HF Limited Company’s Organizational Culture and Image Report
In the course of reading Schein’s Organizational Culture and Leadership and Morgan’s Images of Organizations, I was reminded of my work experience at HF Limited. This particular organization sold affordable but high-quality furniture. I remember my work experience there with fondness because I was impressed by the business model employed by HF. They focused on a model that will deliver affordable yet superior products. I remember clearly the company’s strategy to disassemble finished products in order to ship to customers and in turn the customers were able to reassemble the same in the comfort of their home. It was a practical solution to lower freight costs. HF Limited is a foreign-based company but its overwhelming success in the country of origin enabled HF to expand overseas. This is the reason why I was able to work for this company. Although the business model used was truly impressive, another key to the company’s success was the recognition of the CEO to implement principles of the corporate culture. I believe that these principles can be linked to the works of Schein and Morgan. I will also add insights taken from other sources as I revisit my experience working at HF Limited.
I am reminded of the significance of acculturation in HF when the CEO decided to adopt the English language as the official language of communication for the entire organization. By the way, HF is a company from Finland. Thus, it was a major adjustment when the CEO made that directive. There were some issues to consider with regards to that move. First of all, there were those who argue in terms of patriotism. The Finnish language was of course a part of the national consciousness and HF, as a Finnish company must be proud of its national language. But I fully understood the rationale of the said directive. The goal of the CEO was to enhance the flow of communication at HF. The CEO realized that the company must adjust to changes in the external environment. The success of the international expansion required the contribution of different nationalities and therefore there was a need to elaborate on the fact that the lingua franca of the business world is English. Another significant step that was implemented by the CEO of HF was to develop multicultural teams to handle specific tasks and other major projects in the course of the business process.
Schein and Morgan’s Insights
An important contribution of Edgar Schein is the assertion that “A group cannot accomplish tasks, survive, and grow if it cannot manage its internal relationships… learning how to manage those internal relationships occurs at the same time that the group is accomplishing its task” (Schein, 2010, p.93). There are two important layers of insights in this statement alone. First of all, it is imperative to manage internal relationships. If a group fails in this respect, then, group dynamics may not reach the optimal point wherein all the human resources available to the team will be used in the most efficient manner.
The second level of insight corresponds to the idea that the management of internal relationships occur at the same time as the group deals with urgent issues. This assertion must be highlighted in order to appreciate the difficulty of managing a multicultural team or a team composed of people with different cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, it underscores the fact that in a real-life scenario, the CEO or the manager cannot call a timeout to halt the business process in order to deal with a problem related to internal relationships.
I can recall various instances when this phenomenon was made evident, not only with my job at HF but with other organizations that I used to work for. There were times when the leader had no idea that he had to deal with internal relationships. On other occasions, the leader was aware of the need to deal with internal relationships but the budget and schedule were so tight that he cannot afford to halt the operation.
Gareth Morgan’s statement is an important contribution to the discussion of culture. I find his thoughts with regards to social reality as an important accomplishment and it helped me appreciate the value of organizational culture. According to him “In talking about culture we are really talking about a process of reality construction that allows people to see and understand particular events, actions, objects, utterances, or situations in distinctive ways” (Morgan, 2006, p.134). One way to appreciate this statement is to see the significance of the leader when it comes to the creation of social reality for the group.
As I reviewed the statements made by Schein and Morgan I remembered significant events in my work experience at HF. I was also able to link the insights of Morgan and Schein with the works of other writers who discussed the concept of the corporate culture. I realized that the CEO must lead the way when it comes to the creation of social reality for the group. But the first thing that he had to do was to deal with cultural differences whenever it was made evident in the group (Hogan, 2007, p.81). Thus, now I understand why the CEO of HF initiated a training program. It was only through the process of education that a person’s mindset was transformed in order for it to be conformed to the social reality of the group. In the case of HF, the CEO sent expatriates to Asian factories and showrooms in order to demonstrate to the locals the essential ingredients of HF’s organizational culture.
I also realized that corporate culture at HF was the result of collective programming of the mind of the workers (Earley & Sing, 2000, p.18). This new belief system was instilled into the hearts and minds of the workers. A major part of the process was to compel the workers to understand that there were corporate ideals that they need to value in order for them to be accepted by the group. I did not realize these things until I had the chance to study the theoretical underpinnings of organizational culture.
I realized that culture is significant because it impacts behavior, morale, and productivity (Moran & Harris, 2007, p.6). The CEO must develop the appropriate strategy in order to transform a disparate group of people into one cohesive unit. In the case of HF, the CEO understood the importance of high-context and low-context cultural patterns. An example of high-context culture can be found in countries like Japan, Malaysia, and Mexico (Cheng, 2003, p.4). An example of low-context culture can be found in European countries and English speaking nations like the United States and Australia. In a high-context culture “self-effacement, face-saving and harmony are values held in high esteem” (Earley, Ang, & Tan, 2007, p.89). Thus, the messages were covert, implicit, and internalized with much nonverbal coding” (Cheng, 2003, p.4). These were important consideration that comes into play when a leader deals with internal relationships.
In a low-context culture, “crisp, precise, and direct messages were heralded as hallmarks of effective communication” (Earley, Ang, & Tan, 2007, p.89). Thus, the messages were “overt, explicit, plain, precise and concise with verbalized details and explicit and readily observable reactions” (Cheng, 2003, p.4). Therefore, the leader must be careful in the interpretation of the verbal and non-verbal communication of the workers. In a high context culture, it is possible that the non-verbal cues may signal an opposite meaning when compared to the verbal statement made by the worker. In the case of HF, the cultural pattern was low-context and therefore the CEO communicated in the most direct manner. Precision and accuracy were important features of the messages that he delivered to the team.
The time spent working at HF enabled me to appreciate and fully understand the significance of organizational culture. It was during this period that I was exposed to multicultural teams. The different cultural backgrounds of a disparate group of people enabled me to understand the need to deal with internal relationships. However, I realized that without the readings it was impossible to appreciate the significance of interaction with people within a particular organization. Schein’s insight was a great source of information with regards to the social aspect of a business organization. Morgan’s insight on the other hand enabled me to appreciate the capability of a leader to change the social reality of a group.
Cheng, W. (2003). Intercultural conversation. PA: John Benjamins Publishing.
Earley, C., & Singh, H. (2000). Innovations in international and cross-cultural management. London: Sage Publications.
Earley, C., Ang, S., and Tan, J. (2007). CQ: developing cultural intelligence at work. CA: Stanford University Press.
Hogan, C. (2007). Facilitating multicultural groups: A Practical Guide. London: Kogan Page.
Moran, R., & Harris, P. (2007). Managing cultural differences. London: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Morgan, G. (2006). Images of organizations. CA: Sage Publications.
Schein, E. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. CA: Jossey-Bass.