Human Resource Management

Human Resource Management






Human Resource Management


The article under review is Enabling Organizational Cultural Change Using Systemic Strategic Human Resource Management – a Longitudinal Case Study. It was written by John Molineux from the Graduate School of Business, Deakin University in Australia and appeared in the Journal of Human Resource Management 2013, volume 24, issue 8, on pages 1588 – 1612. The article’s topic is organizational cultural change. It seeks to show that systemic approach towards strategic human resource management, SHRM, can enhance success in organizational cultural change. Evidence to support this claim is collected from a longitudinal study carried out in a large public sector agency. The study found that through a systemic approach to strategic human resource, cultural change had been sustained.


Key Arguments

The study reported in this article took place in an agency that had 18,000 to 20,000 employees between the years 2000 and 2002. During this research, the agency had been required by government to implement a legislation program, which had large impact to the society and business. With a deadline from government, the agency had to change. It was a large undertaking that required focus on strategic change. To implement the new program, management knew it was necessary to change the current culture because it was not suitable for the changes. The preexisting culture was an entitlement one where workers believed they deserved certain rewards from the company without performing to earn it (Flood 2010). The agency required to change it into a performance culture where employees performed well to earn the entitlements. Using the ad hoc HR intervention proved short lived where employee drifted back to the earlier culture. To sustain the change, a systemic approach was used.

The article argues that culture is thought of as the outgrowth of social interactions that form an organization. This is because it regards to the organization’s structure, which is entrenched in values, assumptions and beliefs of its members. “As it evolves, it becomes a pervasive force and its systemic structure underlie much of what happens in organizations,” (Molineux 2013, p. 1593). Due to its deep-rooted nature, it turns into a cause rather than an effect, which is capable of influencing interactions, strategies, procedures and other operations within the organization. He further argues that the socializing nature between people in an organization strengthens the culture, making it hard to change. With its influence and pervasiveness, finding a strategy that aligns with organizational culture is crucial in success of the entire system (Boswell 2006).

As aforementioned, the article argues that changing the culture of an organization is quite a difficult task that requires good planning. This was from an observation of studies carried out before that had a success rate of only 19%. He further cites that in a survey of 1536 executives that sought transformative change, only 38% of them were successful. Reasons that caused difficulty in organizational cultural change include agents of change, lack of understanding the systemic thinking concerning the structure and leverage probabilities of achieving sustained transformation (Dunphy, Griffiths & Benns 2007). The article defines systemic thinking as an understanding of the relationship between various parts as well as how each of them contributes to the whole organization. It seeks to help people in understanding the structure, behavior and insights into events affecting a firm. Lack of understanding the dynamic and complex organization environmental contexts that are not closely related can cause harm in transforming the culture of an organization (Boswell 2006).

Molineux 2013 further argues that to develop the most appropriate design, human resource philosophy and change strategy that facilitates transforming of an organizational culture, systemic thinking is necessary(Marshall 2011). A structural solution to the transformation change can be developed from systemic thinking. A systemic approach addresses the structural causalities of behavior that are necessary for solving the underlying problems as opposed to superficial solutions. It is noted that structure is responsible for inducing behavior, which makes it possible for changing behavior. The article argues that the systemic approach to designing a human resource intervention can achieve a sustained positive organizational cultural change (Parker & Bradley 2000).

Results of the Study

The results of the study have indicated success of using a systemic approach to SHRM in implementing change. The first finding is that systemic approach creates an understanding in business direction, cycle and impact of the current culture to the business. Within the agency, findings indicate that relationship of these factors was driven by political and economic cycles. From staffing surveys that were carried out during the longitudinal study, it was found that the agency had a poor change history. It was realized that cultural surveys in 1990s were not taken to the whole organization because of poor management feedback and detested change processes (Molineux 2013).

From the staff surveys, significant changes were realized from the cultural indicators over time from the start of the longitudinal study. The first indicator was on moral that improved from 24% in 1995 before the change to 72% in 2003 and 79% in 2009.  Job satisfaction had also improved from 59% in 1995 to 74% in 2003 and 79% by end of 2009 (Molineux 2013). Indicator on pride in the organization also showed improvement from 30% in 1995 to 72% in 2009. The same questions in all the surveys were used in order to get consistent results. Other indicators are provided in a table that shows improvement of the cultural change. The 2003 was used to show that systemic structure could change the organizational culture while 2009 was used to prove whether it was able to sustain the improvement (Molineux 2013). Findings show systemic approach to SHRM was able to sustain the change in the long-term.

At the end of the project, 20 structured interviews with executives and leaders of the agency were conducted. Their comments on the systemic approach to SHRM indicated that it was successful in changing the organizational culture. All the interviewees asserted that it recognized the interrelationship of human resource system, the need for managing entire outcomes within and dependencies within different parts of the organization. The interviewees also commented that it was the first system to look at human resource in a holistic way. It indicated the connection between HR strategies, identified the dependencies and flows within the system. Their comments also show that the strategy for change was well planed using the systemic approach and allowed easier management of links and relationships. Decisions were made from capability and performance assessments (Molineux 2013).

The comments highlighted the systemic approach used in designing the action strategy where external behavior and cultural outcomes were a result of internal SHRM cycle. Majority of the interviewees commented that real change was achieved where employees felt as if they were working for a different organization in a different context. The researcher went ahead to examine letters written to the editor of the agency on internal staff electronic magazine produced weekly between the years 1999 and 2004 (Molineux 2013). The magazine was quite open in publishing criticism letters both negative and positive. The management used this letters to discuss controversial issues in the agency. A content analysis indicated that the level of negative letters dropped from 80.4% between the years 1999 and 2000 to 45.3% between 2003 and 2004. Another assessment conducted between 2009 and 2010 showed a sustained reduction in negative letters. The ratio was at 43.1 in2009 and reduced to 38% in 2010. Further interviews in 2010 with top executives indicated that the change strategy had achieved success although a few challenges remained (Molineux 2013). The most important result was confirmation of change in behavior in relation to the organizational culture that was the main purpose of the project. The study confirmed that a systemically designed SHRM intervention could have a positive and sustained change impact to an organization’s culture.


Purpose and Goals

The purpose of this article was reporting results of a longitudinal study on use of systemic approach in SHRM towards transforming and sustaining cultural change within an organization. The article seeks to prove the positive impact of systemically designed HRM in changing the organizational culture. Towards this goal, the author provides background information concerning the study, where it was undertaken and how. This offers a clear understanding of the whole research.

The author has done a good work explaining the purpose and goals of the study. They are also clearly written and quite understandable. However, one has to read the long paragraphs to find them. There is no subheading to show goals as many articles do to allow an easy comprehension of structure of the document. Rather, the goals are stated within broad paragraphs that one has to read to grasp them (Dunphy, Griffiths & Benns 2007).

Structure and Organization

Molineux organizes the article in a unique way but manages to deliver the point properly. However, this does not mean it lacks drawbacks in some circumstances. Many papers are organized along few sections that include introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion and conclusion. While this article contains most of these sections, they are organized differently. The results section is organized according to surveys carried out that include staff survey, structures interviews, certified agreement outcomes, letter to the editor and subsequent interview. This allows results of each survey to be indicated separately, which offers a better comprehension to the reader. The literature review is also organized differently under several subheadings, which include a systems approach to SHRM and organizational culture and change. Each of these sections has extensive literature to support main arguments unlike other literature reviews that stand-alone. This allows the reader to understand the connectedness of these ideas.

Literature review

However, the ideas presented in the article are well written. To explain each point, literature review is used. One example is defining organizational culture. The author uses extensive literature from other scholar. Specifically, he cites from Trice and Beyer 1993, who view culture as a natural outgrowth of social interactions within an organization. To explain further, he cites from Denison 1996 to show how culture becomes deep-rooted and pervasive. Such support of main points is used across the whole document.

Although literature review has been widely used in the article, the author has taken a different approach in presenting it. Unlike the usual research articles with a subheading for literature review indicating what other authors have done in the field, this one does not have one. Rather, literature review is used to support main points within subsections of the paper. An example can be seen from the introduction going down to the conclusion. Within the introduction, the author grabs the readers’ attention by asking several questions. Specifically, one of the questions is how one can implement cultural change in a complex and plural organizational context (Richardson 2008). To support his ideas, literature review in form of citations is used to indicate what other scholars have done within the field.

Methodology used

The main strength of the case study comes from the methodology used. It uses a participatory action research where the author was pursuing action and outcomes at the same time. An action research is defined as consisting of a family of methodologies that involves undertaking the action and research simultaneously. This means that the research is done while it is under implementation. In this case, the action was changing the organizational culture of the agency while the research sought to find out the viability of systemic approach in SHRM in achieving sustained transformation. To this regard, it uses a simple cycle where the researcher makes plan, implements action and observes to collect results. After this cycle, a second cycle is undertaken to review the plan, more action is taken and observation follows again (Richardson 2008).

During this research, the author was acting as an insider researcher when the design and implementation of the project was ongoing. This offers an advantage of gaining unique viewpoint of the organization’s systems. It requires engagement in experiential learning. Precisely, action research involves learning through doing where the author is directly involved in solving an immediate problematic circumstance while at the same time furthering the social science goals of collecting knowledge from their experience. Therefore, the researcher gets to see the results of the research immediately as they are realized unlike ordinary studies where results are realized after the research is conducted. Using this method allowed the author to realize practical results from participating in changing of the organizational culture of the agency.

In addition to the experiential learning offered by action research, the longitudinal study allows the author to make strong generalizations because results are collected over a long time. With consistent results, one can make better-informed conclusions. For instance, the author is able to observe that negative comments about management reduced over time. In the first observation, this improvement was noted. It was affirmed in the second observation after several years to prove that indeed the systemic approach to SHRM achieved sustained change.

The article further makes use of several surveys whose results are indicated. Although the author does not include all the results in the article, he provides the most crucial to support the purpose of the research. This is good but also fails to show what other results contributed to the overall results. In making conclusion, all results are necessary. Finally, the article provides statistical data that enable easy correlation of data. However, the statistical data is quite limited and fails to capture the whole research considering it took several years.

Contribution to international HRM

Currently, the business world is changing from a product-based organizations to service based. Human resource has been recognized as the most crucial asset within an organization. Therefore, proper management and alignment of human resource to organizational goals determines its success. To achieve success, managers have realized the need to adopt a culture that is aligned with the organizational goals (Ogbonna & Harris 2002). Failure to do this could mean disaster for the organization. As a result, many international organizations are seeking to adopt cultures that support achievement of its goals. As cited in the article, it has proven to be one of the hardest tasks due to the deep-rooted and pervasive nature of a culture (Flood 2010).

This article makes a large contribution to the HRM world in showing how a systemic approach towards changing an organization culture can achieve sustained change unlike the ad hoc interventions that are short-lived. The results of this study provide human resource managers with a good blueprint of how the organizational culture can be changed and sustained to align with the company goals, which is crucial to success. The article is quite useful to not only the managers who require changing their organizational culture but also the international HRM literature.

The article support several arguments that are widely known. It supports the idea that organizational culture is one of the most influential factors within an organization. He also admits to the difficulty of changing an entire culture of an organizational. However, with the results and surveys used, he proves that indeed this change can be achieved and sustained in the long-term (Payne & Payne 2004). Furthermore, the article elicits many inquiries that other researchers can seek to find out. This article has contributed to the literature by seeking to close a gap that existed concerning how to change an organizational culture. Overall, the article has provided very good ideas supported by evidence from both literature review and results of the study. However, the author fails to indicate a strong theoretical framework for analyzing the work.


Molineux has made a good argument regarding his topic of research and has provided enough results to make the article compelling. Provision of evidence allows readers to believe the results. In addition, conducting the study in one organization within a specific geographical area adds to its credibility because it provides realistic results from a real-life situation as opposed to controlled studies that do not consider all factors that could influence the results. Literature review is used extensively within the various subheadings outlined. The article uses a longitudinal action research where the author was directly involved in implementing change within the organization while at the same time conducting the research (Hine & Carson 2007). I find this to be the ideal method for carrying out such longitudinal research and changing organizations (Ployhart & Vandenburg 2010). It allows the author to collect practical results out of experience as opposed to theoretical results collected from other types of studies. In conclusion, this research has increased my understanding in the interrelationship of different parts of an organization in creating a culture. It has also increased by knowledge on how systemic approach to SHRM can be used to design a strategy for cultural change. Finally, it has improved my understanding of factors that drive a culture as well how they can be used to change it.





Boswell, W 2006, ‘Aligning Employees with the Organization’s Strategic Objectives: Out of ‘Line of Sight’, Out of Mind,’ International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 17, no. 9, pp. 1489–1511.

Dunphy, D C, Griffiths, A & Benns, S 2007, Organizational change for corporate sustainability: a guide for leaders and change agents of the future, London, Routledge.

Flood, RL 2010, ‘The Relationship of ‘Systems Thinking’ to Action Research,’ Systemic Practice and Action Research, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 269–284.

Hine, D & Carson, D 2007, Innovative methodologies in enterprise research, Cheltenham, UK, Edward Elgar.

Marshall, J 2011, ‘Images of Changing Practice Through Reflective Action Research,’ Journal of Organizational Change Management, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 244–256.

Molineux, J 2013, ‘Enabling Organizational Cultural Change Using Systemic Strategic Human Resource Management – a Longitudinal Case Study,’ The International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 24, no. 8, pp. 1588-1612.

Ogbonna, E & Harris, LC 2002, ‘Managing Organizational Culture: Insights from the Hospitality Insdustry,’ Human Resource Management Journal, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 33–53.

Parker, R & Bradley, L 2000, ‘Organizational Culture in the Public Sector: Evidence from Six Organizations,’ The International Journal of Public Sector Management, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 125–141.

Payne, G & Payne, J 2004, Key concepts in social research. London, SAGE Publications,

Ployhart, RE & Vandenburg, R 2010, ‘Longitudinal Research: The Theory, Design, and Analysis of Change,’ Journal of Management, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 94–120.

Richardson, K 2008, ‘Managing Complex Organizations: Complexity Thinking and the Science and Art of Management,’ Emergence: CO, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 13–26.

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