Can managers create microcosms of culture in today’s organizations

An Accenture study in 2005, evaluated the business challenges of over 425 executives globally and identified ‘attracting and retaining skilled staff’ as the most important of their ‘top of the mind’ issues. 13 years later, the same study saw a massive paradigm shift, with ‘Digital Disruption’ becoming the top of charts. Worker enablement, radical reskilling and work flexibility were identified as the key drivers of this disruption – at further analysis. ‘Retention’ was replaced by ‘work flexibility’ that considered the talent pool to be dynamic. ‘Skill’ was replaced by ‘Reskilling’ and ‘New Skilling’, in which workers are constantly upgrading their skill sets. ‘Attracting’ talent became a by-product of ‘Worker Enablement’ which has long reaching advantages to a disruptive environment.  This drastic shift in business focus resulted in the immense focus on change management and on how managers are critical agents to this change.

For example, a study on more than 1,000 companies proves how managers play a role in creating a microcosm of the organizational culture. This study found that managers and their teams who focused on traits like commitment, trust, and inclusion, as prescribed by their organizational culture – lead them to become business performance leaders.

New-age businesses are run by teams that are self-managed communities of experts and are oriented around mission-critical roles. The infusion of such self-organizing teams requires looking beyond Henri Fayol’s traditional definitions of a manager. Infect, according to an HBR article, the role of a manager is now far from Fayol’s five functions. These changing roles can be put within a framework identified by O’Donnell and Boyle in their research on how managers influence the organizational culture to understand it in today’s dynamic business conditions. Following are the ways managers serve to instill organizational culture:

  1. By creating a climate for change:  The role of today’s managers need to be more innovative than repetitive since highly competitive environments force organizations to find compelling reasons to reform their business offerings. Only teams that can quickly refocus and organize around these newer mission-critical roles would enable the organization to quickly respond to such change and the manager needs to facilitate this.
  2. Employee engagement and empowerment: The scope of team management needs to become expansive than restrictive because only empowering workers to allow them to innovate. This, in turn, fuels the organization’s overall capability to be disruptive. The managers should also be able to challenge their team members to find solutions instead of solving problems for them. This is particularly significant because, in a disruptive environment, these problems frequently turn out to be previously non-existent. Thus, the managers need to push their people to forecast, discover and reimagine solutions that would power this disruption.
  3. Using Training, recognition, and rewards: The evolving managerial principles require managers to be more instructive than directive.  Employees need to be learning continuously to add real value to their functions.  Workers need to be transitioned through reskilling, not displaced – because the pace of disruption demands new skill sets and these skills are scarce in the labor market. The new age organizations need their managers to be mentors who coach, guide and facilitate performance. This performance orientation also needs to be reinforced through consistent rewards and recognition.
  4. Team orientation: Team management is the most important function of a manager at ‘businesses that are run by teams’. As discussed, these teams are now communities of expertise that bring in a myriad of insights and knowledge. The manager needs to be inclusive, facilitating the exchange of ideas and documenting the best possible solutions to futuristic problems as advised by these expert groups.

Managers are not only essential in driving organizational culture but also are key to business growth through disruption. A stark example in this context describes how a large industrial conglomerate company handled their internal frictions to change through their second and third line managers.  They engaged these managers to embrace the logic of an organizational transformation and they single-handedly bore the brunt of this change. During the toughest phases of this transition, these managers continuously worked to restore the team’s faith and successfully achieved the planned organizational transformation.

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Manoj Agarwal

Manoj Agarwal

Co-Founder at Xoxoday
Manoj comes with over 12 years of work experience in varied functions such as Marketing, Technology, Products and Strategy. He holds a B.Tech in Computer Science Engineer from PEC Chandigarh and an MBA from IIM Kozhikode. He has worked in senior leadership positions in diverse fields such as Education, IT and e-Commerce with companies like Yahoo, Manipal Education and Flipkart
Manoj Agarwal

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