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Case Study Analysis: A Change of Leadership at The

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The Local Education Authority (LEA) of Lyubenski, in Belarus, faces many challenges in order to become an efficient and productive administration for the local schools. Ales Rakovich, the new head of the LEA, was informed by the head of the Regional Education Authority that he was dissatisfied with the performance of the LEA secretary, Olga Vasyuk. Upon closer examination, however, it is apparent that the problem is not simply with the performance of the secretary; it is a wider problem which encompasses the organizational culture of the LEA.

Lyubenski, a small rural district in southern Belarus, does not have a large population from which it can attract employees. Salaries at the LEA were modest, there were many vacancies in the local schools, and it was difficult to find employees for office work. The LEA was forced to hire individuals who were not experienced in the duties of their positions and who were not formally trained after employment.

The Belarus educational administration system was highly centralized. Decisions were made from the top officials, with mid-level administrators having no input in the decision-making process. This encouraged administrators to maintain the status quo and stifled innovation. Administrators were valued for their ability to follow directions and implement the mandates of their superiors, rather than for their administrative skills.

The organizational culture of the LEA was based on the tradition of following the work habits of their administrator; therefor, there were no set policies on work hours. Workers conformed to the working hours of the former administrator and this became part of the office culture. While this worked during the term of the former administrator; a change in leadership, and the work habits of the new administrator, posed several challenges to the efficiency of the office. The lack of a clear organizational culture resulted in tardiness, poor work habits, inconsistency, confusion, and a decrease in the efficiency of the office.

This case study prompts several questions. What is an organizational culture? How can this culture aid in aligning employees actions with organizational goals? Can a culture hinder this alignment? Can organizational cultures be changed, and if so, how difficult is it to change them? How feasible is organizational development at the public administration level? Have similar problems been encountered in other organizations, and if so, how were they dealt with?

Organizations are single, unique entities which are forged from products, processes, personalities, events and happenings over time (Pedler 1992, 259). Simply put, an organizational culture is the "social glue that helps hold the organization together by providing appropriate standards for what employees should say and do" (Smith 2003, 249). The culture of an organization shapes the members' cognitive processes, thus becoming the accepted way of doing things. Employees gradually acquire an organizations attitudes, norms, values, and belief. When this is accomplished, the members share the organization's view of the working environment, and these beliefs help guide the members in dealing with problems (LeMay 2006, 55). Without these explicit expectations, employees are left to their own devices in an attempt to make sense of the work environment. The lack of a clearly defined culture, as seen in this case study, can lead to disastrous results.

A poor or unsatisfactory culture discourages employee motivation and promotes poor organizational performance. If the needs of the employees' are not met, they will become disillusioned, and their morale and productivity will suffer (Atkins and Turner 2006, 31). Likewise, organizational culture can have a significant impact on an organizations long-term performance (Smith 2003, 249). This lack of motivation and poor performance can be seen in the performance of the LEA. There was no set expectation of what working hours were, and as a result Olga, the secretary, was constantly late. Other employees would follow this pattern as well, and this led to a very unpredictable office, as there was no guarantee that employees were at their station when they were needed. There was no official regulation defining who the secretary's' direct superior was and, although Olga was a good employee in other ways, the lack of proper organization of her daily work led to various problems when she was not at her desk. Other employees would not be able to find information needed to answer requests and they would soon become disillusioned and stop trying. Clearly, the needs of the employee and organization are not being met.

The organizational culture of the LED was one of uncertainty, which leads to poor performance and decreased customer satisfaction. As seen in these examples, a poor culture can have many adverse effects upon the organization. To compound this, decisions made within the LEA are dictated from the upper most managers. Lower level administrators have no input, and since decision making is centralized, the probability of groupthink is compounded. Groupthink occurs for many reasons, but in this case the unquestioned acceptance of policy can become so rigid that it is not equipped to deal with a changing environment (LeMay 2006, 56). This is the result of the decision makers ignoring the input of others, and their belief that the decisions they make are always correct.

Changing the culture of an organization can be a daunting task. Studies have shown that only 32 percent of organizations which engaged in change achieved success in changing the vision, values, and culture of their organization (Smith 2003, 249). There are various factors which are relevant to the failure rate of organizational culture changes, but foremost is the issue of leadership. Without a leader, or group of leaders, who support and sponsor change, efforts may fail to properly communicate a compelling need for the change, or leaders may lose confidence in the change process when initial results are discouraging (Thomas and Lesley 1998, 475). Another problem with changing a culture is the length of time it takes to accomplish. A cultural change in larger companies can take from between four and ten years. The longer the process of change, the more opportunities there are for things to go wrong (Smith 2003, 250). That being said, a successful leader should be able to undo an "individual's previously held goals and orientations and create new ones that are close to how the organizational culture should look like" (McLaurin 2008, 49). There are many benefits to improving an organization's culture, which include the personal and professional growth of employees; improvements in agency performance, customer satisfaction and employee morale (Atkins and Turner 2006, 37).



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