Hidden Changes in Organizational Culture and Their Lasting Effects
by Christopher R. Allen and Ted A. Thomas
We continue to see reports of unethical practices within trusted organizations, oftentimes committed by good people. What causes these individuals to act out of character, especially when their organizations advocate upholding core ethical values? Organizations experience evolutionary culture changes over time when there is conflict between the espoused values organizations strive to uphold and the enacted values of individuals within the organizations. Members of an organization will conform behaviors based on their experiences derived from the decisions of leaders, not from a list of organizational values. The purpose of this paper is to help understand culture change and the ethical impacts it can have on individuals by applying organizational change theories to the United States Navy’s “Fat Leonard” scandal. The paper explores ways for leaders to identify conflicting values within their organizations and highlight some of the available tools to understand where to implement change to realign the organization.
The United States Navy is an organization founded on the core values of honor, courage, and commitment. The current mission “to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas,” requires professional sailors to uphold the highest standards in a variety of contexts as they carry out their duties in multi-cultural environments. The Navy has fought in ten major wars to help protect the United States’ national interests, and continues to serve worldwide with over 100 bases and ports of call. It is organized into fleet forces strategically positioned around the world. Each fleet must tailor its own mission and set of espoused values to the specific needs of a unique geographic operating environment while upholding the Navy’s core values…
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| About the Authors:
Major Christopher Allen is a U.S. Army officer currently assigned to the 3 Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division at Hunter Army Airfield. He holds a M.A. in Organizational Psychology and Leadership from Columbia University and a B.A. in Information Systems Engineering from the United States Military Academy.
Ted Thomas, Ph.D., Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired, is Director of the Department of Command and Leadership in the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Thomas graduated from the United States Military Academy and served in various command and staff positions before retiring. He received a master’s from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. from Missouri University of Science and Technology.