RESEARCH SUMMARY DETAIL

Cultural Artifacts and Organizational Change

Author's Title: If You Want Strategic Change, Don’t Forget to Change Your Cultural Artifacts
Author(s) Name: James M. Higgins and Craig McAllaster
Year of Publication: 2004
Search Related Keywords: Aesthetics  Corporate  Facility Management, Planning, and Design  Furnishings, Fixtures, and Equipment (FF&E)  Identity and Status  Influence of Culture/Ethnicity  Office  Organizational Management 

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Design Issue
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This position paper discussed the importance of adapting cultural artifacts (i.e., objects and behaviors that characterize an organization) to support changes in business strategy using Continental Airlines as an example.
  • While successful turnaround stories are popular in business, the means by which businesses recover from losses and how cultural artifacts (e.g., symbols, interior décor and design) contribute to this recovery is not well understood.
  • Outdated artifacts can create barriers to change if employees associate them with previous standards and behavior.
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Design Criteria
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Author Identified:
  • Facilitate strategic changes in organizational structure using positive changes in the physical environment (e.g., new equipment) as these improvements may convey new ideals and impact productivity.
  • Design buildings and interiors to support an organization’s mission statement and rituals (e.g., open meeting areas for sharing ideas).
  • Replace outdated interior décor and promote uniform materials (e.g., paint and carpeting) throughout a business.
  • Integrate visible symbols that reinforce company values throughout the physical and virtual space of an organization (e.g., corporate logo and branding).

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Key Concepts
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  • Corporations that develop new business strategies must also oversee corresponding changes in organizational structure, systems and processes, leadership styles, company resources, and shared employee values.
  • Under new management, Continental Airlines recovered from fiscal losses and improved its ranking in less than 6 months, in part by replacing artifacts associated with past performance (e.g., an 800-page employee manual, mismatched airline seats). The work environment was improved using new cultural artifacts (e.g., bonus checks to employees with high work productivity, a shorter employee manual, motivational metaphors).
  • Four types of cultural artifacts that define organizational structure include myths and sagas; language systems and metaphors; symbols, rituals and ceremonies; and physical surroundings.
  • An organization's physical surroundings are a visible manifestation of organizational culture, revealing corporate values to employees. For example, the choice to use or forgo cubicles may express a culture of efficiency or of individuality. Facilities, equipment, decoration, and building design all contribute to physical surroundings.
  • Changes to several cultural artifacts may support strategic change better than changes to a single artifact.
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Research Method
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  • The authors conducted a case study of Continental Airlines and identified strategies that enabled successful organizational changes. Analysis was based on the authors’ expertise.
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Limitations
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  • The author did not identify any limitations.
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Commentary
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The authors described additional companies that used cultural artifacts in successful business strategies.

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Adapted From
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Author(s): James M. Higgins, Ph.D., professor of Management; and Craig M. McAllaster, Ed.D., Dean and professor of Management, Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida
Article Title: If You Want Strategic Change, Don’t Forget to Change Your Cultural Artifacts
Publisher: Taylor and Francis Ltd.
Publication: Journal of Change Management
Publication Type: Refereed Journal
Date of Publication: 2004
ISSN: 1469-7017
Volume: 4
Issue: 1
Pages: 63-73