FOUR CARDINAL MANIFESTATIONS OF CORPORATE IDENTITY: IDENTITY VIA TRANSFORMATION

TRANSFORMATION

Business organizations are often challenged changes arising from fierce competition from new market entrants, appointment of new Managing Directors/Chief Executives (Johnson and Scholes, 2005). In order to respond to these changes, market actors often pursue transformation oriented programmes that force them to exhibit transformative corporate identities.

The Emergence of Transformative Identity through Transformation Programmes: In today’s fast changing business environment, unexpected and dramatic changes that strike at the core of businesses render organizations quickly and easily vulnerable. Changes in government policies, fierce competition, market changes, economic recession, rapid technological progress, environmental pollution, unjustifiable attacks from stakeholders, and many more have impinged seriously on the activities of business organizations.

These factors have forced businesses to pursue programmes that transform their corporate identities and embrace all facets of the organization namely strategic intent, core competencies, processes, resources, outputs, strategic (Vollmann, 1996) organizing arrangements, social factors and physical setting (French et al. 2005). A number of literatures positioning corporate identity as a holistic phenomenon, embracing all facets of organizations have been put forward. For instance Davies et al (2003) demonstrated the important role played by strategic intention in their definition of corporate identity. They argued that corporate identity is a phenomenon formalised by organizational history, policies, terms and conditions of employment all supported by the mission and vision statements. Similarly, Olins (1990) illustrated this role stating thus: ‘corporate identity consists of explicit management of some or all the ways (strategy) in which the company’s activities are perceived. It can project three things: who you are, what you do, and how you do it (strategy). Corporate identity is conceived as the blending of strategy, behaviour (culture) and communication and organization’s philosophy (Balmer, 1993). The role of strategic intention was also illustrated by Soenen and Balmer (1997). They argued that corporate identity is the mind (the outcome of conscious decisions), the soul (subjective elements of corporate values and the sub-cultures in the organization) and the voice (reflective of organizational strategy). Marwick and Fill’s (1997) definition supports Soenen and Balmer’s (1997) proposition. They stated that corporate identity is the articulation of what the organization is, what it does and how it does it (strategy). Leuthesser and Kohli (1997) averred that corporate identity is the way an organization reveals its philosophy and strategy through communication, behaviour and symbolism. Corporate identity resides in the minds of corporate leaders and it is their vision for the organization (Balmer and Soenen, 1999). According to Downey (1986) ‘‘corporate identity is the sum of all factors that define and project what an organization is, and where it is going (vision) – its unique history, business mix, management style, communication policies and practices, nomenclature, competencies and market and competitive distinction’’. Scott and Lane (2000) demonstrated the role of strategic intention within the workings of corporate identity concluding that it is a set of beliefs shared by internal stakeholders about the central, enduring, and distinctive characteristics of an organization. They argued that ‘‘goals, missions, practices, values and action (as well as lack of action) contribute to shaping organizational identities, in that they differentiate one organization from other organizations in the eyes of managers and stakeholders’’. Kiriakidou and Millward (2000) observed that corporate identity is reflective of an organization’s unique business strategy, its philosophy, belief, behaviour and even employee work strategy. But what is organizational transformation? Organizational transformation is a change between significantly different states in relation to strategy and structure (Wischnevsky and Damanpour, 2006). Zardet and Voyand (2003) concurred, arguing that organizational transformation aims to change structures and behavioural systems from one form to another. Newman (2000) concurred that transformation is a change that leaves organizations better able to compete effectively in the marketplace. Transformation is a deliberate planned process of transition focusing primarily on the formation and establishment of new organizational vision (French et al. 2005). The obliteration of the components that make up the transformation of organizational facets from one state to another is one of the most crucial and fundamental responsibilities of management. When organizations pursue transformational programmes, they do so by re-engineering or redesigning issues appertaining to organizational facets, all of which constitute corporate identity (Melewar and Jenkins, 2002). The redesign of these corporate identity facets is critical and it resides in the heart of all organizational transformation programmes. No transformation programme can be pursued without the redesign of these corporate identity facets. The transformation of these corporate identity facets does not permanently separate them from each other. The separation gives the opportunity to address transformation in different ways and allows managers to approach the challenge of transformation from vantage points of choice. The summation of these facets gives a global viewpoint of each corresponding challenge (Vollmann, 1996) given the nature of challenges facing different organizations. Hamel and Prahalad (1989) defined strategic intent as the sustainable obsession to win at all levels in the organization over the long term, regardless of the proportionality of the organizational resources to its capabilities. In other words, strategic intent envisions market leadership position founded on a code of behaviour to aid the successful achievement of the set goal. Hamel and Prahalad (1989) argued that in order to revitalize performance, organizations must go beyond the point of imaginative thoughts and drive employees to win, communicate the values of winning to employees and encourage employee contribution. They must motivate employees, sustain enthusiasm by providing new operational definitions as market circumstances change and emphasise the strategic intent consistently to guide resource allocations. Given these arguments, Hamel and Prahalad (1989) proposed 3 characteristic assumptions. First, that strategic intent captures the essence of time, second that it is stable over time and third it sets targets that deserve personal effort and commitment.

Taking a cue from Hamel and Prahalad’s intent theory, many transforming organizations of today are acting correspondingly with the tenets of mission statements and the core values propelling these statements. Actioning and the pursuit of these statements in all ramifications have in recent times gathered momentum. Transformation challenges non-strategic and non-goal-oriented practices by specifying unit, departmental and overall organizational objectives, setting targets for employees as well as evaluating, directing and co-ordinating these achievements. Transformation requires the development of strategic commitments, an explicit statement of intent together with the destination of the organization. Strategic intent or the tenets of the mission statement must be meaningful to employees and most especially the team leaders. Talents in the transforming organization must believe in it to influence others and encourage a speedy change in attitude and behaviour. Mission statement or the strategic intent is a key component of corporate identity. Approaching transformation via strategic intent transmits signals of new identity to stakeholders. The signals project identities of new goals (see Halloran, 1986; Birkigt and Stadler, 1986) new targets, new commitments (Halloran, 1986); new methods of business approach (Kiriakidou and Millward, 2000; Marwick and Fill, 1997), new values (Soenen and Balmer, 1997), new ethos (Identity Group, 1997) new rules (Davies et al., 2003; Balmer, 1993) and new philosophies (Birkigt and Stadler, 1986; Kiriakidou and Millward, 2000). It also sends signals of speedy change in attitude and behaviour (van Riel and Balmer, 1997; Kiriakidou and Millward, 2000). These signals when received by stakeholders turn into corresponding images. Physical designs (Oldham, 1988) including interior designs, work spacing, house styles etc. constitute one of the strongest means through which corporate identity is projected to stakeholders. The physical setting constitutes one of the major components of organizational features and it is also one of the basis on which employee perceptions of corporate identity emerge (Anonymous, 2006). It is a means through which organizational personality, together with culture (Anonymous, 2006) are revealed. While a good physical working environment encourages productivity, conversely an ugly working environment causes dissatisfaction and stress at work. Plenty of evidence links poor workplace design to lower business performance and higher levels of stress experienced by employees. A good design contributes to better business performance and good return on investment (Hagginbottom, 2005).

Change in the business environment coupled with the rising desire to shift towards competitive positions, have motivated organizations pursuing transformation programmes to seek more appealing internal and external architectural designs that facilitate change, communicate the character of the organization and create distinct identity (Olins, 1989) for organizations. Given the rise in the number of organizations seeking change, the physical business environment has witnessed the emergence of new internal and external architectural designs that we have never seen before. More and more organizations proposing transformation programmes have come to recognize that they cannot compete effectively operating their businesses from old and non-inspiring (Nadler and Tushman, 1997) monstrous, transistor-looking architectural designs (Olins, 1989). Organizations that take transformation seriously are investing huge capital, in the twenty first century, into internal and external architectural designs. As such, in today’s business environment, there has been a gradual movement towards open plan office design style iconised by the coffee bar (Levin, 2005) and transformation of work place designs has gone beyond the idea of ordinary designs into facilitating an identity and imagery for organizations. The change witnessed in the environment is not limited to externalities. The physical aspect of organizations’ interiors has also been tremendously affected. The nature of work has changed from ‘‘production work’’ to ‘‘knowledge work’’. This has led to the development of work environments that accommodate work processes and support a knowledge-based worker community contained within an environment that is highly volatile and subject to ever changing worker needs.

Until the 1980s, business processes were confined to the logical organization of human and material resources towards the production of a desired product (Burke, 2004). It was conceived as ‘the logical organization of people, materials, energy, equipment and procedures into work activities designed to produce a specified end result’ (Davenport and Short, 1990) and was subsumed as a never ending cycle of industrial operations which ends in the production of a final product (Hawkins, 1984). A host of problems plagued business processes. Customer order fulfilment had error rates, customer orders went on for weeks unanswered and work was organized in a sequence of separate tasks and complex mechanisms were employed to monitor production processes. These conditions were made even worse with the development of policies founded on assumptions about technologies, demographics, human capital policies and goals, which have since become obsolete. In short, production processes were cumbersome, lacked creativity and in many cases created unnecessary delays. However, given the drive towards freer market competition, greater productivity (resulting from the economic recession of the 1980s) and demand for greater buyer value, a new wave of thinking described as business process re-engineering emerged. The concept of re-engineering was first put forward in literature by Hammer (1990). Re-engineering philosophy advocates ‘total break-away’ from obsolete policies, philosophies and operations that impinge smoother and more efficient business operations. Re-engineering challenges business and operations philosophies founded on old assumptions, advocating the obliteration of policies that brought about gross inefficiencies and proposing the development of new policies that enhance greater efficiency, productivity and performance breakthroughs. It demands that organizations break loose from obsolete, cumbersome and inefficient business operations and processes to create new ones. Re-engineering requires looking at fundamental processes from a cross functional perspective by putting together teams representing the core functional units involved in an organization’s core business operations and charging them with the responsibility of analysing and scrutinizing existing processes, determine steps that add real value to business operations and propose new ways of achieving results (Hammer, 1990). Re-engineering like any business activity communicates (Olins, 1995). By obliterating old business processes and developing entirely new ones, organizations project identity signs of process renewal to offer fast and efficient customer services. These, when processed by customers, become the organization’s customer service image.

Organizational and Employee Culture Transformation: Organizational culture is a way of life for people belonging to an organization. It is the unique quality and style and practices of members of an organization (Kilman et al., 1985) and the way things are done in organizations (Deal and Kennedy, 1982). Put in another way, it is the expressive non-rational qualities of an organization. Organizational culture is a very strong phenomenon dominating the beliefs and attitudes of people in organizations. It is commonly shared among employees (Siew Kim Jean Lee, Kelvin Yu, 2004) and it is a selfreinforcing set of beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. Given its dominance over organizational practices and its resistant nature, it is extremely difficult to change (Campbell and Kleiner, 2001). Culture cannot be changed in the short run. Many organizations that have pursued cultural transformation programmes committed long hours of operations to this cause. Cultural transformation programmes have been pursued by many organizations consistently re-enforcing these new cultures among employees over a long period with motivational messages and the right reward system. Cultural changes in organizations often begin with a thorough re-examination of existing cultural practices, beliefs and norms. Importantly, cultural messages relating to business priorities and organizational values sent from management to employees in transforming organizations are thoroughly re-examined. Specifically issues relating to training, performance evaluation, and compensation packages are re-addressed and initiatives are taken to ensure that messages communicated conform completely with newly propagated cultural values. Cultural change is hugely dependent on the extent to which management convey new cultural messages to employees. The messages communicated, either verbally or by the action of management, provide the yardstick towards predicting the outcome of acceptable and non acceptable patterns of behaviour. New cultural messages must fit new organizational processes. It must ensure that the human element adjusts to reward. Hence the new culture will emerge with time (Campbell and Klein, 2001). Organizational culture is one of the major components of corporate identity (see Melewar and Jenkins, 2002; See Downey, 1986). When organizations change or transform their cultures, strong identity signals carrying messages about these changes are communicated to stakeholders. Consequently, these signals are interpreted by message recipients. Thus a new image, relating to these changes, is created.