When water is poured on ground, it does not stand still. Rather, it quickly spreads in cracks finding escape even with the tiniest receptacle. Similarly; organizational culture tends to take shape with even the slightest hint of receptivity (Alvesson & Sveningsson, 2015). Today in society, the main topics of concerned in the study of management are, how to best cultivate organizational culture, and the role of leadership in the cultivation. The cultures of an organization and leaderships are two closely and inherently connected concepts that go hand in hand. An organizational culture is concerned with systems that shares values, assumptions, and beliefs that govern how people behave and perform in organization. It represents the collective ethos, and the animating spirit that can lift an organization’s behavior and performance to peak. In contrast, leadership is about predicting the future and fostering follower change. Effective leadership is about winning hearts and minds and inspiring, envisioning, and motivating employees to apply their skills and talents towards the accomplishment of predefined organizational goals and objectives (Northouse, 2016). How well the two concepts relate can have considerable subsequent impacts on an organization’s productivity and performance.
The key objective of this well-researched paper is to examine how roles of leaderships can shape an organizational culture. It will be based on a case entitled ‘Leading a Virtual Organization, which reflects on a business executive by the name of Dr. Craig Marsh. The case shows his long journey of leading a virtual organization that was globally dispersed, and this challenges in fostering the constructs of employee engagement and performance management. Departing from Dr. Craig’s real-world leadership challenge based on his professional experience, I will place myself in the same situation to address various questions, as below, on how I would respond to the circumstances facing Dr. Marsh.
The case reveals how Dr. Marsh took over a business unit that consisted of about 500 people that lived all over the world and worked remotely. They were all directly customer facing, and most significantly, they were not employed directly by Marsh’s organization but had rather been contracted to the organization mostly on a part-time basis. Dr. Marsh’s organization that had been growing rapidly over the previous 4-5 years was confronting a classic consequence and challenge in the sense that the start-up culture was now requiring scalable structures and processes to foster consistent growth and service standards. Dr. Marsh established central units to monitor service quality. He also appointed a small group of divisional directors to be in charge of subunits focused on specific and differentiated customer value propositions. In doing this, Dr. Marsh was confronted with two main challenges and which could have a considerable influence on the organization’s culture.
The first challenge was about establishing the idea of performance management. Undoubtedly, one of the leading challenges when managing virtual teams is the inability of managers to physically observe members’ performance and efforts, and how to establish effective methods for going about measuring their productivity. In the case, Dr. Marsh was unable to observe the members of the virtual teams in actions. Consequently, it was difficult for him to determine where they were struggling and where they would succeed easily. Ultimately, Dr. Marsh was challenged with the inability to provide constructive performance feedback, which would then help him harness the full potential of the virtual teams. Therefore, monitoring and measuring performance remained a problem and a source of concern for Dr. Marsh leadership. What this could mean for an organization’s culture is potential pitfalls including low profit and revenue margins, poor performance, lost productivity, and unsustainability. These are influenced by lack of certain elements such as reduced knowledge sharing, cultural differences, social cohesion, team spirit, and lack of control of team members, all which result into potential mistrust.
The second challenge entailed difficulties in introducing a culture of engagement. The case reveals that the organization that Dr. Marsh was leading was a virtual and globalized one, which implied that leading virtual teams presented unique challenges as a result of a widened landscape. In actual sense, virtual teams mean that employees have cultural differences including ages, languages, educational levels, races, technological backgrounds, and attitudes and beliefs. In such a context, Dr. Marsh efforts to introduce a culture of engagement was prone to an array of challenges, in particular with cross-cultural and virtual communication. In this situation, consolidating virtual team members to work collaboratively as one team would be quite challenging.
The influence of this would be a fragmented organizational culture that exhibits low networking and focuses towards organizational goals. Employees in such an organizational culture would typically not be friends with co-employees and would exhibit low drives towards high performance. In such an environment, the virtual team members would leverage on flexibility and freedom at the expense of accomplishment of organizational goals and objectives. Ultimately, Dr. Marsh leadership would be prone to fatalities such as fragmentation, confusion, and isolation, and with poor ability to envision, motivate, and inspire employees.
Virtual teams, as earlier mentioned, present unique challenges. To overcome such challenges and unleash the creativity and potential for all members of virtual teams, a leader should adopt a blend of appropriate leadership skills and styles. Assuming I was in the real-world situation of Dr. Marsh trying to influence the organizational culture of my organization, I would adopt a combination of three leadership styles including transactional, transformational, and situational. All these styles would be ideal in the situation of managing virtual teams as there is no one-size-fit-all management style when it comes to managing a virtual team.
The first style is the transformational approach. Here, I would use different mechanisms to motivate, envision, and inspire the virtual team members by providing a caring, nurturing, and intellectual support (Rothaermel, 2015). The leadership style would be ideal for fostering knowledge sharing as well as creating engaged and committed virtual teams. Using the transformational leadership style, I would encourage collaboration and cohesion, help members build relationships and strong social ties, build trust, and foster team identity.
The second approach is the transactional leadership style. In this approach, my focus would on the execution of tasks for the achievement of goals and objectives as per defined timelines (Rothaermel, 2015). To meet this focus, I would ensure regular communication with team members, present a clear and detailed picture of team goals and objectives, define the roles and responsibilities of each member, and pursue accountability for each task assigned. Besides, I would utilize various available media as per the demand of situations, seek regular and prompt responses for any problems, suggestions, and queries, and provide continuous feedback and appreciation when required. I would strive to follow-up project milestones on a regular basis to monitor performance and adhere to procedures and timelines and regularly share project progress reports with all team members regularly.
The third approach is the situational leadership style. As a leader of virtual teams, I would use this leadership style to adapt to approaches that befit the situations at hand (Rothaermel, 2015). The style would be ideal as it would foster a high level of flexibility, adaptability, and the ability to analyze the trending situations. For example, to ensure that the virtual teams deliver assigned tasks on schedule, I would adapt command and control styles to ensure compliance. Besides, I would be sensitive to different cultures.
To change my organization’s culture, several cultural change models would be appropriate. Of these, the Schein Model, which was developed in 1980 by an American management professor by name Edgar Schein, would be most appropriated (Schein, 2010). Under the cultural change model, Schein proposed that organizational culture could be divided into three different levels namely artifacts and symbols, espoused values, and assumptions.
To begin with are espoused values. These are concerned with standards, values, and rules of conduct. Espoused values are also concerned with conscious goals, objectives, philosophies, and strategies (Schein, 2010). For a successful cultural change, the ideas of leaders and the executive management should be in line with the espoused values of the organization. The second are artifacts and symbols. These mark the surface of the organization and include visible elements such as structures, processes, corporate clothing, logos, and architecture among others (Schein, 2010). These are visible to both internal subjects such as employees and management and external subjects such as the general public. Finally, are the assumptions, which are deeply embedded in the organizational culture, and experienced as self-evident and unconscious behaviors. These are difficult to discern as they exist at a largely unconscious level (Schein, 2010). Nevertheless, they provide the key to understanding why things happen the way they happen.
In my position as virtual teams’ leader and a change agent, I would refer to the Schein Model why trying to introduce change to organizational culture. The approach I would use would be systematic where I would move from shallow to deep. By saying this, I would use a comprehensive approach starting with artifacts and symbols, then to espoused values, and finally to assumptions. I would tailor all the three levels towards the accomplishment of defined virtual teams’ tasks and objectives. For instance, I would seek engaging discussions with the virtual teams’ members through the relevant media such as teleconferencing with the goal of helping them discover the underlying backgrounds and aspects of the organization’s culture. Besides, I would seek the support of senior management to make the cultural change process as inclusive as possible.
To infuse healthy, positive and effective social change into my leadership style and organizational culture, I would use various well-thought approaches. Firstly, I would craft a strong strategy. This would be ideal for meeting the complexity and rapid change in the dynamic environment with numerous unique challenges. I would ensure that my approach exemplifies a combination of adequate investment of time and tested and up-to-date assumptions, rigor, tools for strategic thinking, and shared framework. Secondly is setting a clear mission, which would define what is to be accomplished. With a clear mission, it would be possible to remain focused on what to do, when to do it, and how to do it (Schultz, 2014). Besides, it would be easy to note what is more urgent and most achievable. Ideally, a mission that well defines priorities can lead to positive social change.
Thirdly, I would foster effective communication while building trust. These would help in directly dealing with issues thereby avoiding interpersonal tensions, low trust, and breakdowns in relationships (Schultz, 2014). Fourthly, I would strive for a stable work culture by eradicating stressful work elements. By doing so, it would be possible to foster capacity building, organizational learning, and healthy relationships that make culture flourish. Finally, I would encourage inclusion and limit biases while still addressing all other related issues. In the real sense, I would highlight the importance of inclusion and racial and gender equality (Schultz, 2014). I would adequately address serious issues pertaining to power and privilege, race, class, and gender. The outcomes would be a commitment towards embracing the social changes proposed.
Using the Schein Model to foster change to my organization’s organizational culture would entail taking an array of incremental steps to ensure success. The first step would be reaching a consensus on the current culture. Here, I would identify a set of key individuals in the organization that has a perspective of the overall organizational culture (Quinn & Robert, 2011). These would meet to generate a consensual view of the current organizational culture and propose if the change is desired. The second step would entail reaching a consensus on the desired future culture. He, the set of key individuals earlier selected would focus on describing the preferred or desired culture (Quinn & Robert, 2011). The step would involve in-depth discussions, building on understanding, using open lines of communication, and expending the appreciation of the perspectives of others.
The third step would entail determining what the changes will mean and will not mean. The set of key individuals would plot the current and preferred culture profiles while at the same time identifying the changes that should be concentrated on most (Alvesson & Sveningsson, 2015). While some cultures may be more appropriate than others, moving towards one culture should not be the basis for ignoring or abandoning another. The fourth step would be about identifying illustrative stories. It is considered that the desired organizational culture can best be communicated through stories (Alvesson & Sveningsson, 2015). As such, the change agents would be concerned with communicating the fundamental values, desired orientations, and behavioral principles through stories and other illustrative and equally useful ways.
The fifth step would be about developing a strategic action plan. After having shared an understanding of what it means and did not mean to change the organization’s culture, and having defined the values that are to be reinforced, specific sets of actions to be undertaken to foster the desired change are determined (Quinn & Robert, 2011). The final step would be developing an implementation plan. An implementation plan, at its best, would be about identifying the key ways that the culture change process would unfold as well as the aspects that deserve a major attention and energy (Alvesson & Sveningsson, 2015). Besides, the step would entail forming task forces to helping tackle each and every aspect of the desired change.
In the context of this paper, two challenges were earlier discussed. These include establishing a performance management and creating a culture of engagement. The steps that have been addressed above would influence each of the challenges in various ways.
First is the challenge of performance management. Using the Schein Model and the six-step process, addressing the challenge would be fruitful. Ideally, the steps would help in outlining the elements of the challenge and what needs to be done for improved and desired outcomes. As each of the steps is about open discussions and communication, interactive session, and appreciation of the ideas of others, a working solution can be reached by consolidating the ideas of others. The mitigation strategy would be about formulating solutions through collaborative open discussions.
Secondly is the challenge of establishing a culture of engagement. Ideally, following steps one through six in the application of the Schein Model would lead to a harsh spotlight of the aspects that hinder a culture of engagement. The six-step process would lead to exposure and analysis of intricate issues that can then be addressed adequately. With the incremental steps, a culture of engagement can ultimately become a competitive force. The mitigation strategy would be about initiating measures to highlight issues that need to be addressed.
Any leader that is serious about organizational culture change should have a change vision statement to express the harsh reality and the intentions of the change. My organizational culture change vision statement would include various key concepts. Primarily, it would include a strong message for all members of my organization to rally and support the change journey. Other key concepts would be a desired outcome and undesirable outcomes. It would be directional, clear, and future focused. I would also ensure that it is value-based, purpose-driven, and inspiring. As a virtual teams’ leader, I would ensure that the change vision statement articulates the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion.