Culture eats strategy for breakfast in SAEON
By Johan Pauw, Managing Director, SAEON
By Johan Pauw, Managing Director, SAEON
An organisation’s culture could enhance its ability to achieve the desirable status of a high performance organisation. This is evident from the 40 characteristics of high performance organisations identified by André de Waal in the Journal of Management Research.
Managers will do well to analyse the prevalence of those 40 characteristics in their organisations. They should be guided by these characteristics to steer their organisational improvement campaigns.
With this in mind and following on a few years of culture-relevant campaigns, the National Research Foundation (the implementing agency for SAEON as a national distributed environmental research infrastructure) has embarked on an organisation-wide culture survey. The purpose statement was: “To create a shared organisational culture where every staff member is aligned behind a set of values, norms and everyday behaviours to position the NRF in the right place to deliver on its mandate.”
The survey was duly completed by SAEON employees, interns and research students. The response rate was 65%, which not only demonstrates SAEON’s commitment to the NRF’s corporate campaigns, but also offers great confidence in the results from the survey.
The well-designed study delivered an extensive set of results and analytics across the organisation. One particularly noteworthy result is the analysis of how the SAEON employees view and experience SAEON’s organisational culture.
The NRF’s management consultants, Laetoli, applied a four-way analysis of SAEON’s culture based on four main types of culture identified by Harrison and Stokes (1992). Those four types are achievement, power, role and support, described by Laetoli in the above graphic.
Laetoli’s presentation of the results of the analysis derived for SAEON (above left). The survey was completed by SAEON employees, interns and research students, with a response rate of 65%.
The subdominance of the “power culture” and the dominance of the “support culture” was not unexpected and the overall results correlate very well with a description published in SAEON eNews of June 2018 of SAEON’s transformative management philosophy.
In this article, I emphasised that despite the potential constraints of working under government supervision, adopting an organisational learning culture is instrumental to achieving SAEON’s mandate and requires the “careful cultivation of attitudes, commitments and organisational processes”.
Readers familiar with the Science, Technology and Innovation White Paper of the Department of Science and Technology (2018) will also immediately recognise the relevance of an organisational learning culture for the advancement of transformation and innovation in the national science system.
A learning culture recognises that no one member of SAEON has all the knowledge or can be everywhere all the time. Success must therefore be co-created. This understanding shows up in SAEON’s organisational culture by it being highly supportive despite the geographic and disciplinary dispersal of our business units.
By the same token, the required internal supportive collaborations among the staff members of SAEON derive benefit from a structural clarity about roles. Harmonised support and role cultures in SAEON lead to creative and innovative solutions and therefore conjointly enable and enhance the organisation’s achievements.
Now as 2021 is rushing to its conclusion, SAEON is once again preparing to mount a new and formidable organisational growth challenge in the form of the development of the South African Polar Research Infrastructure (SAPRI), one of 13 research infrastructures envisaged in the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR), a key national strategy of global importance of the Department of Science and Innovation.
Back in 2018 I wrote: “SAEON is on a transformative curve that is both exciting and hard to handle.” Now, three years later, my conviction is even stronger.
By continuing the hard work to further our culture of learning and fostering open stakeholder collaborations, we will be empowered to wrestle with the formidable challenge of SAPRI’s integration into SAEON. If successful, Peter Drucker’s mantra of “culture eats strategy for breakfast” will once again ring true.
“SAEON is preparing to mount a new and formidable organisational growth challenge in the form of the development of the South African Polar Research Infrastructure.” ~ Johan Pauw
The South African Polar Research Infrastructure is one of 13 research infrastructures envisaged in the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap, a key national strategy of global importance of the Department of Science and Innovation.