Despite their supposed differences, all of the foregoing organizational management techniques and approaches share some common themes involving getting a better handle of what is actually being done in companies and how better to manage these things. Unfortunately, another common theme these management approaches share is the inappropriate or misapplication of these approaches by managers who either do not understand how they work or by rabid managers who insist on absolute conformity with these processes and procedures without any room for flexibility according to the unique needs of the organization. In fact, according to Mills (2003), "Analysis of the data suggests that the implementation of organizational change, particularly selected change programs such as Culture Change, TQM and BPR, does not follow the rational, orderly decision-making processes indicated by advocates" (p. 2). Nevertheless, some of the more recent management approaches do provide a more comprehensive analysis of what can reasonably be expected to take place during organizational development and transformations. For example, although continuous process improvement only considers the impact of information technology on a change initiative tangentially, business process reengineering considers it a "key enabler" as shown in Table 3 below.
The transformational scope of Business Process Reengineering.
Continuous process improvement
Business process reengineering
Narrow, within function
Risk and rewards
Low to moderate
Type of change
Structure, culture roles
Role of it
Ideas and suggestions
Methods and tools
Source: Earl, 1999 at p. 59.
Despite this laudable trend toward a more comprehensive analytical framework in recent management approaches, especially those that take into account the importance of the impact of it on such initiatives, there remains a paucity of evidence of rationality in some cases concerning how or why these initiatives were implemented and administered in the first place. For example, in an attempt to meet the absolute standards stipulated by ISO 9000, Adams (2003) cites real-world examples of managers who required their employees to label everything in the work environment, with some fed-up employees eventually even labeling the "newly waxed floor" in disgust over the inflexible requirement (p. 242). This author emphasizes that, "Managers at big companies everywhere began documenting everything they did and labeling every tool they used. It was a frenzy or labeling and document, labeling and documenting.... It was ugly" (p 241). Clearly, this overenthusiastic approach to implementing any of the foregoing management approaches is counterproductive, but each of the proponents of the respective approaches suggests that an all-out approach is needed in order to ensure success. Indeed, Ashkenas also cites an example of potentially effective management fads gone awry. In an effort to reverse a downward trend in profitability, one company implemented the following array of improvement programs over the course of a few months:
customer satisfaction survey;
An employee satisfaction survey;
Baldrige Award-type process, complete with large-scale audits and an internal panel of judges;
Across-the-board quality training and dozens of quality action teams;
Kaizen training and manufacturing floor redesign;
strategic measurement process with a team of "experts" that moved through each department developing measurement "levels";
senior "visioning" team to compare the future state with the current situation and do "interactive planning" to close the gap;
"bureaucracy-busting" team to root out unnecessary forms, meetings, and administrivia.
A major information systems project to integrate the order entry and production scheduling systems;
Socio-technical training in several plants;
project to achieve ISO 9000 certification; and Personal productivity training for managers based on a recent management "best seller" (p. 25).
Not surprisingly, the company not only failed to realize any substantive benefits from any of the foregoing initiatives, many of them caused more harm than good as a result of the disruptive nature of enterprise (Ashkenas). In this environment, identifying a careful and informed balance between the best of what each management approach has to offer and the unique needs of the organization and its stakeholders assumes new relevance and importance today.
Complicating the situation for many managers today is the diversity of opinion concerning the impact of various leadership styles on a company's bottom line. It would seem reasonable to assert that companies which enjoy the guidance of effective charismatic leaders have an inherent competitive advantage over those that do not, but there is much more involved than that of course. Some managers are able to accomplish far more than their peers because they possess the right mix of people skills and experience, while others achieve superior results by virtue of goal-setting or otherwise, but the fact remains they are getting the job done and doing it better than their counterparts who are likewise using these identical management approaches. What, then, are the fundamental differences in these successful vs. unsuccessful organizational settings? As Michalisin, Karau and Tangpong (2007) emphasize, "Organizational researchers have long studied the effects of organizational leadership on firm performance, producing a rich array of theories and empirical findings. These theories and studies have revealed that the relationship between leadership behavior and specific performance outcomes is complex, and that the specific behaviors that are effective often depends on a variety of variables, including situational factors and follower characteristics" (p. 2).
A good basic example of this in a real-world setting would be two fast-food franchises that were equipped with identical furnishings, decor, menus, equipment, staffing levels and demographic populations, and one might be managed like a well-oiled machine that consistently generates high profits and enjoys a low turnover rates while the other would be a veritable hell in which to work in any capacity. Clearly, the key difference involved in the comparative success of these two franchises would be the type of leadership team that was in place and what management styles were used. This analogy can easily be extended to other workplace settings where the fundamental difference in the workplace environment is the organizational culture that is engendered from the top-down and the bottom-up. Alas, identifying a universal and across-and-the-board leadership style that consistently produces positive outcomes in the form of an organizational culture that works in all settings is unviable, so understanding why some things work best in some settings while others do not simply makes good business sense.
The growing body of evidence concerning the impact of organizational culture on company performance has identified frequently dramatic differences in performance levels (Risher, 2007). According to this author, "One study found that with different work management strategies, performance gains of at least 30 to 40% are possible. The business media carried regular stories though the 1990s of companies that had realized gains like that" (Risher, p. 25). In those organizations where such management fads were actually successful, the gains that were realized were frequently the result of the existing strengths of the company rather than any specific attributes inherent to the management regimen involved. As Risher emphasizes, "The gains are attributable to differences in the way work is organized and managed, and by creating a culture where employees are expected to use more of their capabilities. In effect, employees are working smarter. By contrast, those studies also shed light on the practices that inhibit performance and contribute to a culture that discourages workers from coming forward with ideas to improve performance" (Risher, p. 25). Likewise, in those instances where organizations failed to realize any benefits from a quality improvement initiative, such failures might be attributable to existing weaknesses in the organization. In this regard, Shafritz (1998) emphasizes that, "There is a very high failure rate for quality initiatives in many organizations; this is not surprising given the fact that many are already failing due to management diseases and the difficulty in adopting a new work paradigm. In addition, dramatic environmental changes in today's business world can overtake any management initiative" (p. 2269).
Because of the problems inherent in identifying a "one-size-fits-all" approach to developing an effective organizational culture and determining what leadership approaches are best suited for different settings, a wide range of leadership theories have been offered in recent years in an attempt to explicate precisely what leadership behaviors are effective in what specific contexts (Michalsen et al.). For comparison purposes, these various leadership theories and their proponents are described in sum in Table 4 below.
Contextual leadership theories.
Situational leadership theory
Hersey & Blanchard, 1988
Situational leadership theory builds a prescription for supervisory behavior based on the stage of development (or maturity) of the subordinate who is the target of the leader's influence efforts (Chemers, 1997). From this perspective, in order to be effective, leaders must adjust their behavior to the maturity of the followers. Follower maturity consists of job maturity -- "the task-relevant knowledge, experience, and ability possessed by followers -- "and psychological maturity -- "the self-confidence and motivation relative to the task (Shafritz, p. 198). The model classifies subordinate maturity on two dimensions; "psychological maturity," assessing the follower's commitment, motivation, and willingness to accept responsibilty;…