Organizational Culture and Change Management

Organizational culture affects almost all aspects of a firm’s performance. Saleem, Shenbei, and Hanif (2020) refer to the concept as a combination of unique systems, values, norms, and assumptions underpinning a firm’s social and psychological environment. Based on its influence on employee behavior, organizational culture is linked to change management because it could influence workers to accept or reject changes. For example, changes that are inconsistent with a firm’s organizational culture are likely to experience more resistance from employees compared to those that align with acceptable norms and values shared by workers.

Consequently, cultural considerations should be integrated into a firm’s change management plans through broad consultative plans that allow all interested parties to give their views.

Due to the complexity and multi-layered nature of organizational culture, researchers have developed several theories to explain its effects on employee interactions and performance. The conflict theory is the most relevant to this discussion because it highlights the unequal power relationships that exist among employees that may influence how they adapt to change. By design, teams have different roles and responsibilities, which means that they may be working at cross-purposes to achieve each one’s goals. In this regard, the existence of varying levels of management means that conflict could arise in the workplace.

According to proponents of the conflict theory, organizational culture helps to highlight these unequal power relations and demonstrate how they could be problematic to managers who want to initiate change. Therefore, firms may experience resistance to change when one faction of workers disagrees with the views of another.

A company’s culture is an important tool for highlighting and avoiding the aforementioned conflicts because disagreements could create resistance to change. This is because it highlights central and core beliefs binding different groups of employees who work for the same organization.

Therefore, if a set of changes aligns with a company’s culture, there is a low likelihood that there would be significant resistance from employees, but if they are inconsistent with core beliefs, there is a high possibility that change initiators would experience opposition. The conflict theory draws attention to the importance of understanding inequalities that exist within an organization’s workforce as a precondition for achieving employee buy-in when implementing change. It implies that conflicts have to be minimized first as a precondition for realizing lasting change.

Stemming from the above issues, initiating a new order of things in a company is one of the most difficult tasks for managers to accomplish. This statement is highlighted by Suddaby and Foster (2017), who admit that the biggest challenge most managers face is the inability to determine whether their strategies will succeed or not.

Therefore, it is important to understand how to minimize resistance to such changes. In this context of analysis, culture could help managers understand the reasons why some employees resist change while others support it. Some employees will accept change at “face value” but sabotage it when no one is watching, while others will aggressively campaign against them and influence their colleagues into adopting their position.

Alternatively, some will sincerely embrace the change and influence others to do the same. All three groups of employees exist in one organization, and managers need to understand the role that culture plays in explaining varied interests among employees. Furthermore, through a cultural lens, they could understand what a novice change agent cannot infer by simply observing employee behavior at face value. Relative to this assertion, Stephan, Gupta, and Sharma (2016) add that managers can better understand the difficulty of realizing employee buy-in by understanding change management plans because different groups of workers react differently to change, whether positive or negative.

Therefore, organizational culture should be integrated and operationalized in a company’s change management plans because it will help managers diagnose resistance to change easily and accurately.

Overall, the above insights demonstrate that organizational culture influences the success of a company’s change management strategy. Concisely, by understanding the role of organizational culture in supporting a firm’s change management strategies, it is easier for its managers to predict the likelihood of success by estimating the level of resistance they are likely to experience after initiating the change.

Therefore, organizational culture helps executives to understand deeper organizational issues that affect change processes. In this regard, by integrating organizational culture into their change management plans, they can better understand the cross-functional implications of their decisions. In the same breadth of analysis, organizational culture would provide them with the necessary tools needed to implement effective and lasting changes in a firm.

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