Organizational culture and the Taj

In this blog, I want to reflect upon organizational culture with the specific case of the Taj (hotel) in mind. The focus is on the culture within an organization. An organizational culture is the combination of many factors. For example songs, dress code, how people behave and interact with each other, language and so on. Everything in an organization affects and is affected by organizational culture.

One definition of organizational culture is “the set of value, norms, guiding beliefs and understandings that is shared by members of an organization, and is taught to new members.” In my opinion, this definition is quite vague and broad, but the truth is that there is no clear definition of what organizational culture is. The importance of organizational culture, however, is not to be underestimated, although the importance can vary from organization to organization.

The Taj is for me a good example of an organization with a strong culture and a clear ideology. Happiness, grand, iconic and quality is typical associations with the Taj. One of the key values is that they shall be open to all. They recruit people from the lower range of the community in India that really need the job. I think this is amazing and it really contributes to a better society. The best part is that it is not charity. They do not hire these people just because it is a good thing to do, they do it because it is a good business strategy. By hiring these people and training them thoroughly for a long period, they get extremely loyal and dedicated employees. In just about every business course that I have had, I hear the following sentence; “Employees can never be a competitive advantage”. Their argument is that employees are unpredictable and they can leave at any time to work for someone else. I agree with them in most cases, but not all. In the case of the Taj, I am so blunt to say that I completely disagree. What I have learned by analyzing Taj’s culture is that it is so strong that it is in fact a competitive advantage. Their employees is a competitive advantage.

The terrorist attack at the Taj was horrible and extreme, but also the perfect way to find out how loyal and dedicated the employees at the Taj are. No humans can really know how they will act in such a situation before they are actually in one. The employees were not prepared for such a situation and yet they did an amazing job. They risked their lives for their guests and remained calm and professional under extreme pressure. They did not have to do it, but they did. I believe Taj is one of very few organizations in the world where the employees would do such a good job, and risk their lives for their guests. They proved their utmost loyalty and extreme dedication in the ultimate test. The value of such employees is exceptional and hard to put a number on.

I believe that organizations can learn a lot from the Taj. By creating such a strong organizational culture, organizations could evolve to become much greater than they are today. Investing much resources in their employees, like the Taj have done, and creating a strong loyalty bond between employer and employees can be of much value. An employee at the Taj would probably not accept another job with a higher salary. In todays business environment it is in general not much loyalty between employer and employee. Employers typically downsize and fire employees for almost no reason at all and employees quit their job when they get a better offer somewhere else without a minute’s hesitation. The loyalty bond is almost nonexistent, and I believe it is a problem. In order to get world class employees, organizations need to invest much resources, time and effort. This is not profitable if the employees are not loyal and leave after a short amount of time. To implement long-term strategies and get great employers, organizations need a strong and functional organizational culture. The Taj is a good example. Other organizations should strive to get it as well.



Multimedia: Terror at the Taj (Interesting about the Employees at the Taj), Rohit Deshpande. Talking about the Heroes of the Taj in the terrorist-attack. Amazing video, but devastating)



Money and motivation

In this blog, I want to reflect about what money is and how it affect people and organizations.

Money is both everything and nothing. Money is nothing more than a piece of paper or a digital number and the value in itself is zero. What makes it valuable is that people believe that money has a value. The minute people no longer believe in a currency, the value drops. Money need trust like a flower need water.

Money has a different meaning for various people. For some people money is only a tool to survive. You need it to buy food, water and a roof above your head. For others money is a lot more than that. People who already have more money than they can spend still chase more money. Why is that? It is about what money represents. Money is a symbol. It can symbolize success and maybe even happiness. People buy fancy cars like Porsche and watches like Rolex to show people their superiority. Money is power.

Money is a powerful tool, because it represents many things and have different meaning for various people. Almost everyone want more money, even though a lot of people will not admit it. This is why many organizations use money as a tool to incentivize workers to be more effective. It is almost a general understanding in the society that if you want something done, you incentivize with money. The question is, does it work?

In the presentation, “The puzzle of motivation”, Dan Pink brings up a very interesting theory or fact as he calls it. He claims that incentivizing people with money only works for easy tasks where there is a clear set of rules and a clear destination to go. When you have to think and you need creativity, this incentivizing actually has a negative impact. Various experiments show that this is indeed true, like “the candle problem” and different tasks given to MIT-students. Money as an incentive dulls thinking and blocks creativity.

Personally, I think this theory is very interesting and I believe it is true in many cases. Because money is as powerful as it is, it makes people too stressed and unable to think creatively and outside the box, and almost every organization need creative thinking in the 21th century. As Dan Pink says in his presentation, there is a mismatch between what science knows and what businesses does. Why is this? Maybe money has become such a big part of our society that we are unable to adapt. That it has become a part of human nature to use money as an incentive to get things done.

I have read the book Freakonomics that have many interesting facts about behavioral economics that really makes you think. One interesting case that I read about in the book was about kindergartens in Israel. A big problem was parents who were late to pick up their kids. The employees had to stay after the kindergarten had closed because of late parents. To solve this problem, the kindergarten introduced a fine for every minute a parent was late to pick up their kids. What happened? The parents were even more late to pick up their children! This shows that money, as an incentive, is not always the solution. The fine reduced the moral issue of being late. We can see the same result when you get money by giving blood instead of giving it free. When you are paid, less people give blood because it is no longer such a good deed.

I believe that it is important to be aware of what affect money has on people and organizations. To measure if money as a reward reduces or strengthens effectiveness in different situations and then adapt to the results. Incentivizing with money where it works, and find other solutions where it does not work. If businesses and the society in general is able to do that, I agree with Dan Pink. I think the world can become a better place and that we can strengthen the economy. More awareness around this topic is necessary to achieve that goal.

Written by Mathias Aleksander Berntsen

Interesting links

Multimedia MNO3301: The puzzle of motivation