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The Key Importance of Culture in Organizational Change

David Potter explains the key importance of organizational culture in competitive advantage, its impact on managers and how culture controls organizational expression.

Culture really does matter. How an organization does things makes the difference in the competitive world. The culture of the organization is the most significant strategic variable that executive leaders need to manage effectively.

Leading Cultural Change offers a unique blend of theory and practice in both an engaging and thought-provoking way that will enable smarter decisions and actions in relation to cultural change activities. It aims to help the reader understand the significance and importance of the socio/cultural context of organizations.

Why is this important?

The degree of change required in many organizations involves cultural transformation. There is a need for a greater understanding of cultural change work within these organizations. To appreciate the dynamics and the problems of leading cultural change in an organization, one needs to understand the cultural theory and organizational development (OD) methods drawn from the behavioural sciences. Managers operating at every level need to be able to critically reflect on the underlying assumptions regarding their ability to influence change in an organization.

Changing culture is ultimately concerned with leadership and power issues, and this book considers change management in these terms.

Why culture controls organizational expression

A dominant theme advanced by this book is the assertion that culture controls organizational expression. Thus culture is correlated with the idea of the learning organization in the sense that all change involves new learning at the level of the individual, the group and the intergroup.

We seek to understand cultural change management in detail. We simply don’t know enough about the processes of cultural change and call for more longitudinal studies that explain change in cultural and process terms. There is little doubt that organizations, when they embark on change initiatives, should consider the cultural dimension.

Leading Cultural Change aims to make a contribution to expanding the change manager’s knowledge of the cultural concept in relation to strategic organizational development.

Organizational Culture and Managers

Another aim of this book is to advance the idea that organizational culture remains the most critical aspect of the managerial experience. It is widely understood that when a change strategy is incompatible with the culture of the organization, the strategy fails.

Managers can find themselves trapped within their current market dynamics, unable to escape the clutches and influence of established cultural paradigms as they try to navigate serious strategic change. As a consequence, they need to have some kind of developed conceptual and practical framework for both understanding organizational culture and for working with its dynamic processes. Culture controls expression, and how organizational members express themselves impacts the strategic potential of the organization.

What makes Leading Cultural Change different?

Our main assertion in  Leading Cultural Change is that culture can be changed in a managed way. Many popular management books are ‘how to’ sequential and common sense approaches supported with heroic vignettes of chief executives who transformed ‘weak’ cultures into winning ‘strong’ cultures. Such populism lacks theoretical power and airbrushes over the harsh complexity and subsequent difficulties. As a result, practitioners remain largely ignorant about the concept of culture, its dynamics and how one could set about trying to describe it and then change it.

This book sets out to explain what culture is, how it forms, how one can analyse it, the difficulties associated with changing an organizational culture, and a broad review of the literature relevant to organizational cultural change.

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