When it is time to sell a change in your company, know the culture of your organization, especially of the group you need to impress, and tailor your argument in the language and metrics of your target group so your message will resonate.
So says Jennifer A. Howard-Grenville, a University of Oregon management professor in the Lundquist College of Business, in a paper published in the July-August issue of the journal Organization Science and in her newly published book “Corporate Culture and Environmental Practice: Making Change at a High-Technology Manufacturer” (Edward Elgar Publishing Inc.).
Both are based on an analysis of data gathered in a nine-month, in-depth study of a manufacturing company while she was a doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Based in a group formed to help the company reduce its detrimental environmental impact, she observed the group’s interactions with members of a larger, dominant technology-development group.
While the groups worked differently, the environmental group gradually began to influence how the core group designed certain new processes with environmental impact in mind. The company, fictitiously named Chipco in the study, is a major U.S. semiconductor manufacturer.
Howard-Grenville’s research provides a broad look at the tug of war that goes on within businesses to advance certain causes, be they those that affect the manufacturing of new products, increasing market share or responding to external social and environmental pressures.
Her study focused on the environmental group’s actions. Howard-Grenville also conducted 26 interviews with employees involved in earlier issue-selling efforts, both successful and unsuccessful, studied the company’s culture and poured through archival records of such projects done in the previous six years.
Research in the last 20 years had been based on interviews with successful issue sellers, focusing solely on what they did right, she said. “The studies hadn’t given the arguments much context,” she said. “Failures often were overlooked.
"I found that people who are looking to advance issues in an organization can do so by learning from failures of past efforts and of running up against core organizational culture,” she said. “If group members learn from earlier experiences, they’ll realize how to better craft their argument and portray an issue so that others in the dominant culture will understand what’s at stake.”
Issue-sellers must understand other people in an organization’s various groups, in particular those being targeted to affect change, she said. “The way to get savvy is to build alliances, befriend those who know the culture. They may not share your passion or interest, but they may be able to help you understand another group’s culture and levels of resistance,” she added.
The environmental group, she said, showed a distinctive shift in its approach to getting the attention of the dominant technology-development group. “Earlier projects were characterized by a lot of moves that amounted to the small environmental group, ‘don’t worry, we are following appropriate procedures.’” The issue-selling group, she said, wasn’t successful until its members recognized that they needed to adapt their arguments to fit the cultural expectations of the technology group by showing and interpreting data in the language of development engineers.
“Environmental group members demonstrated their confidence,” she said, “by adopting an approach that said: ‘You do measurements; we do measurements. Here’s our data.’ They portrayed their data in the language of the technology group, for example, in terms of equipment efficiency. They didn’t just say that we need to pay attention to the environment.”
Her book, which already has drawn praise from her peers, was written while she was a professor of organizational behavior at Boston University School of Management. The book provides an insider’s perspective of the company’s culture and how it played a role in decisions and actions on environmental issues.
“The book is both a model and a cautionary tale, because over the last 20 years or so we’ve had more and more research on the area of business and the environment,” said Howard-Grenville, who joined the UO faculty this year. “Much of that research has portrayed businesses as being responsive to a large set of external forces and pressures – they respond to regulation or external advocacy groups, as an example, and they respond differently and at different rates.”
Sometimes an issue may never gain traction, she said. The only way for it to get on the company’s agenda is through senior management, or as a response to a jolt from the external environment.
Jim Barlow | EurekAlert!
Mathematical confirmation: Rewiring financial networks reduces systemic risk
22.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Frugal Innovations: when less is more
19.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences