Author's note: The following is a paper prepared as part of a course taken for his pursuit of a Ph.D. through Milwaukee's Cardinal Stritch University.
Copyright 2016, Aaron Scott Robertson. All rights reserved.
A Review of a Qualitative Study on Culture in Business
Aaron S. Robertson, MSM
The paper offers a critique of the article, “Organizational culture – a factor of potential positive influence on the collectivities of any organization,” written by Ramona-Andreea Mihalache and Ruxandra-Gabriela Albu, both of Transilvania University of Brasov, and appearing in a 2016 issue of the Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Brasov, Series I: Engineering Sciences. The article discussed is a qualitative study exploring the subject of culture in business, having implored interviews as the research method to compare the organizational cultures of two Romanian companies.
Keywords: organizational culture, culture, Romania, House of Dracula Hotel, Pentalog Romania, qualitative research, semi-directive interview
This paper offers a critique of the article, “Organizational culture – a factor of potential positive influence on the collectivities of any organization,” authored by Ramona-Andreea Mihalache and Ruxandra-Gabriela Albu, both of Transilvania University of Brasov. It appeared in a 2016 issue of the Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Brasov, Series I: Engineering Sciences. The article, a qualitative study weighing in at eight pages and exploring the subject of culture as it relates to business, is analyzed primarily through the lens of validity. However, this author, who is devoting his dissertation to culture in business, as well, will have some additional thoughts to contribute to the discussion.
For their study, Mihalache and Albu conducted six interviews between two Romanian companies operating in the service industry: Pentalog Romania, a provider of information technology (IT) services, and the House of Dracula Hotel, a major tourist attraction (Mihalache and Albu, 2016). More specifically, “The research method was the semi-structured interview, the in-depth semi-directive interview” (Mihalache and Albu, 2016, p. 151). All of the interviewees were in various positions of management at the respective organizations studied. Additionally, all interviews were audio recorded, but that appears to be all of the details provided, as far as an audit trail, or lack thereof, is concerned.
The article begins with various definitions and observations of organizational culture, most notably from Schein (1992) and Nicolescu, Androniceanu, and Nastase (2000). The theoretical framework chosen for the study is the Denison model. According to the researchers of the study, “The four cultural features measured in the Denison model are: Mission, Consistency, Involvement, and Adaptability. Each of these features is divided into three divisions – cultural indexes” (Mihalache and Albu, 2016, p. 150). Themes gathered from the interviews are divided between the two organizations in a neat, presentable format, with a number of the findings between the two companies similar in nature.
For his own dissertation, as previously stated, this author is researching the subject of culture in business, as well. So, from this standpoint, this author has found this article to be somewhat useful and insightful for his own work. There is certainly value here for his own research. However, this author believes that more could have been done.
To start with, a total of just six interviews were conducted between the two organizations that were looked at in the study. Why six? For this author, six interviews, at first glance, seems like very little, but then again, he humbly admits that he has a lot more to learn. Perhaps he is also simply and unconsciously comparing the number of interviews completed for this study to what he knows about quantitative research. Even the researchers of the study acknowledge that, “…the sample size was low…” (Mihalache and Albu, 2016, p. 152), but, to their credit, and in all fairness, they also add that, “…but the amount of information provided by respondents was very high” (Mihalache and Albu, 2016, p. 152).
Furthermore, the questions are begged, why interviews? Why not another form of qualitative research, such as focus groups or field observations? Were any other methods considered? These questions are not addressed in the article, and again, there really is no discussion on the interview process, other than to say that they were audio recorded. Are the recordings still preserved and safely kept somewhere? Are there space limitations imposed by the publishing journal that may have kept some of these details out of the article? If so, this may certainly explain the absence of some of these key details.
Finally, from this author’s perspective, it would have been beneficial if perhaps a third, and even quite possibly a fourth, company was included in the study, to add further validity to it. More specifically, the two organizations that were examined are both in the service industry. Perhaps a business in the manufacturing sector would have served to round this study out more nicely. If this could not be achieved for whatever reason, then, at the very least, a third or even fourth type of business in the service industry, service certainly being a very broad term that covers a lot of ground, would have also served to round the study out in a fuller, richer way. It appears to this author that the researchers of this study may have been seeking to paint broad strokes to begin with, that is to say, to attempt to find some common, overarching, universal themes when it comes to culture, and so expanding their study to include additional organizations would have certainly achieved this aim, if this is what the researchers were really looking to do.
In any case, as noted prior, this author still certainly finds some value in this study for his own research on the subject of culture in business. Until recently, he had been heavily considering a quantitative approach to his dissertation, or, at the very least, weighing a mixed methods study, as he certainly sees and understands the value in qualitative research, as well. After reviewing this article and completing a course on qualitative research methods, however, the pendulum has swung the other way, and he is now giving serious consideration to a purely qualitative study. For this author, the subject of culture involves too many emotional, psychological, and other elements that a quantitative approach, in his view, would have too difficult a time attempting to get to the root of and do the study true justice.
In closing, this author has some concerns with validity in regards to how Mihalache and Albu (2016) conducted their study on culture in business by examining the organizational cultures of two companies in Romania utilizing the qualitative research approach of conducting interviews. However, this author also acknowledges that he still has a lot to learn about research methods, as well, and it is certainly important to point this out. In the end, he has still found this study to hold value for his own work on culture in business.
Denison, D.R. & Neal, W.S. (2000). Denison organizational culture survey: Facilitator guide. Ann Arbor, MI: Denison Consulting LLC.
Mihalache, R., & Albu, R. (2016). Organizational culture - a factor of potential positive influence on the collectivities of any organization. Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Brasov, Series I: Engineering Sciences, 9(1), 149-156.
Nicolescu, O., Androniceanu, A., & Nastase, M. (2000). Sisteme, metode si tehnici managerialeale organizatiei. Bucuresti: Editura Economica.
Schein, E. (1992). Organizational culture and leadership. San Franciso: Jossey-Bass.