Teaching Note Class 7 - OBHRM 501 Human Behavior and Organizations

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Teaching Note Class 7 - OBHRM 501 Human Behavior and Organizations

     Spring 2003

    OBHRM 501: Human Behavior and Organizations

    Class 7 (5/21/03)

    Jane E. Dutton

    University of Michigan

    Enabling Excellence Through Culture

    Teaching Note Prepared by Jason M. Kanov and Jacoba M. Lilius

    University of Michigan

Goals of the class:

    1) To respond to the student‘s feedback (collected the previous class).

    2) To introduce the concept of culture, and connect it to organizational excellence.

    3) To provide an example (IDEO) of an organization with a culture that enables excellence

    through creativity.

    4) To allow the students to experience and overcome potential barriers to cross-cultural

    communication using a role-play exercise.

Videos and materials needed:

    ? Copies of Dividend magazine (this is the University of Michigan Business School

    magazine) 1 copy per every 3 or 4 students. See the description of slide 5 for additional


    ? Video ―The Deep Dive‖ (This is a segment about IDEO that was shown on Nightline

    aired on July 13, 1999. The video is available through ABC News.)

    Description and Flow of the Class:

    Slide 1 Slide 2

     Spring 2003

Slide 1 This slide provides a brief overview of the flow of the class.

Slide 2 This slide summarizes the mid-term feedback the students provided in the

    previous class. The slide describes what the students seem to enjoy about the

    class, and it also identifies some aspects of the class that could be improved. In

    addition to listing the areas that could be improved, it is a good idea to also

    describe any efforts you will be making in order to make these improvements.

    [Reviewing this feedback with the class should take approximately 5 minutes.]

    Slide 3 Slide 4

Slide 3 This slide introduces some basic ideas about organizational culture.

    Additional thoughts:

    ? There are many definitions of culture that exist in the organizational

    literature, but the one that appears on this slide (shared assumptions, beliefs

    and values that distinguish a social collective and shape patterns of behavior)

    is the one that fits best with purposes of the class.

    ? Culture can be hard to put your finger on. That is, it is difficult to say exactly

    what an organization‘s culture is like, yet at the same time, it is very easy to

    feel when you enter an organizational context.

Slide 4 The information in this slide is based on the Schein coursepack reading. It

    describes three levels of culture, from the most to the least visible (artifacts being

    the most visible and basic underlying assumptions being the least visible). As a

    way of transitioning to this slide, explain that it is at the level of artifacts that

    culture is tangible, but that it is at the level of basic assumptions that culture is

    truly defined.

     Spring 2003

    Note that culture is very difficult and very slow to change because it is these

    assumptions that must be changed it would take at a minimum 10 years to

    make a real culture change. Connect this difficulty with the notion that new

    strategies are often implemented without consideration of the basic culture to

    explain why change efforts often failit leads to situations in which

    organizational culture and strategy are not aligned.

    Slide 5 Slide 6

    Slide 5 This slide describes a break out exercise that is intended to get the students to

    identify concrete aspects of the three levels of culture in a real organization. The

    organization that will be investigated is the University of Michigan Business


For this activity, students are asked to break into groups of 4 and each group is

    given a copy of the University of Michigan Business School‘s Dividend

    magazine. Groups are then asked to identify evidence of cultural artifacts,

    espoused values, and basic underlying assumptions based on what they see in the

    magazine and what they know or have experienced as members of the business

    school. (10 minutes)

Discussion about the group activity (15-20 minutes):

    This discussion gives the groups an opportunity to share their ideas with the class.

    To enrich the discussion, you may also want to prompt them to reflect on other

    related cultural levels. For example, if they identify a cultural artifact, try to push

    them to think about what this artifact suggests in terms of cultural values or

    underlying assumptions

     Spring 2003

    ? Sample responses:

    Artifacts Limousines that take executives to and from the airport

    (The students are then pushed to think about what this artifact suggests in

    terms of values or assumptions)

    o Some responses: care for stakeholders; elitism; arrogance

    Artifacts Espoused Values Basic Underlying Assumptions Beautiful surroundings (e.g. We are a world class business Aesthetics reflect quality courtyard) school

    Diversity in featured career Be interdisciplinary Well-roundedness is important opportunities

    Tozzi Center We want to be high tech and Technology is the way to

    connected to Wall St. advancement Alumni connections You should give back It is important to foster the next

    generation of students Cultural diversity We strive to maintain a Diversity in background and

    diverse student population experience is beneficial to the

    learning experience. Limousines for executives We care about prestige Success = $$$

Slide 6 This slide depicts a figure that has been developed by members of the business

    school (from the deans to the support staff) as an articulation of their new

    strategy, ―Leading in Thought and Action‖. The top section of the figure says,

    ―Conjoining Theory and Action‖. The middle left section says, ―Innovating In

    Business Education‖. The middle right section says, ―Capitalizing On Co-

    Creation Opportunities‖. The base of the triangle says, ―Developing Broad-

    Based Intellectual Capital With Impact‖.

    The purpose of this slide is to foster discussion about alignment between a new

    strategy and organizational culture. For example, the triangle is a representation

    of the Business School‘s strategy. It was used to engage students in a discussion

    about how the current Business School culture supports (or not) the strategy.

    Slide 7 Slide 8

     Spring 2003

Slide 7 This slide helps the students to see how cultures can be nested within other

    cultures. For example, the culture of the Business School (unit culture) is nested

    within the U of M‘s organizational culture, which is nested within the

    professional-industry culture, which is nested within a national culture.

Slide 8 Video ―The Deep Dive‖ (25 minutes):

    This slide provides the students with some guiding questions to keep in mind as

    they watch a video clip featuring IDEO. The purpose of this video is to provide

    students with a concrete example of a positively deviant organization for analysis

    and discussion. IDEO is an organization with a strong culture that encourages

    excellence through creativity.

     Discussion about the video (20 minutes):

     The guiding questions from slide 8 can be used to initiate the discussion. As

    students identify aspects of the culture, ask them to think about the aspects of the

    organizational practices and process that enable these aspects. Offer your own

    insights to connect the students‘ comments to the main ideas you are trying to


    How would you describe the culture?

    ? Sample responses: open; encouraging of people to be creative; fun; there

    is personality in every cubicle; non-threatening; value placed on out-of-

    the-box thinking; not experts at products, but process; judgment is


     How is the culture created and sustained?

    ? Sample responses: flat (non-hierarchical) structure; recruiting and hiring

    practices (selecting for diversity in background and attitudes); evaluation

    practices (peer evaluations); rewarding groups (not individuals)

    Slide 9 Slide 10

     Spring 2003

    Slide 9 This slide is a quote from the CEO of IDEO that is used to demonstrate the

    concept of mindfulness as a collective process. Note that this process is very

    difficult to imitate as a competitor.

    Slide 10 This slide is very important because is makes the link between organizational

    culture and excellence. As you go through the points on this slide that describe

    how culture can enable organizational excellence, try to connect the points back

    to concrete examples from the IDEO video or other examples that may have

    come up in discussion.

    Break (10 minutes)

     The second half of the class uses a role-playing exercise to provide students with

    an opportunity to experience some potential difficulties associated with cross-

    cultural communication and interaction. Although the activity that Jane used in

    teaching this class is not available, the following is a brief description of the

    activity that will hopefully help you select or develop an activity that fits with the

    goals of this class.

The premise of the activity that Jane used is as follows: American journalists

    must negotiate with ‗Xions‘ (people from a fictional foreign land) in order to

    gain permission to take pictures of gardens that have never before been

    photographed. While this is not made explicit prior to the exercise, the Xions

    have many different cultural norms and expectations that the Americans must

    pick up on and follow if they are to gain access to the gardens.

This is a group activity such that each student will be a member of a group of

    either three Xions or three American journalists. During the activity, each group

    of Xions will be paired with a different group of Americans. If the number of

    students in the class is not divisible by 6, the extra students can act as observers

    for the interactions. Once the groups are formed, the Xions and the Americans

    should be separated, given instructions about their respective roles, and given

    about 10 minutes to prepare for their roles. When the activity begins the

    Americans should spend some time getting to know the Xions before attempting

    to make their request.

As a way of debriefing the activity, begin by discussing what happened across all

    of the groups and then discuss the challenges that groups faced during the

    activity. Below are some examples of discussion questions:

    ? How many groups achieved their outcome? (It may be that the majority

    of groups will be unsuccessful.)

    ? What was the most difficult part about this interaction?

    ? What approaches worked (or did not work)? What were the keys to

    success (for those groups that succeeded)?

    ? What role, if any, did stereotyping play during this activity?

    ? What did you do to build a positive connection during the interaction?

    (E.g., you could express interpersonal attunement by asking questions

    like ―Do you understand English?‖ or ―Do you want me to slow down?‖)

     Spring 2003

    It is also important to spend some time discussing the broader implications of

    challenges faced in this activity.

    ? How can you utilize your experience here today or your experience in

    industry to lead you to cross-cultural competence?

    o Sample responses: ease into the culture; engage fully in the

    culture (ask many questions); show respect through interest;

    share aspects of own culture; research the other culture carefully

    before attempting to interact (noted that in this case, many of the

    barriers to communication could have been avoided with even

    basic research that the students didn‘t have opportunity to

    conduct); keep an open mind.

    o Additional thought: An important part of cross-cultural

    competence is being able to show it for example, being able to

    indicate that you are keeping an open mind. How do you do this?

Slide 11 Slide 12

    Slide 11 Use this slide to summarize and expand on the difficulties that the students

    identified during the debriefing of the activity. It is important to emphasize how

    challenging these difficulties may be to overcome. Note that even in the present

    exercise in which people may have had a heightened awareness of cultural

    barriers, they were still very difficult to work through.

    ? Courtesy conventions Each culture has conventions for courtesy

    people who don‘t conform to these conventions may be viewed as rude.

    For example, the American convention of asking, ―How are you?‖

    without expecting an answer may create an impression that Americans

    are insincere to those from other cultures.

    ? Phasing This can affect how and when business subjects are discussed.

    Different expectations exist across cultures about necessities and wasting

    time as do different assumptions about mixing business with pleasure.

     Spring 2003

    ? Objectivity Culture affects the preferences and expectations about logic,

    precision, and orderliness. Less orderly can seem chaotic; being

    precisionoriented can seem intolerant and demeaning.

    ? Specificity Cultures differ in terms of how specific one should be at the

    start of a discussion. For example, white Americans tend to start with

    specifics and what are considered important points and then expand.

    Asians prefer to start with generalities and go to details.

    ? Assertiveness Major cultural differences exist in the preferences and

    appropriateness of being self-effacing vs. self-promoting. Different

    behaviors in different cultures would be interpreted as friendly vs.

    confrontational vs. aggressive.

    ? Candor Differences There exist differences across cultures in terms of

    the priority given to candor in communication. For example, Americans

    often feel telling the truth is key. In other cultures, courtesy, sensitivity,

    loyalty to family, and face are much more important.Slide 12 This

    slide summarizes what the main points about culture. Note the potential for

    positive dynamics of organizational culture and juxtapose it with the potential

    negative dynamics of cross-cultural barriers.

The next class is about physical and social architecture. Jane asked students to

    come to class with ideas or artifacts regarding physical spaces that might enable


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