The Contributions of Our Field Studies
In our studies, we were able to document mission, vision and shared value statements, slogans, cultural symbols, as well as rituals and ceremonies. The performance perspective explains many of the leaders’ actions, but it did not predict the interpretations and social situations that actually arose in the lower levels. These cultures were more varied and dynamic than the planners anticipated (Alvesson, 2002). Both horizontal and vertical issues (Blumer, 1969) existed that need to be explored in order to understand these five cultural situations.
The Vertical Issues
The historic context plays a role in how people interpret a culture program. The work history of an individual influences how he or she reacts. What has previously happened in a given organization also shapes the interpretations of longer-term employees.
Personal Work Histories
In Chapter 2, Mark liked how the Finos leaders talked about being “the best.” This message mirrored what his former military leaders said. Both fit with the performance perspective description of leaders creating a sense of excitement and pride by talking about being “the best” (Peters & Waterman, 1982:323). In contrast, Dwight and Josh in Chapter 5
Conducting Organization Culture Analyses 243 criticized the actions of Mrs. Hughes based on their prior managers conduct. In other words, they did not believe she was acting in keeping with the Housing Department culture.
Our Value Stores study in Chapter 3 showed prior work experiences can make a big difference in the interpretations rendered. Pat Wood had worked for 10 years for Bargain Stores before she joined Value Stores. Her prior tour experiences at Bargain had been much more stressful than those she experienced at Value. She thought the tour process symbolized the differences between the two cultures. Julia Thompson and Yvonne Owens, though, did not have the same prior exposure to more stressful tours. Being an HR manager at Value was their first retail experience. They described a contingency approach where the visitors (1) showed appreciation to leaders in stores that were performing well and (2) made more frequent visits to coach the managers in the stores that were falling short of expectations. Julia initially found the Value tours somewhat stressful, but she got used to them. Most of the stress Yvonne felt came from her store manager, Matt Krampus, rather than the tours.
These examples show the work history of each person shapes his/her reactions to cultural programs. Some performance perspective consultants have assumed away the importance of personal histories. Our fieldwork shows this was a profound mistake.