A study of the organizational culture of Panorama

Baker-Smith, Victoria (2001) A study of the organizational culture of Panorama. Coursework Master thesis, Victoria University of Technology.


The operating environment of the not-for-profit human services sector is changing and organizations that are part of it cannot afford to be complacent about performance. Strategic human resource issues such as organizational culture and its affect on performance are therefore becoming increasingly important. This study describes the current organizational culture of Panorama, a residential program for people with intellectual disabilities and provides a detailed analysis of the behavioural norms, values and basic assumptions that form this culture. Conclusions were drawn after addressing the major research question: What style of culture does Panorama have? The subsidiary research questions explored were: What are the positive aspects of Panorama's culture? What are the negative aspects of Panorama's culture? Is the culture of the leaders different to that of other employees? What is Panorama'spreferred culture? What are the implications of the study's findings for the future of the program? Data was gathered using the Organizational Culture Inventory (OCI), the Organizational Culture Inventory - Preferred Culture (OCI - Preferred Culture) and a focus group based on Schein's (1992) model for deciphering culture. This study found that Panorama has a predominately negative style of culture. The OCI indicated that the overarching cultural style is Passive/Defensive (average percentile score in this sector 45 % , section 4.2). Panorama has two primary styles of culture Avoidance and Oppositional (scores of 65%, section 4.3) and a secondary style that is Conventional (score of 53 %, section 4.3). Dominate behavioural norms include "not getting involved", "being non-committal", "pushing decisions upward", "laying low when things get tough", "looking for mistakes" "questioning decisions made by others", "pointing out flaws", "being hard to impress", "opposing new ideas", "remaining aloof from the situation", "fitting into the mould", "not rocking the boat", "making a good impression", "conforming" and "treating rules as more important than people". Many of Panorama's values and the observable artifacts relating to these values are negative (sections 4.5.3 an 4.5.4). Certain buildings are not valued, particularly those at the main site. Staff would also value more time to deal with client issues, including client paperwork, and to further develop clients' skills. A number of negative values were articulated in relation to communication. High values are placed on black and white statements about events and gossip. Ceremonies and rites that test or display people's "toughness" credentials, in particular the initiation rite of being assaulted by a client, are also highly valued. Of the fourteen basic assumptions identified by the focus group thirteen were negative. Some describe clients as being people who are dependent and at times dangerous, who should be kept separate from the wider community for the protection of themselves and others. Other negative basic assumptions describe staff as only being credible when they have coped with difficult or challenging behaviours, and w h o are only considered competent when nothing goes wrong. The dominance of negative basic assumptions in Panorama's current culture is a powerful force encouraging negative values and behavioural norms to flourish (sections 2.2, 4.5.1, 4.5.4, 4.5.5 and 4.5.6) A number of positive behavioural norms of the Humanistic-Encouraging style are part of Panorama's current culture (section 4.6.1). These are: "involving others in decisions affecting them", "showing concern for the needs of others", "giving positive rewards to others", "resolving conflicts constructively" and "helping others grow and develop". Positive thinking styles in the areas of satisfaction, customer service and personal commitment to customer service are also part of the culture. The focus group identified a number of positive values (section 4.6.4). Good working conditions, equipment, technology and competent and hard working staff are valued. Good communication processes including communication between houses, documentation, up to date information, staff meetings and clear priorities are also valued. Providing clients with opportunities to grow and be independent, to live in a dignified way and to develop more mature behaviour as they grow older are also valued. However, the data also indicates that in a number of areas there is a gap between Panorama's espoused values and the behavioural norms and artifacts of the culture. Therefore, the researcher concluded that a number of the positive values articulated describe the preferred rather than the current culture. The study identified that Panorama's culture has one positive basic assumption, that people with intellectual disabilities need support to participate in the community (section 4.6.5). Data gathered using the OCI suggests that the culture of Panorama's leaders is significantly different to that of employees. However, data gathered from other employees using the same instrument, and during the focus group, suggests that the differences between the two cultures may not be significant. There is a significant gap between the current and preferred cultures. The OCI-Preferred Culture indicates that people would overwhelmingly prefer to be working in a Constructive style of culture with the average percentile scores for these styles being 89%. It is therefore interesting to note that of the ten behavioural norms that people would prefer to be more prevalent in the culture, only three are from the Constructive styles. These are "encouraging others", "being concerned about their own growth" and "giving positive rewards to others". The quantitative and qualitative data gathered in this study indicates that there is a between Panorama's current culture, the preferred culture and the cultures observed in high performing organizations (sections 2.5, 4.3, 4.5, 4.6 and 4.9). If these gaps are to be closed, then a change program may be necessary. Finally, this study concluded that the OCI and OCI-Preferred Culture are suitable instruments for analyzing culture in the not-for-profit human services sector. In addition, further research is needed in a number of areas. Research is needed to determine whether Panorama's style of culture, and its behavioural norms that are associated with poor performance, is common in the not-for-profit human services sector. The impact that the lack of resources available to address strategic issues, including cultural issues, has on service delivery in this sector could also be further investigated. Additional research could also be undertaken at Skyline. A more extensive study could be conducted to identify Skyline's cultural style. At Panorama, research could be undertaken in three areas. In the short term the significance of differences between the culture of the leaders and other employees, and the reasons for these differences, could be investigated. Further research could also be undertaken to identify the reasons why espoused values are not translated into behavioural norms. In the medium term, this study could be repeated to evaluate the effectiveness of any actions taken to enhance the culture.

Additional Information

Master of Business in Training and Change Management

Item type Thesis (Coursework Master thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/18142
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1503 Business and Management
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > Faculty of Business and Law
Keywords organisational behavior, people with disabilities, workplace culture, services, Victoria, corporate culture, nonprofit organisations
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