Strategisches Management und die Gestaltung kultureller Transformationsprozesse. eines kohäsionsorientierten Kulturansatzes. Abstract (English) - PDF

Strategic management and shaping cultural transformation processes at German Universities Transfer and implementation of a cohesion approach of culture Strategisches Management und die Gestaltung kultureller

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Strategic management and shaping cultural transformation processes at German Universities Transfer and implementation of a cohesion approach of culture Strategisches Management und die Gestaltung kultureller Transformationsprozesse an deutschen Universitäten Übertragung und Anwendungsmöglichkeiten eines kohäsionsorientierten Kulturansatzes Nora Krzywinski M.A., Projektmitarbeiterin Management von Veränderungsprozessen, Zukunftskonzept, Bereich Qualitätsund Change-Management, Technische Universität Dresden Abstract (English) University culture is seen as one of the main obstacles to the successful implementation of the process of strategic university management. Although existing organisational approaches of changing processes give theoretical insight, they fail to consider the cultural perspective and how change can be implemented successfully. This article focuses on a cultural approach and therefore introduces a cohesive cultural model to the Higher Education (HE) context. It will be shown how this paradigm can be used in strategic management processes at universities and how it can support them. It therefore offers an approach that is applicable to the practice of university management. Keywords: Higher Education Management, New Public Management, Organisational Culture, Communication, Cohesion Abstract (Deutsch) Universitätskultur kann als eines der Haupthindernisse für die Implementierung von strategischem Management an Universitäten angesehen werden. Vorhandene Ansätze der Organisationsforschung betrachten zwar Veränderungsprozesse, diskutieren die Rolle der Organisationskultur jedoch nur am Rande und fragen nicht nach dem Wie der Umsetzung einer solchen organisationalen Veränderung. Dieser Artikel betrachtet strategisches Management an Universitäten aus einer kulturtheoretischen Perspektive und überträgt das kohäsionsorientierte Organisationsmodell auf den Hochschulkontext. Es wird gezeigt, wie dieses Modell strategische Prozesse unterstützen kann, so dass es einen praktischen Nutzen für das Hochschulmanagement bietet. Schlagwörter: Hochschulmanagement, New Public Management, Organisationskultur, Kommunikation, Hochschulforschung, Universität 25 1. Economic competition in the German higher education (HE) system German and other European universities are undergoing an economically motivated process of change, characterised by intense competition between and within higher education institutions (HEIs) (Wissenschaftsrat 1985). In addition, a change in governance has occurred, partly as a response to the idea of competition and partly to diminish other deficits in the German HE system. This process of change is reflected in the introduction of New Public Management (NPM) to universities from the early 1990s. The introduction of NPM, the pressure of having or wanting to act competitively and the lack of more appropriate alternatives led to traditional management methods being transferred to the HE system (e. g. Kotler / Murphy 1981, Scheidegger 2001, Trogele 1997, v. Gagern 2009). For instance, German universities attempt to act strategically, as reflected in such strategic processes as mission statements, profile development and the national excellence initiative (Berthold 2011:51ff.). This conglomerate of competitive alignment, the use of strategic management methods and the change of certain traditional assumptions due to NPM leads to an intense cultural transformation process in the HE system, as well as within universities. Traditional approaches of organisational theory, such as change management and organisational learning, view organisational culture as a relevant factor in accompanying and affecting change processes, due to its ability to be shaped (Bea / Haas 2004:458ff., Bamberger / Wrona 2004:307ff.). At German universities, culture plays a significant role (Schönwald 2007:108ff.) since, compared to companies, they have a highly heterogeneous structure (Clark 1980, Weick 1976), professors are relatively autonomous (Schimank 2005) and decision-making processes are participatory and consensus-oriented (Breitbach 2009) 1 : Because of the distinctive nature of academic institutions, organizational culture plays a significant role in their functioning (Dill 1982:307). The question therefore arises how the critical factor of university culture can be aptly described and make an impact on strategic management processes; after all, [...] a positive organisational culture which embraces the institution and motivates the staff can enable a university to punch above its weight in competitive situations (Shattock 2000:101). Organisational theory offers only inadequate answers, since it regards organisational culture from a functional perspective, which fails to do justice to the relevance of university culture, due to its emphasis on such aspects as structural processes. It seems pertinent and essential to concentrate on strategic change processes and newly developing cultural structures: Even if counteractive measures exist, the system of economic competition has penetrated society to such an extent that there is no turning back. Universities therefore have to face these new conditions and, most importantly, be in a position to shape them. Since strategic management is quite a new phenomenon, universities are confronted by a lack of routines in taking action and problem-solving, which are currently developing. Management approaches from the private or non-profit sector can only be applied to HE to a limited extent, necessitating scientific exploration. The subsequent preparation and dissemination should give decisionmakers in HE practical and adequate tools to deal with strategic processes. HEIs require routines that do justice to their special type of organisation and which are not implemented despite a lack of fit. In other words, universities require self-emergent routines. This paper aims to introduce a culture paradigm that breaks with traditional assumptions and that is suitable for describing the HE context for this very reason. First of all, traditional culture 26 interculture j ourna l 12/20 (2013) paradigms will be criticised and the state of the art of the discourse on the concept of university culture presented. The main focus of the paper is to describe a cohesion-oriented culture paradigm and to transfer it to the HE context for the first time. The paper can therefore be characterised by explaining and developing a theoretical discourse in the field of university culture. In the second part, it will be shown how the model can support transformation processes at HEIs. To this end, the potential of a cultural cohesion model for practitioners in Germany and in the international context will be highlighted. 2. From homogeneity to heterogeneity in the cultural model 2.1. Culture as a communicative concept Based on the Latin term communicare in the sense of doing something collaboratively (Bolten 2000:1), communication can be understood as a process of collaborative action (Bolten 2000:2) or as reciprocal interaction between content and relation aspects (Watzlawick / Beavin / Jackson 1969:55). The action and knowledge of groups therefore emerges from communicative self-understanding, and is the result of century-long processes. At the same time, this stock of knowledge and options for action are modified in the current socialisation context; culture is to be updated (Bolten 2000). This leads to the definition of culture as the product of communicative processes (ibid.). The broadest possible culture concept should be added to supplement the concept of culture as communication at a content level: Culture [...] is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society (Tylor 1871:1). This definition accentuates the shared habits of a community, but does not say anything about its degree of homogeneity (Rathje 2009b:16) which as we shall see in the following is a relevant point for developing a cohesion-oriented culture model Criticism of the coherence approach to culture In the coherence approach to culture, the shared habits provide a basis for the alleged affiliation to a cultural community. They end at the boundaries of this collective, and allow only a small degree of overlapping (Rathje 2009a:90); there is congruence at the cultural and collective level. This implies that affiliation to a certain community suggests affiliation to other (special) communities. The issue of affiliation can also be highlighted as follows: a person may become a member of an association by paying a fee, but he is not necessarily obliged to share its habits. Congruence at the cultural and collective level must therefore be doubted. The main criticism of traditional culture concepts is the implicit homogeneity (Welsch 1994:3f.) or content coherence (Rathje 2009a:90). To put it bluntly, one would be able to conclude specific cultural habits from this assumption of collective affiliation. The question of differentness and the associated differentiation between the Own and the Alien is also criticised concerning classic culture models. Such a differentiation always implies a normative assessment that and this must surely be one of the new culture model s achievements is no longer an appropriate description of individuals and their collectives in postmodern tradition (Welsch 1994). The idea of the boundary of cultures, usually based on assumptions of homogeneity or the accentuation of the own and the alien, goes back to the national state-oriented discourse of the culture concept. It implies an ethnic differentiation between cultures, and is therefore not only inapplicable for descriptions, but must also been understood as normatively dangerous (Welsch 1994:4). Concerning the affiliation of cultural associations, border coherence is stressed in traditional concepts of culture. It describes explicit [...] borders as well 27 as low permeability between collectives and, therefore, cultures (Rathje 2009a:90). This in turn implies a primary collective affiliation of individuals, and must be viewed critically because the environment is characterised by an increasing diversification and overlapping of cultural groups (Heizmann 2008:37). The role of the individual as the smallest entity of a community is often neglected in traditional culture paradigms. Each member is individual with regard to his habits, and processes cognitive impulses on an individualised basis (Assmann 1992 as cited in Rathje 2009b:93), which is why the homogeneity of a community is subject to tight limits. Concepts that aim to describe heterogeneous groups appropriately should detach themselves from the desire for homogeneity regarding content, structure and congruence and should instead find possibilities to describe heterogeneity and individuals affiliation to different cultural communities appropriately. In the following, organisational culture is defined as a special kind of culture (Rathje 2004:60ff.). It is generated by the communicative processes that take place between the members of an organisation and its environment, and is shaped by certain habits University culture state of the art Martin identifies three main perspectives of the culture-oriented research of organisations: integration, differentiation and fragmentation (Martin 1992). The integrative perspective is based on a consensus and homogeneous orientation of a cultural community and assumes consistency regarding their habits (Smerek 2010:384). The perspective of differentiation accepts differences and no longer assumes consensus at the level of the entire organisation, but within subcultures of an organisation. Fragmentation highlights ambiguity, which includes multiple, contradictory meanings that are simultaneously true and false, paradoxes, ironies, and irreconcilable tensions (Martin 2002:110). Consequently, there is no common, homogeneous core; instead, culture arises from shared habits (Smerek 2010:384). Whilst the first two perspectives share the same basic assumption a homogeneous core the fragmentation perspective has an extra position. Since the concept of ambiguity is difficult to conceptualise, the fragmentation perspective is the least pursued perspective within the field of HE organisational culture research (Smerek 2010:402). If we consider research into culture and criticism of homogeneous-oriented cultural approaches, the fragmentation perspective characterises the modern, networked and globalised world and the complex (German) HEI (Clark 1981 as cited in Dill 1982) much more accurately and adequately. The difficulty of conceptualisation must not act as an excuse for not dealing with the topic and developing appropriate models. Another noticeable aspect of university culture research is its fragmentation into different levels and the individual consideration thereof, such as the levels of the entire organisation, faculties and disciplinary culture (Välimaa 2008:15ff., Maassen 1996). University culture research can be characterised as follows: consensus orientation of the models, little research into fragmentation models, fragmentation of research topics due to the heterogeneous structure of HEIs. The aim of this article is therefore, following this criticism of research into university culture, to reveal the options that enable the heterogeneous and cohesive culture model to be transferred to the university context, advance the research into culture models of the fragmentation perspective and 28 interculture j ourna l 12/20 (2013) an explanation of the integration of heterogeneous views within a cultural community. Exh. 1: Matrix model of culture. Source: Rathje 2010:169. dissolve the fragmentation of research topics on university culture by applying an integrative approach. In addition, the practical benefits of the cohesion model of university culture for university managers and practitioners shall be demonstrated. 3. The cohesion-oriented culture model Description and implementation 3.1. Difference-oriented culture concept Although subcultural and intercultural models ( Jochheim 2002, Bolten 2010) or the concept of cross-cultural concepts (Welsch 1994) attempt to respond to such criticism, these approaches cannot counter the criticism with regard to the culture models either. A cultural concept that assumes contextual difference, and hence breaks with the traditional assumptions of homogeneity and coherence, was introduced into the cultural theory discourse by Rathje (2009a). The main assumption here, adapted from Hansen (2009), is the detachment of the collective (culture bearers) and the content (cultural habits). This allows individuals to have different habits, but to be members of one and the same collective (Hansen 2009). The cohesion culture approach therefore provides In accordance with Martin (1992, 2002), all three perspectives should be taken into account when researching university culture. He argues that elements of all three can be found in an organisation (Smerek 2010:384). However, Rathje does not accept any homogeneous element and accepts only fragmentation in cultural communities (Rathje 2009a:84ff.). Martin furthermore speaks of ambiguity as the sharing, the bonding element. Rathje, once again, goes even further: only the knowledge of ambiguity, familiarity with it, enables culture and community to emerge, not ambiguity itself (Rathje 2009a:87). In addition, Rathje includes an individual and pluralistic level, taking into account the criticism of homogeneousoriented models, i. e. the lack of an explanation of individuality. A matrix model of culture (See Exh. 1) is produced which can help describe communities (Rathje 2010:167f.). The field of differentiation accentuates the existence of different habits within a collective; it shows that culture is heterogeneous. Multicollectivity assumes that individuals belong not only to one primary collective, but are members of different collectives. One basic assumption is therefore that there must not be congruency between the cultural community and the collective. Rather, cultural communities overlap, enabling stability to evolve. Border coherence is not porous, but rigid: it is not the knowledge of cultural habits that decides who belongs to a community, but clear parameters (board committee members versus non-board committee members). The field of radical individuality, as an important enhancement to traditional coherence approaches, does justice to the individual as the smal- 29 lest and most individual parameter of a community. Since an individual is part of multiple collectives and knows about their different habits, it must be concluded that the cognitive processing of these experiences leads to a radical individuality. The question of affiliation to a cultural community cannot be answered by clear parameters as at the collective level, but rather is an ongoing process. The crucial point is the knowledge of and familiarity with the cultural habits (Rathje 2009a:95). It is sufficient to know about the habits of a cultural community to be member of it. To be a member of a collective, strong criteria have to be achieved (Rathje 2009a:95). Universities are entities in which the prevailing culture is strongly influenced by communication processes (committee work, necessity of consensus, collegiality) (e. g. in Schimank 2001). In the sense of the communication-based culture concept, which understands culture as a product of communicative processes (Section 2.1), the presented culture concept can adequately describe the university as a space characterised by communication Cohesion-oriented culture model Despite previous transformations, mainly in connection with NPM, there are still few interuniversity differences concerning structure, autonomy and decision-making processes. Why do some universities still cope better with such transformation processes? How do these differences evolve? And what is important when dealing with cohesionoriented university culture when accompanying such processes? If universities distinguish themselves by contextual difference and structural heterogeneity, the questions arise 1) what keeps the community together and 2) how can the envisaged targets be achieved despite heterogeneity and difference. The term of cohesion extending the difference-oriented culture model can provide the critical explanation approach here. To answer Question 1) regarding the cohesion of a heterogeneous and different community, the contrasting terms of coherence and cohesion can be used (Rathje 2009b). Coherence refers to the inner coherence qua conclusiveness and consistency of certain entities (Bolten 2010:46). However, with regard to the difference-oriented culture concept, it must be stated that heterogeneous communities are not kept together by conclusiveness and consistence, but by cohesion (Rathje 2009b:21). Cohesion [...] describes [ ] the absolutely separable bond between entities, such as molecules (Bolten 2010:46) and hence describes a stable yet dynamic connection between elements within a certain time frame. This means that the underlying elements of the community may be heterogeneous and different, and can be held together by a bond yet to be specified. The question as to the characteristics of the cohesive bond leads us directly to Question 2) posed above, regarding how culturally heterogeneous communities can achieve the intended targets. The bond functions in terms of a psychological element, and is understood to be the feeling of shared identity that bonds group members together, (e. g. Festinger / Schachter / Back 1950:164 as cited in Rathje 2009b:7). Consequently, the members of a group develop an identification with the community or its objectives. This identification can lead to an increased level of motivation and willingness to perform with regard to the group s obje
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