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Managing Organisational Culture. Dr. John Whiteoak University of the Sunshine Coast Culture = Soft BUT Soft = Hard. PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE Organisational Cultures. SOURCE: Neilson et al. Harvard Business Review. 2005. Passive-Aggressive Cultures.

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managing organisational culture

Managing Organisational Culture

Dr. John Whiteoak

University of the Sunshine Coast

PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE Organisational Cultures

SOURCE: Neilson et al. Harvard Business Review. 2005.

passive aggressive cultures
Passive-Aggressive Cultures
  • 3 out of 10 people in the US report having a passive-aggressive cultures
  • Feigning sweetness between subordinates and supervisors
  • Robotic submission to leadership
  • Put in only enough effort to appear compliant
  • Lack of dissenting opinion – making waves is the ultimate sin.
  • Blaming outside sources for poor performance.
  • A vicious – highly effective grapevine
  • Bosses use intimidation
  • Very few consequences for bad behaviour
  • Environment is secretive –ripe for scandals, sexual harassment, and financial misdeeds.
What is our strategy?

Or more importantly

Why is our strategy?


Why Do Organisations Vision?

Brings people together around a common dream

Co-ordinates the work of different people

Helps everyone make decisions

Builds a foundation for business planning

Challenges the comfortable or inadequate present state

Makes incongruent behaviour more noticeable




  • Presents where we want to go.
  • Easy to read and understand.
  • Captures the desired spirit of the organisation.
  • Dynamically incomplete so people can fill in the pieces.
  • Provides a motivating force, even in hard times.
  • Is perceived as achievable.
  • Is challenging and compelling, stretching beyond what is comfortable.
elephant hunting
  • The Issues, Challenges, KRAs (The Big Stuff)
  • Environmental Scans – Conduct Research
  • Doing a SWOT is not strategy
  • No more than 6
  • About 3 strategies per issue
  • Measures and accountability developed for each strategy

The “Big Three” “Justa”s“The strategy is right. It’s just a communications problem.”“The plan is dead on—it’s just animplementation problem.” “Look, we’ve got the strategy right—we just need to fix the people bit.”

Successfully executing strategy depends to a great extent on how well the organisation is aligned with the strategy

(Darryl Krook, MD, CPEM Consulting)


Vision statements count for little if more than half the employeesdo not share the company values

SEEK Employee Satisfaction & Motivation Survey 2004


Stanford Research on Values

  • More effective companies have three qualities in common around their values: Consensus Clarity Intensity
typical organisational values
Typical Organisational Values
  • Career Resilience
  • Employment at “Will”
  • Select people for skills not attitudes and fit
  • Buy rather than make talent
  • Lean staffing
  • Periodic downsizing
  • Money is the primary motivator
    • Individual incentives
    • Pay-for-performance
  • Share holder value 1st and last
assumptions about people
Assumptions about people
  • Effort averse
  • Management and employee interests are not aligned
  • People are opportunistic – (self-interest seeking, will take advantage)
  • Mangers need to design incentive systems to overcome these differences
  • High powered incentives (money) are better than low-powered
  • People work for money and will comply with management to get it
management hot air
Management Hot Air

“All organisations routinely say that ‘people are our greatest asset’. Yet few practice what they preach, let alone truly believe it … organisations have to market membership as much as they market products and services – and perhaps more”.

(Peter Drucker, 1992)

culture is about getting good people
Culture is about Getting Good People?
  • The war for talent (The Mckinsey Quarterly, 1998)
  • Get great results with ordinary people(Hidden Value, O’Reilly & Pfeffer,1996)

“In short, hiring isthe most important aspect of businessand yet remains woefully misunderstood.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, 10.29.08,

review ofWho: The A Method for Hiring,

Geoff Smart and Randy Street


Employee retention & satisfaction:Overwhelmingly, based on thefirst-line manager!Source: Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently


“You have to treat your employees like customers.”—Herb Kelleher, complete answer, upon being asked his “secrets to success”

Source: Joe Nocera, NYT, “Parting Words of an Airline Pioneer,” on the occasion of Herb Kelleher’s retirement after 37 years at Southwest Airlines (SWA’s pilots union took out a full-page ad in USA Today thanking HK for all he had done; across the

way in Dallas American Airlines’ pilots were picketing the Annual Meeting)


Press Ganey Assoc:139,380 former patients from 225 hospitals:noneof THE top 15 factors determining Patient Satisfaction referred to patient’s health outcomeP.S.directly related to StaffInteractionP.S.directly correlated with Employee SatisfactionSource: Putting Patients First, Susan Frampton, Laura Gilpin, Patrick Charmel


“Natural selection is death. ...Without huge amounts of death, organisms do not change over time.... Death is the mother of structure. ... It took four billion years of death ... to invent the human mind ...”— The Cobra Event

The greatest dangerfor most of usis not that our aim istoo highand we miss it,but that it istoo lowand we reach it.Michelangelo


is a



No obvious ‘Crisis’

Great resources

Management “happy talk”

General low standards


Denial of bad news

Focus on narrow functional goals

Low confrontation culture

Internal measures have inappropriate performance indices

Inadequate external reporting feedback

management support
Management Support
  • True Believer: highly committed to the values and persistent
  • Believer: supports values but other priorities dominate
  • Skeptic: doubts about values being effective
  • Detractor: open, visible troublemaker, undermines values

Source: Adapted from McDonald, G. (1989). Manager attitudes to training. Asia Pacific HRM, 27(4).


Manager’s 10 point checklist self assessment

In the past month I have….

  • ….Used stories to reinforce the organisation’s values
  • ….Verbally acknowledged individual’s efforts and achievements
  • ….Written a note to someone to acknowledge special effort and achievements
  • ….Had a discussion with one of my direct reports in relation to their role, personal development and career aspirations
  • ….Provided constructive feedback to one of my direct reports on how they could improve the way they are doing things
  • ….Invested some one-on-one time with one of my direct reports to ‘chew the fat’
  • ….Invested some face time with employees at lower levels in the organisation
  • ….Invested some time in ‘tapping the pulse’ listening to people’s issues and concerns
  • ….Had a conversation concerning poor performance and how to deal with it effectively
  • ….Prompted people to collaborate and share information and experience with people in other parts of the organisation