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Culture Change Program


In the new arena of the airline business, customer service was seen as the critical success factor from the top management of BA.  After a series of redundancies, Marshall recognized that the employees became demoralized and lacked real appreciation of what the customer wanted.  Hence, the culture-change program was announced.

Using the metaphors theory from Marshak, the likely desired outcome of BA (image of change) was to ¡¥build and develop¡¦.  Marshall used the language of change as to ¡¥create some motivational vehicle with the employees ¡K [to raise] their morale, and in turn ¡K customer service¡¦.  Therefore, the culture-change programme was a developmental change that built on the past (build and develop morale) and leaded to better performance (improve customer service) over time.  According to Marshak, developmental change agents were often referred to as trainers, coacher, and/or developers.  To be an effective change agent, Marshall should ¡¥train and coach¡¦ the employees to ¡¥build¡¦ morale as the foundation to ¡¥develop¡¦ capabilities/competences to ¡¥improve¡¦ customer service.  

However, the language and metaphors used to describe the change process was not able to reflect the way in which it was managed.  The management of BA translated their implicit behaviours to several explicit actions.  First of all, a new corporate identity was introduced and Georgiades was appointed Human Resources Director.  Secondly, the management style was changed from bureaucracy towards a more open, visible and dynamic approach to management.  Finally, there was an emphasis to the benefits of collaborative working in order to break down trans-functional barriers. 

These actions implied that the programme was a transformational change (liberate and recreate image of change) rather than a developmental change.  A developmental change could make the organization better, for example better in customer service in the BA case, but there was no change in its foundation, roots, or essential being.  However, the case showed that there was an alteration in the state of being to become a fundamentally different kind of organization by abandoning the past.  The change was radical and extreme, for example changing its very identity, it management style and way of working.

Consequently, the culture-change programme in BA was less likely achieved the desired outcome for the following reasons.

1.      The management of BA was not sensitive that the same situation could be viewed and assessed in many different ways due to different individual assumptions and beliefs.  For example, the management might consider external focus (customer service) was crucial to the survival.  However, the employees might view internal focus more important after the redundancies.  They might feel that the relationship (and/or trust) between the management and the employees were broken and required to fix and maintain.  Thus, the change was not diagnosed for the best metaphors and images to be used.

2.      When different people in the organization shared the same underlying metaphor, there was usually agreement and focused on what to do.  However, the BA case showed that there was different interpretation of the underlying metaphors among employees (the discussion between Mike, Deborah and Gillian).  It turned out serious conflicts over what to do and how to do among employees, for example fighting over causes and cures to the problem as what the discussion appeared.  Employees were not aligned with the true nature and requirements of the change would lead to disaster for any cultural change.

3.      The employees were confused and misled for the metaphor used (build and develop) that did not match the actual intended change (liberate and recreate).  During the change process, employees would be confused psychologically and emotionally from the metaphors and images in their minds.  If employees were slow to learn the desired behaviour, they might be viewed as resisters, or cynicism as in the BA case.  This would only discourage them from accepting and adapting the change, ultimately undermined the effectiveness of desired outcome.   


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