Antonios, as it will be referred to for confidentiality purposes from here on in, is a retail shoe store that operates in Fredericton, N.B.. It is part of an open system. This company originated in Montreal, Quebec. The head office is now located there and retail outlets are located throughout Canada, the United States and parts of Europe.
The market in which this company operates may be considered a division of the fashion industry. This industry is known for being highly competitive and dynamic. Also for obvious reasons many companies within it concern themselves with company image.
This particular shoe company has been in existence since the early 1990s. Antonios has grown significantly and is currently a leader in the shoe industry, even on an internationally level. It produces quality shoes at a reasonable price.
From its beginnings until now Antonios has been operating in the formation stage. This company has met with great success, though, and has grown quickly. It now faces the task of moving into the growth stage. Antonios must be careful in managing every aspect of its company now in order to survive. Since the industry in which Antonios operates is very image oriented a key issue in moving from the formation to growth stage that must be discussed is company culture.
In this situation managed (as it is referred to in its most popular definition) means changed. In order to manage the company culture through the move from stage to stage in the life cycle of this organization the culture within the current stage, the formation stage, must be discussed. The culture, in my opinion, must be managed as it currently has a negative impact on the organizational effectiveness. The organizational effectiveness as a result of culture must analyzed in order to determine if in fact it does have a negative impact on the company, if so, it must be managed for the sake of the companys survival in the growth stage.
Analysis of current company culture
The current culture existing in Antonios organization is effective according to most of the strict definition meanings.
It is not particularly strong, this is because most organizations which are young or have constant turnover (Antonios finds both of these things to be true for itself) are said to have weak culture because members will not have shared enough experiences to create common meanings. Antonios culture fits well in to the big picture of the organization as it is aligned with company strategy, environment and technology where company image is everything.
This companys culture has both good external and good internal fit. It emphasizes individual initiative, risk taking, high integration, tolerance of conflict, and high horizontal communication. Employee input and opinion is taken seriously, Dress is of importance while in the store and approach and attitude towards customers is very important. These company policies fit well, given its competitive environment, resulting in good external fit.
Good internal fit is evident when a companys culture is well matched with its technology. Antonios would most likely use a mass production technology according to Woodwards contribution to technology theories in the study of Organization Theory. This type of technology is characterized by large-batch or mass production. The organizations culture fits well with its technology as it encourages adaptability to its environment and most importantly its customers. From this we can conclude that Antonios has a high degree of overall complexity, a high degree of formalization and a moderate degree of centralization.
In this case and many others, though, formalization may be replaced, to a certain extent, by the company culture. A strong culture increases behavioral consistency. Predictability, orderliness and consistency are all promoted by the culture at Antonios, formalization could do the same. As mentioned above though Antonios is currently in the Formation stage and does not have the strong culture it desires, in some cases culture is pushed and may not be seen as a reasonable move on the part of the company by some employees. This culture promotes predictability, for example, by stressing the importance of the Antonios image as far as the way employees should look when in the store and the approach they should take towards customers in the store. If a customer goes into Antonios she could predict a well dressed, attractive employee who will do almost anything to satisfy her needs to approach her promptly.
The ultimate source of an organizations culture are its founders, it all begins with them. In this case a young man came over from Italy to Quebec, Canada. He was a very good looking man who knew a lot about style. He came from a wealthy family and is now a millionaire. Italians are known for their high quality shoes and their taste for high quality fashion. The Antonios culture is very much consistent with the organizations founder. The founders background being what it is, is an advantage in this case, given the industry at hand. The push for this type of company culture must be handled carefully, though.
Antonios sustains its culture mainly through selection and occasionally uses top management.
The selection process is the main force that is keeping the Antonios culture alive. When an individual approaches a particular Antonios location for a prospective employment opportunity the staff and manager pay particular attention to appearance and personality and in some cases is the deciding factor in employing a certain prospect. Only those who fit with the Antonios image will be hired.
In some cases the top management is also used to keep the organizations culture alive. When employees are initially hired they are shown a video of Antonio himself. He gives a brief history of the organization and a basis of how things are run. He also states his expectations of each employee while they remain with the company. The company culture is evident in this video as only good looking well dressed people appear in it and back drop for the video is lavish. Supervisors are also used to instill company culture. Each time the supervisor for the Atlantic region came from Halifax to inspect the location in Fredericton, while I was employed there, he would meet individually with each employee and comment on how he thought they were performing based on their physical appearance and how their weekly sales were with respects to each section of the store ( accessories, bags and shoes ). This the main problem with Antonios culture at present. All emphasis is placed on appearance. In order to illustrate the problem with company culture a personal example will prove useful. When I first started as a part-time employee at the Fredericton location the manager was on the verge of either quitting or being fired. No one was sure what would come first. He was chosen for his position as manager no more that a year ago on the basis of only his appearance and communication skills as a sales associate at sports store near Antonios in the mall. John, as he will be referred to, had no prior managing experience, did not take any responsibility for paper work or duties for store upkeep. Many hours were allocated to part-time employees such as myself as John did not want to work them. He was profusely late and did nothing once he arrived at the store. He did know how to sell, though most times customers were pushed into buying. John dressed very professionally and he was a very good looking man. He was very socialable and knew many people that came into the store. This is the reason he was hired in the first place but these skills alone do not make for an efficient manager.
Also, the supervisor for the Atlantic region came for an inspection after I had been working for only one week. He meet individually with me while he was there to see if I had memorized the company policies, etc.,which all employees are to know and to find out a little bit about me. The first thing he proceeded to do was to look me up and down and say well fist thing you need to do is to get yourself a pair of Antonios shoes but other than that you have the image we are looking for.. This strongly illustrates my point. I feel he should have come up with a more professional way of conveying his expectations of me.
Before I left the organization another part-time employee was hired. This same supervisor told another member of our staff that she looks like she just stepped out of Wal-Mart and she needs to fix herself up a little bit.
According to the definitions use in the text, Organization Theory, Structure Design and Applications, the culture of this organization has a good fit but a happy medium must be found as they are currently pushing it too far. The organizational effectiveness will be negatively effected in the long run, hopefully managers will realize turnover will remain high and efficiency within retail outlets will be low if this continues.
Company Culture and Effectiveness
Organizational effectiveness in its broadest and most appropriate sense is defined
as the degree to which an organization attains its short term and long term goals, the selection of which reflects strategic constituencies, the self-interest of the evaluator and the life stage of the organization. Four separate approaches to effectiveness are reflected in this meaning, each being useful in different situations.
The first is the goal attainment approach. This defines an organization as being effective to the extent that it accomplishes its stated goals. The main goals for this organization are both profit and image oriented. The culture that exists in Antonios organization gives a strong company image, leads to high levels of awareness among consumers and competitors and aids in attaining profits. The strong company image results in high levels of awareness among consumers and competitors as people recognize Antonios as leader in its industry.
Many people are aware of Antonios low priced, high quality shoes which also reflect trendy styles that happen to be in fashion at a particular point in time. These factors will obviously result in high market share and in turn high profits.
Effectiveness in terms of the Systems approach, the second approach, states that an organization is effective to the extent that it acquires needed resources. This culture does promote effectiveness in obtaining resources. Antonios is now powerful within its industry, as a result they now have control over several small design companies and shoe manufacturing companies. Every four years they sign contracts with these companies stating that Aldo will have the exclusive rights over specified shoe designs and the manufacture of specified amounts of shoes. In return these companies are guaranteed a certain level of business. Antonios reputation, to some extent built by its culture, entices these small businesses to be associated with them to such a great extent and give up power to them. Needed resources are easily acquired because of their culture indirectly.
The third approach to effectiveness is the strategic constituencies, it states that an organization is effective to the extent that all strategic constituencies are at least minimally satisfied. The most powerful influence on Antonios organization and most other organizations within this industry are the consumers. All fashion oriented organizations must meet the demands of those in the market for a new pair of shoes or the organizations survival will be seriously threatened. By providing up to date styles and also by promoting a culture in which a trendy, attractive appearance is a must Antonios responds to demands quite effectively.
The fourth and final form of analyzing organizational effectiveness is the Competing Values approach. This defines effectiveness in terms of the extent that the emphasis of the organization in the four major areas matches constituent preferences. To one person Antonios may be very effective and it may be on the brink of destruction to another. In analyzing three factors that determine effectiveness in this approach it is found that it is emphasis is placed on the flexibility ( innovation and change ) versus control, the organization versus the people in it and the means versus the ends. According to the Eight Organizational Effectiveness Criteria this organization is flexible and is able to adjust well to shifts in external conditions and demands.
The first aspect, emphasis on organization, reflects the culture in that most members within it do not value others within the company enough and would say or do anything to them to prevent organizational decline. An example of this would be the comments made by the my supervisor. Secondly, the fact that Antonios focuses on flexibility shows that they are willing to do anything for the customer in order to make a sale. Numerous times during my employment, my manager gave in to customer demands even after I may have told them that we would not be able to do as they requested ( ie return a pair of damaged shoes at no fault of our own ). The culture promotes this in the way that some employees hired may do anything to make themselves look good. Thirdly, the fact that this company emphasizes the means to such a great extent shows that the culture stresses doing what it takes to survive as opposed to something more important in the long run - creating dedicated, loyal employees that will positively promote the company and that care about its survival. Employees will not feel good about themselves and especially about the organization if they are constantly being criticized to such a great extent for something so shallow as their appearance. Thus in the long run they are indirectly and unintentionally promoting organization decline by doing this.
In my opinion the main problem that exists within this organization is the fact that Antonios fits into a certain aspect of the Competing Values approach mentioned above to a greater extent than need be. They take organization culture too far despite the fact that it is very well fitted to its industry. My experiences there as an employee were not all negative yet many I did have made me feel very unappreciated and worthless within the organization.
A stress on this particular type of culture results in high turn over. This will ultimately lessen the chances of survival for the organization as it moves through the stages of the life cycle. If this culture persists, Antonios will be run by disloyal employees who purposely defy it costing them time and money in the long run. It will have a damaging effect on their so preciously held reputation and this will not fair well for them considering the competitive nature of the fashion industry.