When the authors wrote about culture, they framed it in two very important ways. First, they addressed the need to be cognizant of the differences in cultures as the world becomes more and more global. In the classroom, it’s important to recognize and respect the values and ideas of all cultures that one encounters. This is no different in the HPT models that consultants work with in organizations. Global cultures play a huge role in how organizations, whether large or small, do their work.
Secondly, they paid special attention to the fact that all projects will come with their own biases and assumptions that are not only found in the consultants working with the organization, but also that are built into the HPT models as well. I found this to be especially interesting in that some of these assumptions are created because of the context in which the model was created. They point out that every model that has been created around performance improvement was done out of necessity due to a problem or challenge that needed a different approach.
To get around these biases and assumptions, the authors have suggested two HPT tools to help consultants understand organizational culture and begin a successful change management process. The first of these is the cultural audit that will help consultants quickly get to know the culture of a new organization. The second is to always go back to the fact that performance is ultimately a part of a system. If we can fully understand the system, we can then modify the existing models that we have and adapt them to the needs of the organizational culture with which we are working.
Taking the cultural recognition one step further, they then outlined three different cultural models and explained how a basic systems model could be altered to fit the needs of the organization. In each of the models, particularist, collectivist, and ascriptive, the focus was on the relationship between the workers, the objectives, and the supervisors. Each change in culture brought about new relationships among these elements and ultimately, that relationship becomes the point at which we can address the differences in culture.
The final thing that really struck me goes back to the discussions we had last week inside of Blackboard. With all the models available to us, how does one choose the most appropriate one for the task. Addison and Wittkuhn suggest that, “any model is really no more than a working hypothesis that has to prove its usefulness every time” (2001). This single phrase helped me reconsider my current thinking around all of the models that we have seen. They are each a starting point that can and should be altered based on the needs that arise in any given project. I think this is true for any organizational structure that is on the journey to performance improvement regardless of size.
Recognizing cultural differences both globally and organizationally is crucial as accessibility to information and learning opportunities become increasingly global. More than anything, this article has reinforced this concept and has helped me make some connections between many of the models we have been studying. Identifying bias and assumptions are challenging tasks, but they are also vital to the instructional design process.
Addison, R., & Wittkuhn, K. (2001). HPT: the culture factor. Performance Improvement, 40(3), 14-19.