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!
Europe's microtechnology industry is attuned to growth
10.03.2017 | IVAM Fachverband für Mikrotechnik
Preferential trade agreements enhance global trade at the expense of its resilience
17.02.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy