Organizational Culture Assignment

Edwin Quiles – Organizational Culture Assignment - 1
Organizational Culture Assignment
Edwin Quiles
Azusa Pacific University
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Organizational culture, while studied in depth, still proves to be hard to define. Yet the
absence of a common definition does not take away from its importance and profound impact on
organizations. While most organizations make the commitment to change and begin the
initiative, there is a danger that arises when the culture is not addressed or taken into account.
The culture ultimately can help determine the success of the change initiative, especially since it
is the wish of change agents that a culture will embrace the change thus ensuring its success in
the future. Quinn reminds us that “organization and change are not complementary concepts”
(2006, p. 5). The Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) has been proven to be a
valuable resource in determining organizational culture. With the help of three volunteers, I was
able to grasp a perspective of the current culture in the Wraparound program at Five Acres. This
leads to important steps and understandings in order for change to be effective in Wraparound.
As stated earlier, the term culture has elicited many definitions. Cameron and Quinn
define culture as the “taken-for-granted values, underlying assumptions, expectations, and
definitions that characterize organizations and their members” (2011, p. 18). However, there are
many who do not understand the power of culture within the organization. The authors go on to
state, “Unfortunately, people are unaware of their culture until it is challenged, until they
experience a new culture, or until it is made overt and explicit…” (2011, p. 19). It is this full
understanding of the culture that will help not only inform the initiative but will also make clear
the inherent threats to the progress. Schein warns change agents, “Culture is an abstraction, yet
the forces that are created in social and organization situations that derive from culture are
powerful. If we don’t understand the operation of those forces, we become victim to them”
(2010, p. 7).
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In order to gain a perspective on the organizational culture within Wraparound, three
employees were asked to participate in the OCAI questionnaire. The employees were 2 program
coordinators, Adam (Appendix A) and Gabe (Appendix B), and a supervisor, Victor (Appendix
C). It was interesting to see that Adam and Victor’s results were very similar while Gabe’s
results showed a contrast. Adam and Victor both felt that the Now and Preferred culture for
Wraparound lay in the Clan quadrant. Gabe’s results for the Now state was primarily in the
Hierarchy quadrant; while his Preferred state was an equal combination of the Hierarchy and
Clan culture. That fact that all three preferred the Clan culture showed the importance of this
type of culture in Wraparound. Wraparound functions in a very therapeutic setting that provides
support to families. It comes as no surprise then that the employees feel that it is necessary to
have a culture that is nurturing, feels like family, has high commitment, and shows sensitivity to
customer with a high concern for people (Cameron & Quinn, 2011, p. 75). With these results, it
can now be stated that any change initiative should take into consideration the characteristics that
define the Clan culture. The authors also teach an important lesson for leaders by explaining
that, “When the leadership strengths of an individual are congruent with the dominant
organizational culture, those leaders tend to be more successful…” (2011, p. 53).
Much like the sequential steps in a recipe for food preparation, change should first follow
certain steps before being enacted. First and foremost, the change agents need to be a role model
of the change that they are trying to implement. While Quinn recognizes that the major way to
inspire and motivate change is for it to be modeled, he also underscores the importance of “the
people at the top themselves engage in the deep change process” (1996, p. 148). Kotter also
echoes these sentiments when he states, “Nothing undermines change more than behavior by
important individuals that is inconsistent with the verbal communication” (1996, p. 10). While
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this is true and significant, there must be strategically placed change agent individuals at all
levels of the organization, especially the lower levels that are willing to be the examples of
change. Especially in a culture that is determined to keep things consistently the same, it is
important to have individuals at all levels that have bought into the vision for change and willing
to implement the change in their sphere of influence. Quinn explains that deep change is more
transformational and more enduring than simply incremental change. He also makes the case
that since, “the external world can be changed by altering our internal world…one person can
make a difference” (1996, p. 217). This places the onus for change on the individuals rather than
the organization. This is why Quinn says, “The problem is not ‘out there’ but inside each one of
us.” (1996, p. 101).
It is here where Wraparound must embrace the fact that deep change is met with
resistance due to the fact that it is usually painful. However, the fear of pain must never serve as
a motivator to remain stagnant. Quinn shows that the opposite of deep change is slow death. He
states, “Slow death is the devil we know, so we prefer it to the devil we do not know.” (1996, p.
24). This is a sentiment that is felt at most organizations when faced with the unknown certainty
of change. However, while still acknowledging the fear that accompanies change, Wraparound
change agents must be aggressive in their pursuit for change. Wraparound must be able to relay
the important message that, “Change is hell. Yet not to change, to stay on the path of slow death,
is also hell” (Quinn, 1996, p. 78). It is through these gentle coaxings that Wraparound can move
towards the change they wish to see implemented.
In regards to effectively carrying out change in Wraparound, Kotter’s eight steps would
be connected to the results of the OCAI that show a desire for the program to function as a Clan
culture. The first step is establishing a sense of urgency within the department. Kotter explains,
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“A majority of employees…need to believe that considerable change is absolutely essential”
(1996, p. 48). This would mean that the employees understand that change is necessary in order
to maintain or increase the fundamental elements of the Clan culture. By showing how failure to
change would seriously threaten the Clan culture, employees would be motivated to participate
in the change initiative. What has been interesting to note has been the way that Gabe has been
leading change within the program. Gabe is a new Wraparound coordinator in a position of
leadership and is fully functioning in his role as a change agent. Kotter shows, “It is not a
coincidence that transformations often start when a new person is placed in a key role, someone
who does not have to defend his or her past actions” (1996, p. 43).
The second step is to create the guiding coalition. Kotter explains, “Only teams with the
right composition and sufficient trust among members can be highly effective under these new
circumstances” (1996, p. 55). This committed team of change agents will be able to concentrate
their efforts towards implementing change in the culture. Open and effective communication in
this step will help maintain and increase the trust necessary to move forward. Kotter also shows,
“Beyond trust, the element crucial to teamwork seems to be a common goal” (1996, p. 65).
Again, here is where the common understanding of the culture of the organization is crucial. By
operating from the same page, so to speak, the guiding coalition is able to recognize not only
strengths but potential weaknesses that they will encounter.
The third step is developing a vision and strategy. The vision for Wraparound should
provide clear direction, motivation, and alignment towards the process and goals (Kotter, 1996,
pp. 69-70). However, Kotter warns that, “developing a good vision…takes some time, it always
involves a group of people, and it is tough to do well” (1996, p. 79). While incorporating the
results of the OCAI with the creation of the vision, Cameron and Quinn add that, “the emphasis
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is on values that are best categorized in the clan quadrant” (2011, p. 60).
Going hand in hand with the third step comes the fourth, which is communicating the
change vision. There some very important elements in this step. Kotter explains the importance
of communicating new direction through behavior (1996, p. 95). It is through this “leadership by
example” where failure to connect behavior to vision can be detrimental. Not only will
repetition during this step be key, but also keeping communication open between all parties
involved. Kotter states, “Communication seems to work best when it is so direct and so simple
that it has a sort of elegance” (1996, p. 89). This is reinforced by Cameron and Quinn since they
show that a fundamental driver in the Clan culture is communication (2011, p. 53). Wraparound
leadership can benefit greatly by making sure that this step is handled with intentional care and
attention to communication.
The fifth step is empowering employees for broad-based action. Wraparound needs to be
very careful during this step since Kotter warns, “Whenever structural barriers are not removed
in a timely way, the risk is that employees will become so frustrated that they will sour on the
entire transformation effort” (1996, p. 106). Whenever talk in the program has revolved around
change, the arguments that naturally arise deal with the barriers that are currently impeding
progress. Since morale is a key element of Clan culture, making sure that barriers are removed
for empowerment and forward progress are essential to the change initiative. Change agents in
Wraparound should utilize the natural strength of teamwork in this quadrant in order to achieve
success during this step.
The sixth step is generating short-term wins. The importance of this step transcends all
quadrants of the OCAI. Short-term wins keep morale, motivation, and incentive high to keep
progressing towards completion. Another element that Kotter reveals is that, “the more cynics
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and resisters, the more important are short-term wins” (1996, p. 123). This has been apparent
within the culture in Wraparound. Due to the fact that change is usually met with resistance,
there are certain cynics within the program that are very verbal about their cynicism towards
change. It is essential for the change agents to intentionally set up short-term wins during the
process that they can then highlight as signs that the initiative is viable. These short-term wins
must then be used to strengthen the teamwork and family feel of the Clan culture.
The sixth step naturally progresses towards the seventh step; consolidating gains and
producing more change. As alluded to earlier, the short-term wins will help soften the stance of
the cynics and resisters. However, by not capitalizing on those wins and using it as a catalyst to
produce more change, Kotter shows that, “Whenever you let up before the job is done, critical
momentum can be lost and regression may follow” (1996, p. 133). Kotter recognizes that
“resistance is always waiting to reassert itself” (1996, p. 132). This is why the Wraparound
program must focus on the connection between the sixth step and the seventh step. An important
factor with the cynics in the program is the fact that many of them have been there for quite a
few years. During that time frame, the cynicism is cemented and becomes more stubborn.
While the short-term win can help deal a positive blow against resistance, failure to use it for
more change will be overpowered by the many years of cynicism that had been built upon. In
light of the Clan culture, the change agents must focus on the mentoring value in this quadrant to
work directly with the cynics and resistors.
The final step for Kotter most closely relates with organizational culture; anchoring new
approaches in the culture. This is also why it is important to recognize the culture from the
beginning before starting the eight steps. By understanding what the culture is or where it should
be, it will be that much easier to focus efforts on anchoring the new approaches into the culture
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for future success. In fact, Wraparound is dealing with this core truth currently. Wraparound
had a leader who built the program from the bottom up with the vision of Wraparound
functioning as a Clan culture. When this leader left the organization, many employees felt that
any change was a direct threat to the Clan culture that he had helped establish. This is why
Kotter rightly points out that, “The challenge will be to graft some key values onto already wellformed cultures” (1996, p. 154). This is also why Cameron and Quinn point out, “the necessity
of not abandoning some cultural emphases even though they are not the current priority” (2011,
p. 99). The change agents in Wraparound must be careful in showing that change in the program
will not eliminate what has been established but will enhance and build upon the strengths that
have served as a foundation. A natural by-product of a Clan culture that focuses on a familytype setting and relationships is loyalty. This loyalty at times can be fiercely defended. It is with
delicate hands that change is anchored into the current culture.
Cameron and Quinn provide nine steps to complement the OCAI. However, the
majority of these steps are strikingly similar to Kotter’s eight steps. The Cameron and Quinn’s
nine steps are: reach consensus on the current culture, reach consensus on the preferred future
culture, determine what the changes will and will not mean, identify stories illustrating the
desired future culture, identify a strategic action agenda, identify immediate small wins, identify
leadership implications, identify metrics, measure, and milestones to maintain accountability,
and identify a communication strategy. The one that stands out most in respect to the Clan
culture is the use of stories to illustrate the desired future culture. It is in here where the authors
relate the point that, “organizational culture is best communicated and illustrated by stories”
(2011, p. 109). This could not be closer to the truth than in the case of Wraparound.
Wraparound exists to provide support to children and families. Therefore, the success of the
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program is understood through the stories of the families that Wraparound serves. It is therefore
fitting that illustrative stories be crucial in the change initiative for Wraparound. As the authors
show, these stories will help so that the, “members can identify with the values being illustrated”
(2011, p. 109).
As evidenced by the OCAI administered to three employees in Wraparound, there is a
strong desire to have the program continue to function as a Clan culture. The steps employed by
Kotter and Cameron and Quinn help make sure that the sequence of necessary actions is
followed until the change initiative is accomplished. But more importantly, the necessity of deep
change will help ensure that the Clan culture survives the tumultuous changing environment.
Before the organizational culture can change, the change must begin with me first.
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Cameron, K.S. & Quinn, R.E. (2011). Diagnosing and changing organizational culture: Based
on the competing values framework. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.
Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading Change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press
Quinn, R. E. (1996). Deep Change. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.
Schein, E.H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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Appendix A – Adam
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Appendix B – Gabe
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Appendix C – Victor