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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

organizational culture: the starbucks case


Organizational culture is a structure of values, beliefs, and assumptions deemed appropriate in thinking and acting inside an organization. Being shared by the organization’s elements, culture helps solve and understand extrinsic and intrinsic problems. Neglected notions, stable and long-lasting beliefs on significant matters and understandings of the relationship between objects and concepts all contribute to the culture at work, so the members accept their validity and are influenced by the same regarding the people’s perspective, thoughts, feelings, and behavior within the organization. The foregoing is a series of cultural artifacts or the perceptible facets of an organization’s culture that help materialize the company’s success.
Most organizations have their respective stories to tell, passed on from generation to generation of employees and customers. These organizations have stories as medium of organizational values education and of its set goals among members. Also, stories can persuade external benefactors into throwing support to the organization. Hence, stories are taken to be indispensably integral to the culture of an organization, and are an essential part of its success. Almost always, these are success stories of the organization’s founders or top employees. To illustrate: Ebony magazine’s originator John H. Johnson always persisted despite constant hindrances like racial discrimination on his pursuit to become America’s richest black man. Consequently, stories serve as reminders and citations of the sterling members who have created a niche in the organization’s success history. The narrative on Johnson exemplifies the use of such to promote members’ camaraderie and is similar to that used by family to instill values across generations. Stories, then, are recognized as a vital medium for upholding a previous generation’s life lessons for future ones to emulate and learn mistakes from.
Another cultural artifact within the organization which outside audiences and members may learn from is rituals. Rituals are customary and recurrent practices that play a certain meaning in any organization. They are functional for conveying the organization’s major values and building relations among employees, outsiders, and managers. Staff meetings, reward and evaluation processes, and lunches are some of the organizational rituals conducted day-to-day. This confirms that many of businesses’ daily organizational activities are rituals in proportion. Likewise, a ritual’s symbolic significance is important. For instance, if a human resource personnel cares less for the workers, and gives untrue and vague feedbacks, the resulting evaluation process would become a vacuous ritual instead of a performance-enhancing one.
Employees also form part of organizational cultural artifacts. Each time a manager interviews a prospective employee, he is up to someone capable, knowledgeable, and skillful enough to perform inside the organization. Once hired, a new employee will imbibe the organization’s culture via role models. Role models are employees with sustained certain social status and are the very epitome of attainable goals. Instead of picking one role model, a new employee cuts out his developing style from several role models’ varied skills and behavior. They consciously select who to interact with and emulate according to the traits believed to bring on success. Managers and supervisors carry the title motivation models whereas secretarial staff and fellow employees, the title survivor models. Survivor models determine the daily expectations like advice and information on practical problems. Meanwhile, motivation models provide inspiration and means to triumph within the organization.
An employee’s interactions with role models reflect his personality traits like expectations, experience, self-confidence and competitive streak. These dealings become the cornerstone of an employee’s career in the organization. New employees with positive role models build confidence with their performance, obtain experience, aware of expectation from them and conscious of the organization’s culture. However, they with negative role models may harbor low self-esteem, conduct a satisfactory level and represent their organization dismally. Hence, management may appropriate employees’ surroundings with particular role models from whom they will hone specific knowledge and skills that management expects them to harness.
Furthermore, role models embody the social norms within an organization. People are more prone to conform in the presence of consequences. Within an organization, a new employee risks being ostracized by colleagues or getting terminated. Thus, he is more likely to abide by the social norms created by their role models and in effect, is representative of the organization’s culture. It is a must for managers to locate employees in the correct environment and customize role models to develop successful socialization of the organization’s culture.
For example, Starbucks enjoin all new employees to consummate twenty-four hours of training. During the period, they will have learned the operation of espresso machines, the customer service reflective of their mission statement, and the processing and production of coffee beans. After training, Starbucks employees are already informed of the culture and ready to transfer this to customers. Training programs offered by organizations such as Starbucks nurture consistency for all employees and empower the organization’s public image.
Starbucks, with its 7000-strong stores across the globe, envisions maintaining diversity as a way of life insofar as it is its culture’s core and its business’ foundation. The organization’s objectives are to attract and keep a manpower that reflects the world, to make policies and practices that uses human potential to the fullest, and to build hopes, realize dreams and develop equity in partners, neighborhood and communities.
All organizational cultures start with tiny group of individuals who direct the organization in their capacity as founders. By virtue of their vision, preferences, values, and belief, they ascertain the process of hiring employees, train and socialize the employees to think founder-style and mold attitude and behavior to fit the vision. Only success will motivate their growth. In the case of Starbucks, an Italian inspiration, president and present CEO, Howard Schultz orchestrated its culture. Schultz’ vision looked toward the flavorful traditional espresso coffee beans after visiting Italy. Ever since then, he bought Starbucks and widened this vision and has peaked in late decades for its phenomenal popularity of enterprising high-quality, whole bean coffee.
It is noteworthy that once culture is grounded in an organization and achieves success, it is imperative to sustain the image and maintain its very own culture. The secret to organizational excellence is ensuring that organizations select the right people for their company. Starbucks focuses their model primarily on their coffee service. Applicants to job positions are supplied with a manual called “Starbucks Coffee Partner Information” to assist them in learning more about the organization and to influence them into recognizing the organization’s culture and beliefs.
Many companies attempt to display identical performance, sales, and production to create the same environment as their companies’ cultural symbol, in citation of other areas relevant to organizational culture. Modifying behavior and values of people do not occur overnight, and in order to design uniformity typifying the similar characteristics of a personality, it is a must for employees to use a formulaic design strategy. Within the 24-hour training at Starbucks, prospective employees are expected to become brewing consultants. For them to learn efficiently and perform better, they are provided with feedback. In effect, the culture is crystallized into these employees and thus, it shares a hand in maintaining organizational culture.
An organization’s culture, a few artifacts of which were just mentioned, produces effects on corporate branding. In the course of prevalent globalization and international franchising of companies, it is necessary for a systematic manner of managing the corporate development in order to strive for long-term success within and without. Organizational culture plays an important role in engendering a company’s image and reputation, both an increasingly important factor for the decision-making of purchasers. Corporate branding supercedes product branding by virtue of the stress on reputation and the images produced not only of one’s products but also of its work environment. One of the competitive edges of businesses is consumers’ view of a company’s holistic role in the community, plus its treatment of employees, stakeholders, the neighborhood and such. Therefore, the operations of culture are rendered relevant and essential to a company’s success. Firms capitalize on reputation in which case history and commitment in-the-works lay foundation on the unparalleled economic value.
Organizational culture helps not only to improve the employees’ potential but also to inspire them to maximize their capacity, learning and growth. In a company’s culture according to consumers and shareholders, a personality or brand reputation develops in order to establish the firm as credible, reliable, trustworthy and responsible and to create a dignified workplace. This transparency of a firm’s internal structure heightens the crucial condition of a healthy culture with a determined, shared set of values, beliefs and norms.
The literature in general gives credence to cultural artifacts as legitimate factors that transform an organization toward its success. Stories are seen as company history to which the pool of workers must always turn in search of lessons and in avoidance of repeating the same blunders in the past. They preserve the elements that keep the company alive up to the present. They inculcate in employees the values that worked and continue to work for their predecessors. In the same vein, rituals provide a glimpse of what is happening inside a company. They are repetitive and customized because these activities are crucial in getting the company going. In a changeable business current, it helps to have rituals to maintain the sanity of the organization by providing a semblance of equilibrium despite notorious changes internally and externally. Employees are the face of the company so the composition of human resources reflects the kind of company one is dealing with. Apprentices look up to their role models in their bid to turn into their own role models too, and the generated behavior of both new and old role models represents the socialization within and outside the company. Vision is the compass of the organization—a medium used to lead the company to its desired and desirable direction. An organization wants a future that ensures a lasting business, and through envisioning does the organization locate itself at a specific success position. Lastly, company image is that artifact which spawns dignity for the organization at-large. The company’s winnable streak toward its clientele significantly depends on its perceived cleanliness in reputation. The more respectable a company looks, the greater are the demands for its services. Other artifacts like performance, production and sales perfect the symbol the company ought to become. All these show that in the heterogeneity of the respective compositions of business organizations, a unifying set of elements stands out to create the sameness among them. These elements in the form of cultural artifacts are the very ingredients that result to company success. They all point to the location the company is heading, and their collaboration converges into an environment that accelerates corporate branding. This corporate branding is a collective work of the cultural artifacts over time, so Starbucks along with other big names in the universe of business is the giant that it is now by virtue of its cooperative cultural artifacts. The unique culture of Starbucks is its own capital in gaining the favor of its patron, so it follows that its artifacts have shared their respective successes to integrate into the larger success that is known to the world as Starbucks.
Organizational culture and corporate branding are inseparable in that the former generates the latter and the success of the latter depends on the sustainability of the former. Without the former, all the existing firms—if they will ever persist in existing at all—cannot be differentiated from one another, killing competition and competitiveness and making the business world dull and dry. They will have no unique stories to tell, no pattern to follow, no face to embroider in the consumers’ memory, no future to assume, no respect to gain. Without the latter, the capitalistic face of business is its only salient point. A company’s environment also matters to consumers and stockholders—they would want to be treated the good way that the company treats its manpower. It is devoid of the human-like (corporation as a complete body) dimension, so how will its clients identify themselves as family or friend? On a positive note, organizational culture and corporate branding provide the diversity that excites employees and consumers; this variety resembles a personality that people can deal with just like any one person. For this, an organization is personified and humans relate best to fellow humans, don’t they? This collective personality of an organization brings about its success as a characteristic, reputable, and people-friendly institution.

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