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Organizational Identity

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Rhetoric For Managers

on 21 April 2015

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Transcript of Organizational Identity


Identity building rhetoric
Identity Maintenance Rhetoric
Events, anticipated or unanticipated, that have the potential to improve the identity/threaten it.
Audiences and Constraints
Consistency over time is key.


Relations Between
Organizational Culture,
Image and Identity
Organizational Identity - Rhetoric
What is Organizational Identity?
What makes Organizational Identity rhetorical?
Organizational Culture
Organizational Identity
Organizational literature
Members perceive, think and feel about organization
Employee organizational relationship view
Collective, commonly-shared understanding of the organization’s distinctive values and characteristics

Corporate Identity
Marketing literature
In contrast - a function of leadership and focus on the visual
Strong links with company vision and strategy
More focus on the ways in which management expresses this key idea to external audiences

Internal organizational aspects rarely considered
The way organization members believe others see their organization - Dutton and Dukerich (1991)
New York Port Authority Example - Community pressure. Dutton and Dukerich (1991)
NYPA's formulation of their own idea of external image triggered action and that this image-defining process was filtered through organizational identity.
The way that "organizational elites" would like outsiders to see their organization -Whetten, Lewis and Mischel, (1992)

Image is not what the company believes it to be, but the feelings and beliefs about the company that exist in the minds of its audiences.
"the total impression an entity(organization) makes on the minds of people"
Marketing perspective:
"'Glue' which holds many organizations together,"
Does not reflect much of the richness of culture theory as it has developed within the organizational literature
Involves all organizational members, originates and develops at all hierarchical levels, and is founded on a broad-based history that is realized in the material aspects of the organization
The organizations name, products, buildings, logos and other symbols, including its top managers
The conceptualization of culture within organization theory has largely ignored the organization's relationship with its environments.
Developing within the organization
The preference among most researchers is to view culture as a context rather than a variable
Relations Between Organizational Culture, Identity and Image


Learning Goals
What is organizational identity?

Why it is part of rhetoric?

Literature overview

Show how it can apply to business-related topics
1. Definition of Organizational Identity
2. Why is it rhetorical?
3. What is Organizational Identity?
4. Identity Rhetoric
a. Identity building/changing rhetoric
b. Identity maintenance rhetoric
5. How does it relate to Organizational Culture and Image?
6. Conclusion
7. Debate and questions
Main definitions of Organizational Identity (OI):
Kuhn (1997): “OI is the central, enduring character projected by an organization, as perceived and interpreted by others”.
Aust (2004): “ OI refers to those core, distinctive, and enduring features unique to an institution”.

Both definitions are based on three elements (Albert and Whetten, 1985):
The central character of the organization

Based on product (Coca-Cola) or attributes (family-owned).

The claimed distinctiveness of the organization from other organizations
What makes UPS different from FedEx, TNT and DHL?
The consistency over time
The logo comparison
Logo comparison went viral in 2009
Organizational Identity fits the logo
Coca-Cola as the original high quality soft drink.
Pepsi as the ever-changing challenger.

That depends on perspective/model (Cornelissen et al., 2012)

Linear/conduit models of communication
Make the audience adopt the (fixed) identity defined by the organization itself.
The identity is only “transferred” or “revealed” to the audience.
Therefore the audience is passive and has no role in defining the identity.
Formative/constitutive model:
Identities are created by the communication between organizations and stakeholders.
The perceived identity is therefore based on:
How are the messages offered/framed by the organization?
How does the audience process these messages?
Thus, based on this model, rhetoric has a part in Organizational Identity.
He and Brown (2013)
Functionalist perspectives:
Identities are composed of essential, objective, and often tangible feature
Psychodynamic perspectives:
Drawing attention to otherwise unacknowledged unconscious processes in organizations that shape collective identities
Collective Identity
Unconscious process
Unconscious process
Unconscious process
Social constructionist perspectives:
The socially constructed product of relationships between collectively held, and socially structured individual cognitions
Collective Cognition
Individual Cognition
Individual Cognition
Individual Cognition
Postmodern and Nonstandard Perspectives:
A fracturing of organizations’ identities such that “Identity no longer holds a distinct and persistent core of its own but becomes a reflection of the images of the present moment.
Identity 1
Identity 2
Identity 3
Identity Rhetoric
The focus is on creating, maintaining, and defending the organization’s identity in day-to-day routines.
Issue, risk, crisis, and leadership are special situations.
Two types of Organizational Identity rhetoric:

Identity building/change; establish or alter the identity.
Identity maintenance; enhance or protect the identity.
How can an organization set itself apart from other organizations (USP)?
How can an organization break through the advertising clutter?
All types of audiences should be able to identify a positive and distinct identity.
Constraints and Assets
Prior organizational actions can form a constraint or an asset (consistency).
Association; associate the organization with things that are viewed positively by the audience.
Differentiation; opposite of association.
Branding; verbal and visual strategies used to call forth identity in the minds of the audience.
What is Xerox?
What is Xerox?
Haloid manufactured standard printing materials.
Haloid created xerography; an innovative new way of printing. This proved to be a huge success for Haloid.
Haloid changed their name to Haloid Xerox to emphasize their successful product.
Haloid Xerox became Xerox.

Changing their name highlights the organizational identity change during the years:
From a simple manufacturer firm to the industry’s innovator.

Identity Changing
Model of identity transformation
Transforming the identity of an organization is about redefining “who we are”
Organization is perceived as a collective
Affect individual members’ sense of their own identity in relation to the organization

Paradoxical need for both greater and less identification, complicates identity transformation processes, but also provides opportunities.

Boundary conditions:
Focus is on identity transformation; transformations of organizational members’ beliefs about “who we are”
Major strategy changes; if defined broadly enough up front
Focus is on intentional identity changes; consciously attempting to implement
Current workforce is a valuable asset that leaders wish to retain, rather than cutting people out and starting over
Leaders or change agents have the autority to influence resource flows or other aspects of organizational members’ context that support the required changes

Model of identity transformation
Builds on the theory (Lewin, 1951) of unfreezing, moving and refreezing collective beliefs

Starting condition for how strong identification develops: trust

Leaders must understand their starting conditions of the existing identifications.
Theories or rhetoric provide insight into the language makers that convey identification
In general: inclusive vs. exclusive referents (we vs. them)
Assumed or transcendent (Cheney, 1983)
Leaders’ use of inclusive vs. exclusieve referents (Fiol, 1989)
Pronoum test (Robert Reich)

Aim: weaken the members’ identification with the old organizational identity
Leads to temporary loss of meaning that spells ambiguity and uncertainty and opens the space for new possibilities
Example: Kubler-Ross’s (1969) dying patient: first work through their fear and anxieties before able
Important by strong and stable identifications need to break down prior attachments
Less important as old identities are less salient, more diverse and change is less radical
Leaders can only set the stage for deidentification to occur

Aim: identification with a new identity in concrete ways that do not threaten people’s entire self-conception and that resture temproary equilibrium
Leaders must regenerate relations of trust and remotivate individuals
“Possible (future) selves: specific, signifiant hopes, fears and fantasies of what a person could be.

Aim: build trust through identification with something higher than what we do and how
Individual beliefs are in line with the new desired organization identity, a core ideology
Consensus building around a broad vision of why we exist and what we value as collective

Rhetorical technique: use of higher of levels of abstraction; abstract language

Likely consequence for organizational members: building trust; different identities that are true to a fundamental core ideology

Likely consequence for the organization: organizational coherence around core ideology; multiple and fragmentied situated identities

Organisational Endurance (Anteby and Molnar (2012))
Examination of the endurance of national identity of French aeronautics firm
Société Nationale d’Études et de Construction de Moteurs d’Aviation
Founded in 1945 by the French government
Main entity that integrated into Snecma at its inception, Gnome et Rhône, was subject to explicitly “patriotic post-war nationalizations” for unpatriotic behavior during World War II
High demand for patriotism
French aeronautics industry in general expected to be taking global technological leadership
Snecma as a state-owned company at that time was central to this pursuit
It was expected to show its “Frenchness” which shall resemble technological prowess and sovereignty
-> National Identity
Snecma experienced extended periods of foreign involvement in its past that have been essential to its survival:
1. Hired 120 german/austrian enginneers headed by Herman Oestrich, former technical chief of the turbojet program at BMW after WWII
2.Ccooperated with the american firm GE to produce civilian engines starting 1970
"Frenchness” was assumed to come only from “within,” not from external imports
Foreign collaborations could also suggest a technical inferiority and underlined limitations
-> threat/contradiction to National Identity

Roles of the German engineers and GE in Snecma’s industrial activities were routinely forgotten and mainly left out from the firm’s ongoing rhetorical history
1. Structural Omission
How did Snecma deal with this contradiction?

Invoking patriotism when potentially unpatriotic behavior was suspected:
Customary way to refer to the German engineers was to acknowledge their achievements and simultaneously to stress their acquired French patriotism
Official justification for collaborating with GE: International cooperation was necessary to launch new projects in the civilian market and needed to maintain the lead in the market (for France)
2. Preemptive Neutralization
Identities are rarely only set in the present and are part of ongoing historical constructions and collective memories
-Forgetting is important, not only remembering
-Discourage ways of experiencing the past while simultaneously encouraging alternate ways of experiencing the same past.
Internal firm members are also affected and constitute key audience

-> Interplay between the collective memory and the
organizational identity
-> Managers need to focus on the firm’s past, not only the future
Goal: explain organizational identity, the role of rhetoric, and give an overview of the literature.
Organizational identity consists of:
The central character of the organization;
What makes it different from the competition;
And the consistency of these two over time.
There are 4 perspectives, aimed at identity building and building maintenance.
The ultimate aim of the change process is to match individual self conceptions with a leader' s vision of who we can become as a collective
It is important to shape the firm's rhetorical history
Managers should consider both internal and external influences in organizational identity

Depending on perspective, organizational identity is rhetorical.

Internal and External aspects
Combination of marketing and organization studies - Combining knowledge

Authors: Mary Jo Hatch and Majken Schultz - 1997
As organizational cultures open to more and greater external influences, organizational image and identity become more obviously interdependent.
The relationships between culture, image and identity form circular processes involving mutual interdependence.
In this view, organizational identity is a self-reflexive product of the dynamic processes of organizational culture
The article views
Organizational identity
as grounded in local meanings and organizational symbols and thus embedded in organizational culture
Corporate identity
is communicated to organizational members by top management, but is interpreted and enacted by organizational members based on the cultural patterns of the organization, work experiences and social influence from external relations with the environment
Organizational image
is a holistic and vivid impression held by an individual or a particular group towards an organization and is a result of sense-making by the group and communication by the organization of a fabricated and projected picture of itself
Organizational Culture:
Organizational culture
is a symbolic context within which interpretations of organizational identity are formed and intentions to influence organizational image are formulated.
However, this comparison was a hoax
Coca-Cola logo did change but the rest was consistent
Capitalizing on Paradox: The Role of Language in Transforming Organizational Identities
Fiol, 2002
Model of identity transformation
Important tools for managing the paradox of a highly identified work force:
Language; critical role in reflecting the product of identification and shaping the processes of identification
Churchill said “Words are the arsenal of leadership”
Words must be consistent with resource allocation
Leadership behaviours; it is through rhetoric that leaders make a series of powerful change tools more powerful

Phase 1: Deidentification
Rhetorical technique: negation
“the opposite or absence of someting”
Way to destroy or neutralize old meanings
Leaders define what something is not; “anti-identity”

Likely consequence for organizational members: trust breaking
Social uncertainty and trust appears violated experience heightened self-consciouness

Likely consequence for the organization: organizational disruption
Members are committed to the organization; disrupt efficiency

Phase 2: Situated Reidentification
Rhetorical technique: use of inclusive referents (“we”, “us”)

Encouraging broad experimentation for people to enact new and different understandings of self

Likely consequence for organizational members: temporary sense of connection to new experimental context
During times of uncertainty: fall back on overlearned and relatively automatic decision rules; social and symbolic ways

Likely consequence for the organization: organizational fragmentation due to experimentation
Phase 3: Identification with core ideology
The ultimate aim of the change process is to match individual self-conceptions with a leader’s vision of who we can become as a collective

Counterintuitive implications:
Relative negative approach in the early phase
Use of noninclusive and concrete language
“we are all in this together”
Behavior leaders must support language

Associate the organiation with their most succesful produc
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