Surveying organizational effectiveness: a case study from the United Arab Emirates.

Author:Pettaway, Lincoln
Position::Case study


The change and improvement process within an organization is influenced by multiple factors. Organizational change has traditionally been considered to be part of a specific change imitative or a continuous quality improvement process (Hay, Busby & Kaufman, 2014; Gage, 2013). Change processes are time and effort intensive, as well as costly. Most organizations eventually run into the question of which costs can provide the biggest return on investments. Sadly, organizational effectiveness has traditionally not been associated with a maximum return on effort and investment. The failure of organizations to view their effectiveness within the holistic context of the overall organizational framework is all too often an acknowledgement of the failure of the organization to directly address the realities of capitalism.

The university utilized in the study is a public institution of higher learning offering baccalaureate and graduate degrees in the fields of engineering, business and social sciences. The university is located in the northern portion of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Education in the UAE has undergone significant transition since the establishment of the nation over 43 years ago. These changes have been greatly influenced by many factors associated with the impact of colonialism and the desire to develop the tools to independently shape the national identity (Alhebsi, A., Pettaway, L., Waller, L., 2015).


For the purpose of this paper, systems thinking was considered in the tradition of organizational effectiveness established by Argyis, Schon, and Senge (Argyis, 1999; Bertalanffy, 1950; Jackson, 1995; Rosenblueth et al., 1943). Senge (1990) defines systems thinking as "a discipline for seeing wholes. Systems thinking is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static 'snapshots.' It is a set of general principles" (p. 68). Due to the dynamic nature of systems theory, ontological implications can be derived based on certain theoretical applications of systems theory in the real world (Jackson, 1995). However, theoretical systems models can also be used as epistemological devices to explain and explore current real world perspectives (Jackson, 1995).

Due to the nature of quantitative research, the epistemological position of this study is rooted in rationalism. Rationalism implies that knowledge is a result of the human mind's desire to know the truth. This perspective supports the belief that human reasoning alone can ascertain the truth. However, the nature of some of the quantitative tools involved in this study (such as the survey of organizational effectiveness) might also be viewed as empiricist in nature (Jackson, 1995).

A 39-item organizational effectiveness questionnaire was utilized to identify primary dimensions shaping employee perception of the organization's levels of institutional effectiveness. Upon completion of this study six dimensions were identified as critical underlying dimensions (factors). Data from this study were collected with the intent of developing and implementing strategies in support of the organization's continuous improvement processes within critical function areas. Findings are also intended to guide individual components in implementing plans for organizational improvement (Rashidi, 2015). Thus, these efforts culminate in the development of a service improvement methodology, which is directly used to support the organization's performance management systems. This methodology for improvement is consistent with the literature and has been designed in alignment with the organization's overall vision, mission, goals and objectives.

Although many informational sources may be employed in these improvement plans, the institution and individual components may effectively utilize information provided by organizational effectiveness questionnaires, such as the one used for this study (Rashidi, 2015). Performance management systems, address change, by first identifying and evaluating critical performance areas. For the purpose of this study critical performance areas included areas that were deemed to have significant impact on organizational effectiveness such as upper administration along with internal and external customer interface areas such as human resources, information technology, and logistics.

Upper administration is traditionally one of the first constituencies addressed within the organizational effectiveness and improvement process. Upper management is asked to acknowledge and buy into the effectiveness process and required to articulate and model desired change. Performance management systems likewise recognize the importance of training and mentorship for senior leadership and all areas of management (Lumadue & Waller, 2013a). Moderate to extensive training can be required depending on multiple factors such as experience, length of time with the institution, professional background, social political environment of the organization, economic environment, and a host of similar factors.

Data provided through organizational effectiveness surveys allow for the further tailoring and modification of performance management systems. For performance management systems to be successful specific goals and objectives must be identified.

The evaluation of effectiveness must be supportive of the goals and objectives of the organization. Findings demonstrating significant changes in the economic, political and social environments may guide modification of existing organizational strategies. The level of buy-in throughout the organization is also central to the success of a performance management plan. Buy-in can be viewed as the willingness of the members of the organization to accept the proposed change(s). This acceptance can be viewed as a matter that is specific to the proposed change or can be seen as a symptom overarching the organization's culture and effectiveness (Rashidi, 2015).

Methods utilized to support the change management process within organizations are numerous; however, most managerial change processes include the follow key features. Leadership must identify the key stakeholders. Depending on the culture of thee organization, key stakeholders may not include upper management (Rashidi, 2015). Traditionally upper management is invested in the change process undertaken by an organization. However, depending on the goals, nature and design of the organization the key stakeholders may be derived from any number of constituents. For this reason leaders must identify key stakeholders and remain cognizant of their role in the change process.

The scope of the recommended organizational change needs to be clearly defined and measured. Accurate evaluation of the organization's current standing is of paramount importance for the establishment of realistic future goals. The distance of change to be transversed by the organization and/or the individuals working within the organization must be measurable and fixed. This is not to say that these factors can and will not change. Instead, careful consideration must be given to the change process and the manner in which the change process...

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