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Changes in Organizational Culture: When leadership takes firm hold of its rudder.

 Article by Nguyen Huu Thuy Vi – s3394140

“If organization was a ship, the leader would be a captain. Wind can change its direction and storm can come, no ship will follow one way forever. The captain has to beware of this fact, predict what will happen and steer the ship to the way that won’t make it sink”, said Mr. Vo Duy Nghia – CEO and Founder of Mekong Communications Corporation.

nghia-large

Figure 1. Mr. Vo Duy Nghia – CEO & Founder of Mekong Communicatons Corp. (Reproduced from Anh 2013)

I met Mr. Nghia in a busy morning as usual of the whole company. Graduated from the University of Finance and Marketing HCMC, he became the talented founder and CEO of a prestigious digital marketing agency at a very young age. In contrast to the bustling atmosphere outside, the silence of meeting room made the CEO sitting in front of me look even more earnest. However, once he started talking, I could see all the sincerity, severity, but also humor and friendliness inside this man – the captain of a whole big ship.

Established in 2008 when the traditional marketing tools still extremely kept the upper hand over the Vietnamese market, Mekong Communications has become one of the very first pioneers in developing the digital marketing industry on both local and regional scales. This success of the firm today was significantly contributed by the leadership practice on building and maintaining an integrated organizational culture, which mainly conducted by Mr. Nghia.

 So, what is Organizational Culture?

According to Desson and Clouthier (2010), Organizational culture is defined as the set of values, mindsets and comportment of every employee in an organization that specifies how it looks in stakeholders’ eyes and significantly affects its working environment, images and partnerships with these stakeholders. Leadership, on the other hand, is the deliberate impacts that an individual has on other people in the same organization, which can direct and construct the activities in that organization (Yukl, 2012). In this case, forming and adopting the organizational culture are the activities mentioned above. However, when it comes to culture changes, the policies or communication materials can be easy, yet to change the inner perception of each individual could be a difficult problem (Haneberg 2009).

Talking about the form and shape of his company culture, Nghia believes that different changes in the social trends, industry and even clients’ needs make the culture alterable and simultaneously keep the company survive in such competitive marketplace.

“Mekong Communications can be a great agency, a trusted partner and a good place to work for a particular time, not forever”, he said, “It’s obvious that the digital marketing industry changes every time with thousands of new technologies, ideas and client demands. In an environment like that, I don’t want my firm to be just good; I want it to be better and better.”

And that is why culture has to change every time to match with external and internal needs, he asserts. Having a profound insight of this alterable communication industry, Nghia always tries to manage the changes in organizational culture for avoiding stress and crisis. Here are some points shared by him, which indicate what leaders have to focus on when managing the cultural changes inside organization.

Be visionary!

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Figure 2. Reproduced from Lofquist (2012)

Nghia claims that as understanding profoundly what are the communication industry’s threats and opportunities, the leader has to predict any changes that may take places in this external environment and how they affect the internal one. In other words, leaders are ones who always keep their eyes opened for current context, long-term future and be ready to change. Additionally, feedback is one of the most significant factors that leaders must listen to during this perception stage to identify what changes of internal values and comportments will be appropriate and effective (Malby, 2006).

Always have a plan B!

Nobody can accurately forecast 100% of what will happen, leader is not an exception. Therefore, Mr. Nghia always thinks of some plans for the changes in company culture to avoid the risks happening if one plan does not work.

It’s not my business, it’s OUR!

To alternate the company culture, Nghia believes that not only the managers change, but every single employee has to change. That is why he had set up a unique culture of continuous learning right from the beginning. With the values of being “Dynamic, Determined and Inquiring”, Nghia had built a strong foundation on his employees’ attitude: Always ready to adopt new things. If they can constantly learn things in the world and be adaptive with new ones, they are willing to change themselves (Vries et al. 2009)

Practice makes perfect

Figure 3. Reproduced from Anh (2013)

Figure 3. Mr. Nghia & his employees at Ad-tech event in Singapore (Reproduced from Anh 2013)

“Don’t just tell your employees what to change, show them how!” said Nghia. He reveals that the company had opened many training workshops and taken the employees to the annual Ad-tech event in Singapore. Nghia believes that practical experience through these activities will shows them clearly why the company culture has to be changed and how each of them can change it. Moreover, this way also creates a corporate culture, where every employee can develop their creative ability and contribute their ideas for better changes.

In a nutshell, through some sharing experience of Mr. Nghia, I believe we can understand that the role leadership plays on the constantly alterable culture inside an organization is extremely important. However, the leader’s role is not simply setting up the changes in culture and forcing anyone to follow, but to influence, motivate and convince every employee to change. That’s why the captain’s rudder has to be held tight and steered resiliently.

Figure 4. Me & Mr. Nghia (Photo taken by Author)

Figure 4. Me & Mr. Nghia (Photo taken by Author)

Word count: 900

Reference list

Anh, H. 2013, ‘Ra biển lớn, phải nhìn xa và thật vững tay chèo’, image, Doanh Nhan Saigon Online, 2 July, viewed 9 January 2014, <http://www.doanhnhansaigon.vn/online/doanh-nhan/khoi-nghiep/2013/07/1075060/ra-bien-lon-phai-nhin-xa-va-that-vung-tay-cheo/>

Desson, K & Clouthier J. 2010, Organizational Culture – Why Does It Matter?, the Symposium on International Safeguards International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria.

Haneberg, L. 2009, ‘How Leaders Can Optimize Organizational Culture’, MPI Consulting, April, viewed 8 January 2014, MPI Consulting Database.

Lofquist, L. 2012, ‘Visionary Leadership – Part I’, Image, Private Blog, viewed 9 January 2014 <http://ifcamedia.org/fireinmybones/?p=206>

Malby, B. 2006, ‘How Does Leadership Make Difference to Organizational Culture and Effectiveness? An overview for the public sector’, Northern Leadership Academy, University of Liverpool, Chatham Street, Liverpool.

Vries, M., Ramo, L. & Korotov K. 2009, ‘Organizational Culture, Leadership, Change and Stress’, INSEAD Working Paper Series, INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France.

Yukl, G. 2012, Leadership in Organizations, 8th edn, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

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