Organisational Change & Culture 641.756, 2nd Semester, 1999




Lecturer:       Dr. David Barry

Office:            Commerce C, Room 429

Hours:           by appointment

Phone:           373-7599, X7153





This paper is concerned with contextualised change in organisations; in particular, it focuses on how cultural variables constrain and affect organisational change.  Culture is considered at several interweaving levels: individual, group, organisational, industrial, & national.  The course should be of interest to those: 1) having to work with and enact change in unfamiliar cultural environments 2) whose role is to help others cope with unanticipated or unwanted change, and 3) wanting to become more aware of their cultural assumptions and of the biases embedded in the change management literature. 


By the end of the course, you should be able to demonstrate an understanding of how change and culture interact across a number of different settings. We will work with both the literature on culture (organisational culture in particular) and organisational change.  Throughout, we will be using a constructivist perspective, which holds that organisational reality is a highly subjective, contested phenomena.  Hence, things like narrative, symbols, and rituals will figure heavily in our work.


The class will meet for three hours each week.  Much of that time will be spent discussing questions designed to frame your reading.  In addition, the class will be engaging in a Virtual Organisations Workshop (VOW) project that centres on a complex case.  Along with members from two other universities (in Australia and the U.S.), you will be expected to develop and present a thorough analysis of the Jason Suchard case, due the last week of class.


The end of term exam will be a closed book, comprehensive one, covering all the semester’s material.  Questions will be similar to the ones discussed in class.




35%    VOW project:

5%  Team contract

5%  Team building exercise

20%  Group case analysis

5%  Peer Evaluation

30%    Participation and reading notes

35%    Exam



I attach the following interpretations to each letter grade:

A+       Rare, outstanding.  Greatly exceeds requirements.

A         Exceptional mastery & effort—considerably exceeds expectations.

A-        Excellent mastery & effort.

B+       Polished, very good.

B         Good mastery & effort.  Covers everything expected, comprehensive, demonstrates good understanding.

B-        Solid mastery & effort.  Good coverage but minor flaws present.

C+       Fair mastery & effort. 

C         Acceptable mastery & effort.  Demonstrates adequate understanding but some gaps.

C-        Just adequate mastery of the material.

D+       Marginally inadequate.

D         Inadequate, demonstrates significant lack of understanding.

D-        Fail.


Based on this breakdown, most grades tend to be in the “B” range.



Note: There is a daily half-mark penalty for late papers.  For example, if a paper would normally receive a “B”, it would be marked “B-” if turned in a day late, “C+” for being two days late, and so on.





While there is no course text, I have put a number of readings on reserve at the short-loan desk in the general library.  There is also a coursebook, available from the Commerce Student Centre, which includes the articles for the course.


Reserve Books:

·      Schein, Edgar.  1992.  Organizational culture and leadership (2nd ed.).  This is a central work on organisational culture and provides many ideas for how more culturally based change management might be enacted.  At a minimum, please familiarize yourself with Parts 1, 2, & 3 (i.e., chapters 1 through 10). 


·      Frost, Peter, et. al.  1991.  Reframing organizational culture.  This is an excellent collection of cultural readings, one which provides good coverage of the main views and debates in currency today.  In particular, look at Parts 1 and 2 (chapters 1 through 20).


·      French, Wendell & Bell, Cecil.  Organization Development (5th ed.).  1995.  French & Bell are a couple of OD old-timers and this work is a classic in the field.  It constitutes a good representation of much that’s transpired in the field to date, particularly from a North American and Australasian perspective.


·      Cummings, Thomas & Worley, Christopher.  1993.  Organization development and change.  This is a widely used textbook in the OCD field and is a good source for methodological approaches.


·      Organization development classics (Jossey-Bass, 1st ed.).  1997.  This collection summarises many change and development techniques being used today.


For each weekly reading, please address the assigned question.  Also, in general, you should address the following questions for each reading:


·    What points seem to stand out the most and/or are the most important?

·    How do these points connect to one another?

·    How does this constellated understanding relate to other readings in the course?

·    What issues do these points suggest relative to a theory and practice of cultural organisational change?

·    What is your stand on these issues?

·    How might your understandings and stance inform your own practice?


Please take written notes relative to your reading - copies of these should be turned in each week.  These notes do not need to be formal or typed - I will primarily use them to assess your thinking and to inform your class participation.



Virtual Organisational Workshop (VOW) Project

(35% of overall grade)


Team composition will be posted to the VOW web page during the weekend of 11-12 September, or sooner if class rosters are firm earlier.  Visit the web page at to get the names and email addresses of your teammates, and to learn more about the project, the participating schools and faculty, and the available communication and collaborative tools.


You should get in touch with your team members immediately.  With that said, however, please note and do your best with one unavoidable work-around: The University of Auckland is on mid-semester break from Sept. 6-17, having begun the semester on July 21.  Establish that you have accurate email addresses for each other, start to get to know each other, and begin work on the two team-building assignments: the Totem Exercise and the Team Contract.  The Totem Exercise is due by email to each instructor at approximately 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24 GMU time, 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 25 UWA time, and 1 p.m.  Saturday, Sept. 25 AU time.  The Team Contract is due by email to each instructor at about the same time one week later (October 1-2).  The two team-building deliverables will be graded together and are worth 10 percent of your grade in the course you are taking.


Team members from George Mason University will send their partners at the other schools information about how to access the Lotus Notes database that has been set up to facilitate each team’s work.  In addition, we invite you to visit the “Tool Kit” on the VOW web page.  It contains links to two different web-based personality tests that teams may choose to explore, time zone information, and tips on working in a virtual team, working cross-culturally, and using ICQ, Lotus Notes, NetMeeting and videoconferencing.


A website for last year will still be kept going, at:




Totem Exercise  (5% of grade.  Due 24 September, by email)


Introduction.  The word “totem" comes from the ancient Ojibwa Indian word "nintotem", meaning "mark of my family or group."  Totems are symbols which capture both the "who" of a group and often, the "how" ¾ they represent personal and collective identity and are used in various group rituals.


You are becoming a member of a new type of work group. It represents new

possibilities for the "who" and "how" of work groups, with membership spanning continents and new tools for communication and collaboration. Your work group also is part of a larger learning community exploring culture, technology, change and collaboration. In this assignment, you will be using the totem concept to begin learning about the individuals who compose your new group and creating a group that can work and learn effectively.


Instructions.  Your central task is to create a group totem that can be portrayed visually.  On 25 September, your group should email me a report (maximum of 3 pages) which includes the following:


1)         A visual representation of your totem.  This can be a drawing, a photo, or some combination of these.  Some groups have made sculptures which are then photographed.  The totem need not be just one thing - it can depict a scene.  Thus, you could have some kind of action taking place - a deer jumping, a phoenix flying, hands applauding, etc.


2)         A written description of the totem which details its symbolic value for the entire group.  This should address the following: 

·          What are the important features of the totem - why this symbol and not another? 

·          What are the numinous/archetypal aspects of the totem - in other words, how does the symbol connect you to more than your group? (note: symbol dictionaries can be helpful here, though please use them only as starting points and not definitive guides). 

·          What group values and beliefs are captured by the totem - how does it speak to the kind of group you think you are and the kind of group you want to be? 

·          What does the totem suggest about practical group doings and behaviours - does it suggest particular ways of doing things?


3)         Written descriptions of how the totem connects to each person in the group. 

·          Where does the symbol find its place in individuals' beliefs?

·          What does the totem suggest about individual actions and commitments?


4)                  The URL for the web page to which your group’s totem and description is posted.





Team Contracting Exercise (5% of grade.  Due 1 October, by email)


Creating a team contract can help clarify team norms and goals, and ultimately improve team performance.


Your contract should outline the behaviors your group agrees to and supports.  At a minimum, your contract should include the goals, roles and norms for your team.  Maximum page length: 3 pages.


Goals – The measurable, expected outcomes from your group work.


Roles – Roles specify who is responsible for what on the team.  Some possible roles for case analysis teams include:

· meeting coordinator

· assembler of the final paper

· writer of the diagnostic section

· writer of the recommendations section

· writer of the implementation section

· change expert

· technology expert

· consulting expert


Norms – Norms specify the behaviors the team believes are important to achieving its goals.  Often norms can be identified by discussing what has gone wrong (or right) on previous collaborative efforts.


Sanctions – Measures your team will employ to control or prevent undesirable behaviors while working on the project.



Jacobs Suchard Case Analysis.  (20% of grade, 7-10 pages, due 19 October, by email). 


1)         Jacobs and Zinser have asked your team to answer the following questions for Jacobs Suchard.  You are not bound by what was possible technically in 1989.  Your team’s analysis of the Suchard case will be worth 25 percent of your grade in the course you are taking.


2)         What is your assessment of the goals of the organization in the change process and the organization’s readiness for change?   In other words, state what you think they are trying to accomplish and make some assessment as to whether these goals make sense. (1-2 pages)


3)         What are your specific recommendations for change at this point in the organization’s history?  Be sure to consider the critical information and technology issues that Jacobs Suchard will need to address to support its new organizational goals.  Pay attention to the roles that both organizational structure and technology can play in improving coordination between global brand sponsors, manufacturing managers, general managers and the EVP. (3-4 pages). 


Your recommendations should address the situation that exists when the case ends in April 1989.  Big actions, such as closing manufacturing plants, should be considered final.  However, current roles, organizational structure, etc. may not be final.


4)         What action plan do you recommend for implementing your proposed changes?  Specify a timeline including the initial steps in the change process, the management of the change process and the institutionalization of the change. (2-3 pages). 


In other words, what is your overall strategy for change and the sequence of key events and activities that you think need to happen?  You need not specify time periods, such as first 30 days, second 30 days, etc.  In particular, think about 1) initial steps/readiness for change, 2) management of the change process itself and 3) institutionalization of the change.


5)         Finally, on the last page of this paper, we ask your VOW team to reflect on how you see yourselves as a group now that you are coming to the end of your work together.  You began the process by creating a totem for your group.  Do you choose the same image now, a modification of that image, or a completely different image?  You do not need to provide any explanation of the image your team chooses now.  Just make the image the last page of your case assignment paper and post it at the same web site as your original totem.  There are no right and wrong answers.  Rather, it is an invitation to reflect honestly on the experience your team had.

Class Schedule






Introduction to class. 



Approaches to organisational culture.



Schein: Readings from Org. Culture & Leadership.

Schein: Culture: The Missing Concept.

Cook & Yanow: Culture & Org. Learning.

Martin & Frost: The Organizational Culture War Games.


Readings Question: What implications do the various perspectives on organizational culture have for organizational change?


Culture and Change.


Assignment: Choose one of the OCD books on reserve (or another that you think would be useful to you) and identify the key cultural aspects that undergird it.  What does this cultural positioning of the text imply for the practice of change management?


Discourse analysis.



Fairclough: A Social Theory of Discourse.


Readings Question: Choose a newspaper article and analyse it using Fairclough’s framework.  What issues and questions does your analysis raise?


Organisations as texts.

Czarniawska: A Narrative Approach to Organization Studies.

Schultze and Orlikowski: Shaping the Reality of Virtuality.

O’Connor: Paradoxes of Participation: Textual Analysis and Organizational Change.

Hatch & Ehrlich: The Dialogic Organization.


Readings Questions: How do the concepts of narrative and metaphor differ?  What do these differences imply for conducting cultured organisational change?


Narrative and other expressivist approaches to change management.

Barry: Making the Invisible Visible.

Barry: Telling Changes.

Ford & Ford: The Role of Conversations in Producing Intentional Change in Organizations.

Thatchenkery: Affirmation as Intervention.


Reading Question: What are the basic assumptional differences in these articles?  What implications for practice are raised by these differences?


Voodoo you know?.


Global Virtual Team (GVT) formation.



Clark & Salaman: The Management Guru as Organizational Witchdoctor.

Jackson: Re-engineering the Sense of Self: The Manager and the Management Guru.

Jackson: The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg?

Logan: Transforming the Network of Conversations in BHP New Zealand Steel.


Reading Question: Using your readings to date, how might you re-present the BHP New Zealand Steel Case?


Mid-semester Break.



Mid-semester break.



Applications: Disney

GVT totem assignment due, 25/9.


Van Maanen: The Smile Factory.

Boje: Stories of the Storytelling Organization.

Disney website(s).


Reading Question: Assume you are to conduct an organisational change project at Disney.  How might you apply the cultural frameworks introduced in the course to your change project?


Applications: Organisational context to be announced.

GVT group contract due, 1/10.


Applications: Organisational context to be announced.



Applications: Organisational context to be announced.




Exam review and class closure.

Jason Suchard Case due.