Organisational Culture’s and Positive Thinking’ Role

Subject: Management
Pages: 6
Words: 1448
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: Master


Change is a common feature in organisations. The capacity to handle the changes is the core competence of success in any company (Weick & Quinn, 1999, p. 362). Over the last two decades, the main drivers of organisational changes have been technological advancements, stiff competition and fluctuations in the global economy. This has led to exploration of mechanisms for achieving competitive advantage through increased radical forms of change (Reichers, Wanous & Austin, 1997, p. 50).

In the context of business survival, growth and normal operation, it is imperative to respond to transformational processes and explore the available opportunities. The current competitive business environment calls for high level of flexibility, based specifically on human resources. Therefore, human resources are considered as a very significant asset capable of enforcing change in organisations. This is partly due to the fact that employees are the custodian of organisational values, which is one of the principal strategic elements determining companies’ potential (Kaplan &Norton, 1992, p. 74).

Nowadays, businesses are embracing new concepts in human resources management to enhance their competitive edge (Weick & Quinn, 1999, p. 362). One of the new concepts in human resources management is the Positive Organisational Scholarship, originating from positive psychology. Despite of numerous emerging trends in Human Resources Management, the concept is still gaining more popularity.

Positive Organisational Scholarship focuses on workers’ positive psychological state and sentiments in the workplace (Froman, 2010, p. 59; Bednarska-Wnuk, 2012, p. 71). This paper will explore the role of organisational culture and positive thinking in change management. The paper will apply different theories and concepts and identify the key arguments between the authors as well as their theoretical positions.

Organisational Culture and Change

Many studies have been conducted to establish the impact of organisational culture in change management (Cabrera, Cabrera & Barajas, 2001; Schultz & Hatch, 1996; Weick & Quinn, 1999, p. 364; Reichers, Wanous & Austin, 1997, p. 50). Some of these studies emphasise on the importance of culture and change efforts on organisational success (Cabrera, Cabrera & Barajas, 2001; Kotter, 1995).

Kotter (1995, p. 60). They match different forms of culture with different types of change management, for instance, upbeat and collaborative culture in Total Quality Management (TQM). They stress that mismatch in organisational cultures and different types of change management may lead to implementation problems.

According to Chatman and Cha (2003, p. 21), organisations are considered as entities having their own specific cultures. Therefore, culture can either be a component belonging to a company or a representative of an entire organisation. Weick and Quinn (1999, 367) define culture as an independent explanatory variable, usually determined by the values and norms in organisations. On the other hand, change is a very intricate process normally viewed from different perspectives. Kotter (1995, p. 63) offers four viewpoints on organisational change, namely, premeditated change perspective, technological perspective, punctuated equilibrium perspective and emergent change perspective.

A premeditated change perspective assumes that the top managers are the main foundation of change in organisations and are capable of directly implementing the required changes. This viewpoint has been challenged by a number of experts who consider change as an entity that can be managed independently. On the other hand, technological change hinges on information technology. However, this opinion has been criticised for paying less attention to human agency.

Interruptive equilibrium viewpoint assumes that change is swift, intermittent and thorough. This idea is grounded on stability. Last but not least, emergent change perspective is based on the ongoing practices in the organisation. This viewpoint is explained by the postulation of action and not stability. Members of an organisation usually improvise and develop their job functions because change is viewed as an essential practice (Kotter, 1995, p. 60).

Barrier to successful execution of structural changes in an organisation is the susceptibility of such programs to potent, yet scantily perceived, cultural influences. In addition, change initiatives are based on the values. These change initiatives may possibly collide with cultural patterns that have already existed. Therefore, culture can either promote or hold back the ability of a company to successfully cope with change (Schultz & Hatch, 1996, p. 530).

Every organisation has a distinct culture since it is made up of individuals with different capabilities, traits and aspirations. Some of the elements change when organisations hire new personnel. However, other elements seem to be permanent. The framework of organisation’s culture can influence positive outcome or failure. In addition, the ability of the top leadership to manage change and promote innovation also affects its long-term objectives (Cabrera, Cabrera & Barajas, 2001, p. 246).

According to Jayashree and Hussain (2011, p. 67), change initiatives, for instance, total quality management (TQM), can only be successful when the existing structures, culture, procedures and practices are in tandem with one another and support workers’ conduct in a lucid and reliable way. Most conventional structures are not compatible with culture and procedures necessary to cope with new changes. In addition, past failures in many companies are attributed to workers’ resistance more than to change itself (Van de Ven & Poole, 1995, p. 514).

When organisations are confronted with change that has impact on both internal and external structures, companies with well-established structures are capable of responding promptly to such a change (Jayashree & Hussain, 2011, p. 69). However, change that does not augment internal alignments in an organisation but entails erroneous choices with regard to organisational culture and strategies may diminish the company’s ability to adapt to external risks.

As a result, this may minimise the company’s competitive advantage in the long run. In other words, the adaptability of cultural elements is very important in strengthening organisation’s external alignment, a precondition for long-run success (Kaplan &Norton, 1992, p. 71).

Change that challenges the existing conditions can only take place when the existing culture supports the chosen change approach (Kaplan & Norton, 1992, p. 73). Jayashree and Hussain (2011, p. 70) add that organisational structure and culture have considerable influence on the objectives of strategic change. In other words, all the strategic changes are premeditated and entail modifications in organisational culture.

Positive thinking and Organisational Change

Personality pertinent to positive psychology can be linked to different responses to transformational change (Froman, 2010, p. 63). Other studies have included positive self-concept, risk tolerance, individual resilience, job satisfaction, proactive problem solving and efficacy of job change as the keys to change management (Kiefer, 2002, p. 39).

According to Kiefer (2002, p. 39), most of the changes that take place in the workplace nowadays are emotional events. The positive way of observing change is to acknowledge that while companies need to adjust to certainty of change, they must also recognise and uphold the established elements of culture that have positive value.

The way the workers view their organisation can influence their approval of change in the company (Reichers, Wanous & Austin, 1997, p. 51). Most of the organisations have embraced the concept of positive organisational scholarship, founded on positive psychology.

Positive organisational scholarship focuses on constructive emotions aimed at creating capacity, which is meant to cushion organisations against unconstructive events. Positive organisational scholarship can also be interpreted as the level and structure of organisational resources, which increase positive culture, create a positive environment and facilitate pro-developmental traits among the workers (Reichers, Wanous & Austin, 1997, p. 50; Kaplan &Norton, 1992, p. 73).

Organisations that pay close attention to staff’s positive emotions usually experience less instability, increased innovation and low employee turnover rate (Froman, 2010, p. 65). These businesses improve their employees’ welfare because of the belief that positive emotions enhance organisational efficiency and capacity to cope with transformational changes.

Bednarska-Wnuk (2012, p. 78) describes human resource as the most crucial asset in organisations, at the same time identifying the element of flexibility in strengthening a positive potential. This means that human resources should have the ability to adapt to the changing conditions. Flexibility of human resource should be manifested in mind-set, knowledge and competency. Therefore, flexible employees can create the desired organisational ambiance.


Numerous studies have been conducted to establish the connection between organisational culture and the concept of positive psychology in organisational change. In this era of economic turmoil, tension and uncertainty, it is important for companies to develop cultures based on the principle of honesty, morality, trust and mutual respect.

Organisational culture can either contribute to a favourable outcome or failure. However, some authors feel that failures in many organisations are largely attributed to workers’ resistance. Therefore, business entities can bring about the best in their employees by emphasising on concept of Positive organisational scholarship, derived from positive psychology. Positive organisational scholarship will help organisations enhance efficiency and capacity to cope with both internal and external changes.


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