Importance of Culture Appreciation to a Company’s Success, Essay Example

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Essay

A company’s success depends on understanding the cultural perspectives of its management and employees. When management and workers appreciate one another, they are better able to meet the other’s needs. The case study for Acme Minerals Extraction Company (Acme) serves as a good example of how important it is to understand a culture before making any assumptions.  The results at Acme’s Wichita plant were positive because the culture of the workers was properly understood.  Procedures were implemented according to the individual cultural values of the workers, and the outcomes were favorable.  Productivity and morale were elevated, and costs associated with labor and human resources were reduced. Because the same strategy was enforced at the Lubbock branchwithout considering the cultural perspectives of the workers, the results were disappointing. Just because certain strategies are successful at one company, does not guaranteetheir success at another.The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the importance of recognizing the unique culture of each company, and applying the understanding to implement strategies which are tailored to the needs of each organization.

Evidence of Culture at Acme

Culture is a shared system of beliefs, ethics, and customs bya selected portion society.  Culture serves as an important part in a group or society’s functioning and development, because provides a template for people to base their thoughts, emotions, and actions (Ancona, Kochan, Scully, Van Maanen&Westney, 2005).  Cultural values must be considered to motivate workers to the best of their abilities.Understanding the cultural perspective is vital, as this encompasses the emotional, social and mental influences on people’s behavior and how they conduct their day-to-day lives(Ancona, Kochan, Scully, Van Maanen&Westney, 2005).

Karen Jimenez was appointed head of the team-based productivity project at Acme and improved conditions at theplant in Wichita. She and the other project leader, David Keller, increased productivity and morale, and decreased operating and maintenance costs. When the same strategies were applied to the Acme plant in Lubbock, the results were poor (Beer, 2005).

Understanding a company’s top cultural elements is essential for success. Three essential cultural elements that are crucial to Acme are tradition and history, symbolism, and certainnorms and ideas.  Acme is an established mining company, which values history and tradition. Workers have been employed atAcme has employed workers for a great portion of their careers and have strong ties to the company.  They are accustomed to being managed with a firm, but compassionate hand.  The new team-based approach may have been too much change for the workers at Lubbock to absorb, especially if they were unaware of any problems within Acme.  They must understand that even though their situation was not as bad as the plant in Wichita, conditions were still not good, leaving them vulnerable to financial trouble.

The plant in Wichita could be used as a symbol, fulfilling the second culture element.  One of the reasons for Wichita’s success was that Keller was able to serve as its motivational symbol.  Keller had worked at Acme for 39 years and understood the conservative culture of the entire company. He was respected on all levels at Acme as well as in the community of Wichita. Because of this, Keller had the ability to reduce tension and mediate many problems. He was able to engage the workers in friendly competition with his “BRAINS AND BRAWN” T-shirts and weekly softball games (Beer, 2005). Labor relations improved because workers had a real appreciation for one another and genuine camaraderie was able to develop.When workers have a strong symbol, they are able to identify with the company and produce better results(Ancona, Kochan, Scully, Van Maanen&Westney, 2005).

Keller was not able to provide the same guidance for the Lubbock plant.  Unlike with Wichita, the workers in the Lubbock plant had no benevolent leaderwith whom they could identify.  However, the Wichita plant could still function as a symbol of success for the Lubbock plant and even serve as a warning of what might happen if conditions did not improve.

The behavior and norms of the workers constitute the third essential cultural element at Acme.  Jimenez should consider that there may have been a reason as to why the workers in Lubbock did not want to participate in the softball games.  Perhaps, the general population was not athletic or had other commitments.  Keller was familiar with both the plant and the community in Wichita and knew that enough workers in Wichita enjoyed softball.Jimenez must find another activity which could help to unite the workers at the Lubbock plant.Since workers seemed to be more interested in refreshments than in playing softball, a cookout or barbeque might be more successful in inspiring positive interaction.

Jimenez was able to assess the culture at the Wichita plant before implementing any new procedures.Monthly meetings were held where workers were free to express concerns, solve problems, and enjoy coffee and doughnuts.Because of the success at the Wichita plant, it was assumed that the exact same model would in Lubbock. However, this break in tradition and routine at a conservative company was scorned.  Any efforts to improve labor relations were viewed unnecessary, and attempts to promote spirit and camaraderie were seen as false. Had Jimenez been able to assess better understand the cultural perspective of the workers in Lubbock with the same freedom she enjoyed in Wichita, the results would most likely have been different.

Acme’s Culture According to The Economist

According TheEconomist (2011), there are three types of management strategies used by companies: command-control or top-down, top-down with skilled leadership, and self-governance. Traditionally, Acme operates on a top-down approach. As a conservative mining company with a rich history, workers were used to a hierarchy of labor.  However, differing cultures between the Wichita and Lubbock plants yielded different responses to the same style of management.At the Wichita plant, workers are managed using a top-down with skilled leadership method.Workers felt confident in their leaders and knew that their concerns were important to Acme. Because their needs were being met, workers at the Wichita plant were more enthusiastic about their jobs.

Initially, the goal at the Lubbock plant was to have the same positive top-down model.When resistance was encountered, conditions in the Lubbock plant quickly changed to a command-control, top-down method. Workers felt micromanaged and forced into activities.While Jimenez clearly saw that there was a problem with the morale in the Lubbock plant, others in management did notacknowledge the problem until it was too late.

Changing the Culture for Success

For Jimenez to succeed with the Lubbock plant, she will have to change her strategies. Jimenez will need to promote conceptual models of thought and action for employees to follow.  Once she is able to change their thoughts and feelings about Acme, then she will be able to change the organizational structure.

The culture of both employees and the management at the Lubbock plant will have to be assessed.  The workers at the Lubbock plant must be convinced by facts.  Promises of rewards have no impact on the workers at Lubbock, because there is no guarantee of their delivery.Though labor relation problems are apparent at the Lubbock plant, the situation is not seen as desperate enough to necessitate changes from the comfortable routine.   The workers must be informed of the financial danger their plant is facing.  A personalized meeting could be scheduled during work hours, where workers would still receive their compensation. Honesty with the workers may serve as the initial spark which they need.  Then, Jimenez can begin to make changes to the plant’s organizational structure.

Because this is a team-building project, small problem-solving groups were made.  Jimenez must explain to the workers in Lubbock that their labor relation problems are seriously hurting productivity. Workers need to understand the necessity of the mutual appreciation the “brains” and the “brawn” must have for one another.  In the Lubbock plant, some of the engineers and the operators are reluctant to work with one another (Beers, 2005).  By mixing the problem-solving groups, they would be able to get to know one another on a personal level.  Instead of forming fragmented subcultures, the mixed small groups could unite them and improve working conditions.

Conclusion

The case study at Acme shows that strategies which work well in one environment may not work well in another.   The success at the Wichita plant was due to Jimenez and Keller truly understanding the needs of the workers and making appropriate changes which would help them to succeed.  When the same procedures were applied to the Lubbock plant, the results were a failure because the culture of the Lubbock plant was differed from the culture of the Wichita plant.  Instead of being enthusiastic about the changes, workers at the Lubbock plant felt coerced and micromanaged.  If Jimenez will have to research the culture of the workers at the Lubbock plant and use their elements of tradition, need for symbolism, and comfortable norms and behaviors to change the organizational structure of the plant.  Once she is able to accomplish this, morale will have a better chance at increasing, contributing to the plant’s success.

References

(2011). Bosses think their firms are caring. Their minions disagree. The Economist.

Beer, M. (2005).The strategy that wouldn’t travel. In D. Ancona, T. Kochan, M. Scully, J. Van

Maanen& D. Westney (Eds.), Managing for the Future: Organizational Behavior and Processes (3rd ed., pp. M8-23 – M8-25). Cincinnati: South-Western College Publishing.

The cultural lens.In (2005). D. Ancona, T. Kochan, M. Scully, J. Van Maanen& D. Westney

(Eds.), Managing for the Future: Organizational Behavior and Processes (3rd ed., pp. M2-57 – M2-64). Cincinnati: South-Western College Publishing.

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