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Managing culture at British Airways: hype, hope and reality

By C. Irena Grugulis and Adrian Wilkinson

Abstract

YesNearly twenty years after the publication of the (in)famous In Search of Excellence, the\ud notion of `cultural change¿ within organisations continues to excite attention. This is\ud readily understandable, since cultural interventions offer practitioners the hope of a\ud universal panacea to organisational ills and academics an explanatory framework that\ud enjoys the virtues of being both partially true and gloriously simple. Such a\ud combination is apparent in the way that many attempts to shape organisational culture\ud are presented to the public: as simple stories with happy endings.1 This article attempts\ud to rescue a fairy-tale. The story of British Airways is one of the most widely used\ud inspirational accounts of changing culture. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s it was\ud used to demonstrate the necessary compatibility of pleasure and profits2 in celebratory\ud accounts where culture change is presented as the only explanation for the\ud transformation that occurred. This corrective makes no attempt to deny the very\ud substantial changes that took place in BA. Rather, it sets these in context noting the\ud organisation¿s environment at the time of the transformation, the structural changes\ud that took place and observes the impact that such changes had over the long term.3¿

Topics: British Airways, Cultural Change, Organisational Change, Organisational Culture
Year: 2002
DOI identifier: 10.1016/S0024-6301(02)00036-5
OAI identifier: oai:bradscholars.brad.ac.uk:10454/955
Provided by: Bradford Scholars

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