“The Role of Organizational Culture and Effectiveness of Public Organization”
by Dr. Stehpen Adei, rector and director general of GIMPA
I deem it a great honor and privilege to be called upon to deliver the keynote address for this workshop, which is to deliberate on how the cultures of public-sector organizations in Ghana can affect their development, survival and overall worth to the communities these organizations are supposed to serve.
Mr. Chairman, over the years researchers have increasingly investigated organizational culture and the possible links to organizational performance and effectiveness. According to some, organizational culture, more than any other factor, dictates an organization’s ability to survive and succeed.
If this organizational culture would be so important for the survival and success of public-sector organizations, we would like to understand what it is all about. With out getting too theoretical, let us say that organizational culture refers severally but commonly to the “shard pattern of beliefs, assumptions and expectations” of the organization’s members. In the words of Hofstede (1995).” Culture is collective programming of the mind which distinguishes one group or category of people from another.” Within on organization this is defined by group norms, espoused values, rulers of the game, habits of thinking, mental models, attitude to time, etc. In essence, an organization’s culture is the repository of what its members agree about. Organizational culture affects all aspects of organizational life from the ways in which people interact with each other, perform their work and dress, to types of decisions made in an organization, its policies, procedures and strategy considerations; how top management deals with various situations ; how people actually spend their time at work; and the organization’s physical setting, etc.
In our local context, organizational culture may seen in :
– The attitude toward leadership and style. For example. We tend to put our leaders on pedestals and accept high hierarchical distance between the governors and subordinates, In companies in America, for example, the managing director and a messenger may eat at the same “takeaway” and ride in the same bus.
– Attitude to time management : Ghana meantime or Greenwich meantime.
– Work planning and performance monitoring versus “aban adwuma” (government work ) mentality.
– Propensity to consume, not to save invest.
– “Connection” versus merit system, etc.
The point that I am trying to make is that organizational values obtained from the culture are important because a firm or institution’s underlying values and beliefs define the organization’s philosophy for achieving success. Thy reflect the view of the way “ things should be” in an organization that is shared by organizational members. That philosophy will provide a sense of common direction for its members and guidelines as to acceptable behaviors in their daily operations.
Positive organizational culture have been linked to increased staff alignment, resulting in enhanced organizational effectiveness, heightened consensus regarding strategic direction.
Mr. Chairman, we thing that leadership and organizational culture are tightly intertwined. Leaders must have a deep understanding of the identity and impact of the organizational culture in order to communicate and implement new visions and inspire follower commitment to the vision ( Schein, 1990) Transformational leaders help shape and maintain the desired culture of an organization ( Schein, op cit), which may link to organizational effectiveness. Some researchers have suggested that transformational leadership and organizational culture contain the key to understanding organizational effectiveness ( base and Avolio, 1992)
High transformational leaders possess strong organizational cultures and carry out culture-building activities, especially the customer-orientation function, to a greater extent then other leaders do. Yuk (1994) defined transformational leadership as the process of influencing major changes in the attitudes and assumptions of organizational members and building commitment for the organization’s mission, objectives and strategies (p. 271).
The current thinking in the area of leadership is devoted to the leader’s role in maintaining the organizational culture or in changing it to implement a change of direction dictated by a new vision ( Bryman, 1992) . The researcher suggested that leader could alter or impact the organizational culture.
Executive leaders should put their energies into developing a strong organizational culture that supports activities such as managing change, achieving goals, coordinating teamwork , and customer orientation in organization. These activities contribute to organizational effectiveness. Successful organizations, over time, are likely to possess a strong, well-defined culture. Organizational culture must support activities linked to the mission of the organization.
Mr. Chairman, I would now like to turn my attention to public-sector organizations and organizational culture with particular reference to Ghana. Traditionally we have the civil service, which one may label the secretariat of government and other state-owned institutions. While they share some similarities, they differ in many ways and as such will be advisable to speak of the civil service and public sector organizations with the latter referring to entities other than the civil service.
The service inherited a unique culture from colonial times. The system has no doubt been disturbed, especially by the curse of military interventions and so called revolutions. In the main its culture remains the same, sadly to say with some worsening trends after the old crop of professional, committed and industrious public spirited civil servants of the A.I . Adu and Debrah “types” moved on. The Culture of the service in recent times is not something to write home about . It is still a rule base system; managerial leadership has been weak, and over the years the civil service got political. Especially with the introduction of political units from 1882 and politically appointed chief directors.
The situation is compounded by poor conditions of service, logical limitations and a less than ideal elected official civil servant relationship. The whole culture of the civil service requires urgent attention.
Lately one hears of s “ chicken and egg” argument. The leadership of the service argues that all will be ”kosher” if civil servants are paid well. On the other hand, some of the authorities complain of poor work ethics and attitudes that undermine government policy and programs. The situation is compounded by a half-baked decentralization that has resulted in the creation of a parallel system . But this debate cannot go on forever. Urgent action is needed.
It is my considered view that improving the culture of the civil service will require more than a uni dimensional action of salary increase. Hard as it is to implement, it requires a combination of effective managerial leadership, competency based training, a performance-linked incentive system, and improved conditions of service. To ask a government which already spends the greater share if its revenues on public-sector wages and salaries to pay more is quite simplistic. This is particularly so in a situation whereby devoting 100 percent of current government revenues will still pay salaries which most of us will agree will be inadequate. Thus there is the need to link together revenue collection, economic growth and improvement in public-service wages in the long run.
As to the wider public service, I have a stronger message. Since they tend to be well-defined entries a university, a secondary school, a factory, a service unit- the scope for a positive revolutionary culture change is greater. I say revolutionary because we are dealing with ingrained traditional attitudes militating against affective time management, productivity “ aban adwuma”(government work – which is minimum effort for maximum gain), and a high propensity to cheat and steal ( which we have given a wrong label as corruption). Reversing organizational culture in such a milieu is both doable and challenging.
I believe the key to that is effective transformational leadership, which provides vision, goals and discipline as well as models core moral and ethical values. I will require managers “ who walk their talk,” and this will gain the confidence of their staff to manage change.
Unfortunately , the way leadership of public institutions is appointed makes that difficult. In the first place, the tendency is to appoint boards based on party affiliation, old school boyism and girlism, etc. I must add that the situation has improved markedly in recent times. What has not changed is the simultaneous appointment of boards and CEOs with the result that CEOs don’t feel accountable to their boards but appointing authorities. The situation is the same whether one is talking about government appointments or those appointed by constitutional bodies such as the National Media Commission. Unless organizational culture improves, we cannot expect the landscape of corporate governance to improve.
Another factor that constrained improvement in organizational cultures in the public sector has to do with our socialist past, of seeing these entities as employment bureaus, and the fear also of declaring redundancies and insistence on doing a day’s work for a month’s pay, etc. It is clear that the public sector is not a major employer of Ghanaians; it employs only about 800,000 out of a workforce of about 10 million. Yet the efficiency of the civil service and public sector will determine the growth of the economy and employment generation of the private sector. Thus, it is incumbent on us to do whatever it takes to improve the culture of the public service, generate growth and improve overall levels of employment in the economy.
I believe that we can grow the economy of Ghana at double digit rates, though it will require more than World Bank IMF straight jacketed policies. That would require a streamlined, capable, motivated, disciplined and accountable civil service and public sector. And the key to that is better organizational leadership and culture.
Chairman, let me conclude by making reference to efforts at public sector reform in Ghana during the past four years largely under the National Institutional Renewal Program (NIRP) . ( Other parallel system included Civil Service Performance Improvement Program. Reform of the judiciary. Etc.) In the main it was largely a consultant driven process, some times with as much as half a million dollars spent on consultants just to diagnose what is wrong and needed to be done but with nothing spent on fixing any problem.
The leadership of the organization under reform was either bypassed or treated as suppliers of information to mushroomed consultants. Overnight, consultants who have not had any experience of running any institution in their lives pocketed thousands of dollars, part of which could have ended as kickbacks to hose awarding the contracts, given the rates at which contracts were awarded and the low quality control in some cases. In the end, only one institution got itself off subvention and another GRATIS (Ghana Regional Appropriate Technology Industrial Service) is today heading toward self financing.
The lessons for future are clear . There will be no transformation for public sector organizations without changes in organizational culture. In that regard the managerial leadership of the public sector is “ cause ; everything else is effect.” That government is retooling public reform. The emphasis has to be placed on organizational culture change.
Thank you all.
Barney, J. (1986) “Organization Culture.” Academy of Management Review,11 (3):656-665
Bass, M. and Avoliuo, B. (1992) Ðeveloping Transformational Leadership: 1992 and Betond” Journal of Eropean Industrical Training, 14:21-3
Bryman, A. (1992) Charisma ang Leardership in Organization. London: Sage
Hofstade, G. “Culture Contraints in Management” Chapter 37 in J. Thomas Wren ed. (1995) The Leader’ Companion: Insights on Leadership through the Ages. New York: The Free Press
Schein, E (1990) Organizational Culture and Leadership. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass Publication
Yukl, G (1994) Leadership in Organization (3rd Ed). Englewood Cliff, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
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