things go wrong, there is roughly an 85% chance the system (including management, machinery, and rules) is at fault. Only about 15% of the time is the individual employee at fault. However, Deming observed, the typical manager spends most of his or her time wrongly blaming and punishing individuals for system failures.
The field of Organizational Behavior seeks to integrate the learning from behavioral science studies to determine the best way to understanding and managing people at work . The objective of this domain of study is to provide the people management systems and frameworks of thinking that will facilitate the kind of management envisioned by Demming – a combination of data oriented analysis and effective people management to produce desired business outcomes within the company’s cultural identity.
In order to do this it is imperative to understand the different concepts that have led to modern day organizational behavior theories, to describe the process of development of organization culture and its dynamics, to examine the impact of a diverse organizational culture and its impact on a leader’s ability to succeed.
In this article we will examine the context of these three areas in understanding how organizational behavior has evolved through the ages into its current modern format.
A review of Past and Present Organizational Behavior Concepts
In the paper “Organization Behavior in the new Organizational Era” Denise Rousseau traces the organizational behavior research reflecting the shift from “corporatist organizations to organizing”. This article takes on an interesting perspective in analyzing the theories of organizational behavior. The author examines the theories of OB in the context of the time period used to develop the theories and notes that the focus of the theories tended to change with the existing economic climate of the time. Hence one research article which examined theories of management from the 1870s to the present found that there were differing attitudes of rational though (scientific/ total quality management) to more normative theory (humanistic models). Another study which looked at smaller dimensions of time noted that the literature of the 1950’s and 60’s centers around organizational development themes while the literature of the 1980s and 1990s centers around organizational decline and inter organizational relations. The final premise of the article is to examine the changing definition of an organization itself and then look at the differing approaches to organizational behavior in the context of this new definition.
The article proposes an interesting approach to changing views of organizational behavior and management by looking at the changes in the dynamics of the way organizations are being run today and the nature of the work being conducted.
Rousseau examines the same themes governing organizational behavior described in the text – the human theory, the Total Quality approach and the contingency approach and examines the application of these concepts in modern strategies of management such as Employee Relations: Reward and Recognition programs, inequality and the shifting of reward allocations; Performance: measurement and management; Information Management; Organizational Learning and finally actually managing organizational change and individual transitions.
The Development of Organizational Culture and Its Dynamics
In his article Organizational Behavior and Development, author Michael Beer, examines the different elements that go into the development of an organization’s culture and behavior and its impact on the deliverables of the organization. He describes the different factors that drives the development of an organization’s cultural and behavior – “The organization’s environment and the choices its leaders make about strategy, the organization’s design, the people selected and promoted, and the behavior of the leaders and their top team”. He links this approach to the contingency approach to management described in the learning text. He goes on to describe the importance of having a strong culture focused on building an institution rather than on improving profits and cites cases where this has had a direct impact on the bottom line. Later on in the article, the author also describes the cyclical nature of improved performance further enhancing the establishment of an organization’s culture thus ensuring that this performance is then continued and becomes part of the organization’s legacy. He is quick to point out however, that the first step in beginning this chain is to have a planned change in organizational behavior. The remainder of the article is dedicated to an analysis of each of the different factors and their impact on the development of an organization’s culture.
In the concluding portion of the article the author examines the idea of organizational change and the different approaches used to drive changes in organizational behavior. He examines the two main approaches – the economist and the behaviorist approaches – and their differing emphasis on the drivers of employee performance and change. The article is extremely insightful in describing the different aspects of people and the perspective of senior leadership in determining not only the culture of the organization but in fulfilling their most fundamental function which is to ensure the profitability of business.
The Impact of a diverse Organizational Culture
In his article “Leader – Effectiveness a Cross Cultural Boundaries: An Organizational Culture Perspective” the author examines two key paradigms that affect the working of organizations in global markets: What role Organizational Culture plays in overcoming the obstacles created by differences in national cultures? (The importance of the socialization process), and the role of leadership in fostering, transmitting, and integrating an appropriate organizational culture that minimizes the adverse effects of national culture differences?
He begins by examining the relationship between national culture and leadership styles across the globe in the context of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. The final conclusion being that no one leadership style can be deemed to be most effective or applicable across cultures. He further quotes research which proposes that an effective leader is one who is able to adjust behavior and leadership style to ensure that produces higher motivation levels and more positive attitudes in their followers based on the cultural drivers of that particular nationality. He says that the only way to transcend these diverse individual cultures is by having a strong organizational culture that has values and norms that supersede the national values and norms.
He goes on to describe different types of organizational culture and the various factors that influence the development of a strong organizational culture. Although he cites research as showing that attempting to change organizational culture is a futile exercise he does believe that organizational culture can be influenced strongly by managers and management and over a period of time the transition results in a different organizational behavior espoused by individuals within the organization. A key element of this is engaging in active socialization of employees.
In the penultimate section of the paper the author describes a set of competencies that must have to transmit and integrate a new organizational culture. He talks here of a manager possess the ability to: manage attention – creating a vision and generating enthusiasm for this vision within the follower. The ability to manage meaning: the ability to communicate this vision to followers. Management of Trust: the way a manager is able to demonstrate reliability and consistency and finally the management of self - knowing one’s skills and demonstrating them effectively.
He concludes the article by describing a four step process to bring about a change in organizational behavior. He stresses again that this will not be a “revolutionary change’ but rather an incremental shift in values, attitudes and thus behavior which will result in greater cultural tolerance and awareness.
In examining the different aspects of organizational behavior from the history of its evolution through the dynamics that govern organizational behavior and understanding the impact of local culture on international business and management, helps create a framework for new managers to create and form their fundamental philosophy of leadership. It also helps seasoned managers to examine the prevailing culture within their organization and to examine whether the organizational behavior seen in their employees and stakeholders fits the values and beliefs enshrined in the mission and vision statement of the organization. If not, it gives them a perspective of the steps that need to be taken in order to bridge this gap. The most important theme to for managers of international business to understand is that while leadership behaviors and organizational behaviors may be molded and adapted based on the environment in which the organization finds itself, the fundamental values of good leadership and management are universal and transcend any cultural dimensions. Cultivating these values within the organization’s culture will ensure the organization’s profitability in any environmental crisis whether geographic or economic.
Beer, M. (n.d.). Organisational Behavior and Development. Retrieved from http://www.hbs.edu/research/facpubs/workingpapers/papers2/9798/98-115.pdf
Kinicki, A., & Kreitner, R. (2009). Organisational Behavior: Key Concepts, Skills and Best Practices (4th ed.). The McGraw- Hill Companies.
McLaurin, J. R. (2006). Leader Effectiveness across Cultural Boundaries: An organizational Culture Perspective. Retrieved from Journal of Organisational Culture, Communication and Conflict: http://www.sbaer.uca.edu/research/allied/2006-neworleans/organizational_culture/14.pdf
Rousseau, D. (1997). Organisational Behavior in the new Organisational Era. Annual Review of Pyschology, 48: 515 - 46.