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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/27955
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- The soul of the organisation: passion for the primary task
- Eastoe, Sara A.
- This thesis assumes that the real essence of an organisation is its connectedness to the primary task. Hence the metaphor of 'soul' and the notion that passion for the task must be present to create 'soul'. It therefore follows that the nature of the primary task is central to the type of organisations that is created. The past decade of downsizing and the rise of the 'high performance culture' have developed their own narrative about delivering shareholder value. Alongside this, too often, exists the feeling that "this place has lost it soul". From that perspective, this thesis addresses the question: how does an increased focus on shareholder value impact on the organisation's passion for its primary task? In a qualitative study based on semi-structured interview data, the characteristics of the task of shareholder value delivery and its impact on customer service delivery are described in this thesis as have been reported by the informants of three large business units from The Australian Banking Corporation, Plc. (ABC), the fictionalised organization which forms the case study for this research. Drawing on a psycho-analytic theoretical frame of organisational theory, the dynamic that this shift in task has created is identified and interpreted. From this phenomenological position, the findings clearly reveal that shareholder value is identified as the current primary task of the organisation, and has become deeply embedded through a business model promoting separated specialist businesses within the umbrella of ABC. The findings show that the tension between delivering service to the customer as stakeholder, the initial primary task, and the current task of delivering shareholder value is unconsciously contained through a process of splitting and projection to establish an idealised customer. The concept of social defense is applied to interpret this dynamic as it enables ABC to engage in the fantasy that it remains customer focussed. In order to replace the primary task of customer service with the task of delivering shareholder value, a process of substitution and mutation developed unconsciously from fear for the survival of ABC which, equally unconsciously connected the notion of service with the desire to serve the shareholder. The pain and anxiety produced by downsizing and continual attention to cost reduction, highly characteristic of the shareholder value model, substantially reduced organisational morale and, in this context, ABC embraced a genuine desire to create a new set of values and a healthy culture. However, what emerged was a religious fundamentalist culture that protects and reinforces the task of delivering shareholder value. Weber's protestant fundamentalism model promoted the creation of financial wealth through hard work while generating feelings of inclusion to render the task of shareholder value more palatable in the organisation. These two systems became symbiotic though the task values intrinsic in delivering shareholder value were recognised as being devoid of altruism. The dogma driven by the system is fundamentalist, the culture is divisively individualistic and passion for the newly accepted primary task is apparently impossible. Hence, it is concluded, the organisational 'soul' of ABC has been corroded. The implications of these findings for practice are concerned with the impact of the task of pursuing shareholder value, and the system it creates as they impact on ABC's ability to change and adapt so that: (1) Short-termism and risk aversion appear to be affecting the capacity of the CEO to lead the organisation into a growth phase. (2) Adoption of the specialisation model at ABC, supported by the CEO with a competitive individual reward program, appears to have reduced the potential for ABC to institute change in response to market evolution. (3) The preparedness of the CEO to risk investment in the medium to long term for growth while managing the short-term expectations of the market has been diminished. (4) The heroic CEO that the shareholder value model attracts is now concerned about his own legacy, which is impacting on his preparedness to promote a vision for the medium to longer term. (5) The culture supports the status quo and is now promoted by ABC as part of what differentiates it from its competitors. To change this, it will need to look outside ABC. This, however, appears to have become a blind spot.
- Publication type
- Thesis (DBA)
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology. Faculty of Business and Enterprise. Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship
- Publication year
- ABC; Australia; Australian Banking Corporation; Corporate culture; Corporations; Customers; Shareholders; Stockholders
- Australasian Digital Theses collection
- Copyright © 2004 Sara A. Eastoe.
- Thesis Supervisor
- [Neil E. Béchervaise]
- Thesis Note
- [Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Business Administration, Swinburne University of Technology, 2004.]
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