Module 3: Theory and Practice of Change Management

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Culture and Change Management

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Theory and Practice of Change Management

Culture and Change Management


Having understood the type of change you wish to make the second part of charting the ‘territory’ is to understand the lie of the land, i.e. the culture and political environment in which you are traveling.

This will help you avoid the steep climbs and major obstacles where possible and work with the lines of least resistance.


There are two aspects of the issue of culture and change:

Firstly: The importance of working with the existing culture when seeking to effect any change;

Secondly: How to go about changing the culture itself. Both require shrewd and effective leadership.

What is Culture?

Culture provides the context for our working lives and defines the standards by which we expect to be judged and the processes and procedures by which we expect to be involved in the activities which affect us.

When dealing with change it’s important to recognize that different institutions have different cultures and that within institutions different areas and different academic subjects also have their own way of doing things - their own cultures.

Larger departments will contain their own sub-cultures. Thus it is impossible to talk about a generic culture in post compulsory education.

Transmission of Culture

Culture can be transmitted by:

The philosophy of the institution - themes like equity and diversity, widening participation, striving for excellence in teaching; research reputation etc.

The approach to change which is adopted and the way in which leaders act

The criteria for evaluating and rewarding performance, job progression and the mission statement.

Culture is also transmitted in the informal history of the organization that is shared in stories and legends about key people and events that have affected the organization.

Next we will examine the most common varieties of organizational culture.

Various Types of Organizational Cultures

A bureaucratic organizational culture is defined by the following characteristics:

Characterized by strong central management and top-down decision making.

The hierarchy of control and decision making is clearly established in the administrative and management structures of the institutions.

Management roles are clearly defined as career progressions, heads of department, deans etc are appointed through an interview process to tenured positions.

Central management have strong control over the direction of the strategic priorities for the institution.

Commonly found in FE colleges and new universities.

An enterprise organizational culture is defined by the following characteristics:

More closely aligned to traditional businesses and industry approaches.

Acutely aware of financial mechanism and processes and alert to external opportunities.

Traditional management roles and structures with clear demarcation of responsibilities and hierarchical decision making processes.

Clear business objectives and plans based on detailed market analysis and needs.

More common in America, particularly in some of the newer institutions which are focused on distance education.

An innovative organizational culture is defined by the following characteristics:

Institutions with flexible structures geared to respond and adapt quickly to external factors and influences.

Strong culture of change and innovation with frequent changes in directions of activities and focus of interest.

Often characterized by a matrix structure of responsibilities by both subject area and functional activity (where the latter will often be structured around the identified strategic priorities).

Typically activities focused around particular projects and associated project teams.

Characteristic of some new universities and colleges but also present within the old universities within the sub-structure of the institution through enterprise centres and research centres which are externally funded.

A collegiate organizational culture is defined by the following characteristics:

There is a dual structure of administrative and academic management which results in parallel committee structures which can act as a black hole for decision making.

Unclear reporting lines and poor coordination, strong local cultures, agendas and identifiers.

Academic status is perceived as higher than support or administrative functions.

There are strong subject-specific allegiances with academics often feeling a stronger alliance to their subject area and external networks than the institutional mission.

Decision making occurs through committees, which can be slow and lack cohesion and activities tend to be driven from the ground, primarily linked to local interests.

Classic structure of old universities particularly those with more of a research focus.


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