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Serious Play At The Make A Wish Foundation Case Solution

Solution Id Length Case Author Case Publisher
1770 2461 Words (8 Pages) Adam M. Grant, Lauren Malcolm WDI Publishing at the University of Michigan : W88C73
This solution includes: A Word File A Word File

The cultural analysis of the Make-a-Wish foundation reveals that the organization places heavy emphasis on integrating the fun element into the work environment. The management has formalized the fun activities to embed the friendliness, fun and informality into the overall work culture. The friendly work environment is advocated by creating an explicit alignment between organizational mission and work culture characterized by creativity and fun. The key artefacts that reflect the playful work culture are the fun titles, an informal physical work environment with a lot of decorative toys and giving fun names to even serious meetings arranged to discuss the budgetary issues. The informal dressing (where employees wear the costumes according to their fun characters) and joyful discussions between colleagues (to enjoy every moment and look at the joy out of serious problems to relieve the work stress) are also observable symbols that reflect the organizational culture. The underlying assumptions, beliefs and values that facilitate such work culture are- a sense of collectivism, teamwork, active interpersonal interaction to develop professional as well as personal relationships, positive disposition and integrity. The common belief among the organizational members is that adoption of a playful attitude can boost the energy and enhance the individual’s readiness to handle the serious problems.

Following questions are answered in this case study solution

  1. Summary and Introduction

  2. Impact and the wider context

  3. Critical analysis

  4. Recommendations and implications

Case Analysis for Serious Play At The Make A Wish Foundation

The philosophy behind promoting such work culture is that organization cannot fill the joy and happiness in the lives of children facing life-threatening diseases (which is also the mission of the organization) without the ability to find the joy in every situation. This philosophy is widely advocated by management to convince the employees about the necessity of creating a playful culture. The employees are also expected to advocate the playful culture during their interactions with external stakeholders. The case analysis further suggests that despite having a playful culture, the management understands the need to balance the playfulness and professionalism. Employees are trained and mentored to understand when to adopt a playful attitude, and when to adopt a completely professional attitude according to the underlying situation. Overall, a wide acceptance of the playful culture among all employees is observed, while, only a few employees have some concerns-like imposition of the playful work environment to all employees without considering their willingness, too much distraction and workload shift to the home due to inability to complete the tasks in official work hours. It means the Make a Wish Foundation management should carefully plan the future of their work culture by resolving the concerns raised by some of their employees.

2. Impact and the wider context

The organizational culture model proposed by Schein (2010) can be applied to understand how the artefacts, symbols and basic underlying assumptions interact with each other to form the overall work culture in Make a Wish organization. Starting with the analysis of artefacts, the MAW has various visible symbols and artefacts that clearly reflect the organization’s broader vision and mission. For example, the employees are asked to wear the props and titles, office is decorated with attractive toys to inspire the playfulness and fun, the formal meetings are given playful titles, informal gatherings are frequently arranged, candy bars are distributed during meetings arranged for discussing serious issues and meeting agendas are decorated with fun clip art. The office floor and workspace is decorated with humorous items and colorful lighting to lighten the mood. 

These artefacts exert a strong influence on the internal as well as external stakeholders. The influence is generally positive on internal stakeholders- (management and employees) as according to the interview results, most of the employees are satisfied with the work environment, with only a few employees feeling discomfort in the overly informal environment. When external stakeholders are considered, these vivid artefacts initially deter some people who do not have any exposure to such a work environment. Such people take these artefacts as symbols of lack of professionalism and seriousness. But the staff is trained to advocate such work culture by clearly explaining how such work environment helps the organization in achieving its mission. For example, the case discusses an example where a phone company donated a generous amount of money by getting inspired by the playful work culture and its strong connectedness to the overall organizational mission.

The espoused values are relatively hidden than artefacts as they reflect the standards, principles and rules (Schöbel, Klostermann, Lassalle, Beck and Manzey, 2017). In MAW, the common work values are being teamed player, being honest, open and informal, being a positive communicator with a positive disposition and willingness to invest time in developing professionally as well as personal relationships with colleagues. These values are generally accepted by everyone in the MAW, however, such acceptance is relatively difficult where the advocated values do not match the personalities of some employees who prefer a serious and formal attitude towards work. But if a broader view is taken, the coherence between espoused valued and artefacts become prominent. This alignment and coherence are important for giving a consistent message about work culture to internal and external stakeholders (Vargas and Negro, 2019). 

The espoused values are embedded into basic underlying assumptions, which are unclear and cannot be explicitly communicated and discussed explicitly. However, such implicit assumptions provide the basis on which the values, principles and artefacts are developed (Duerr, Holotiuk, Wagner, Beimborn and Weitzel, 2018). In case of MAW, the unconscious and self-advent behavior of the employees is reflected into the wide assumption that the MAW’s mission to fill the joy into the children’s lives can be effectively achieved when employees can find the joy in difficult situations, and this mission cannot be fully achieved by creating a typical, serious, formal work environment. 

Overall, the MAW culture can be somehow related to the ‘clan organizational culture’, which is one of four organizational culture types as proposed by Cameron, Quinn, DeGraff and Thakor (2014). Other three organizational culture types are advocacy, market and hierarchy work culture. The organizations with clan culture focus on teamwork, collectiveness and creation of a friendly, family-like environment. These characteristics can be related to MAW culture. The main advantages of developing such work culture are improved team performance, creativity, enhanced inter-personal interactions and high commitment with organization. These advantages are common in the MAW and clan organizational culture. Similarly, the MAW culture also faces the same challenges as faced by the management of organizations with clan culture, such as- difficult control, instability, disorientation and difficulty in maintaining the focus on work due to distractions (like frequent interpersonal discussions and informal meetings) (Bercea, Lakatos and Bacali, 2018).

3. Critical analysis

The detailed analysis of the organizational and operational culture of MAW reveals that the work culture of MAW plays an important role in achieving the organizational objectives, mission, and values. For example, the informal, joyful and interactive operating style of employees besides fulfilling the stressful work requirements allows them to better understand how they can fill the joy in children’s lives who face life-threatening diseases. Some people-related factors that form the overall work culture are an inclination towards team orientation, collective mindset and general acceptance of communicated work values (Gillin, Taylor and Walker, 2017). While, the performance-related factors that shape the work culture of MAW are- team-based rewards, performance assessment based on team player ability, interpersonal skills, positive communication skills and positive attitude towards fun and playfulness, top management’s principles of creating an informal and fun environment, and assessment of employees’ personality on playful, communication and interpersonal dimensions during recruitment and selection (Baird, Harrison and Reeve, 2004). 

These factors are carefully considered when making important human resource decisions in MAW. Employees' performance is found to be strongly linked with organizational performance. It is evident from the fact that the respective MAW chapter (with playful culture) has given an extra ordinary performance, which can be linked to the majority of the employees' satisfaction with the playful work culture. A strong cultural factor is the MAW management and employees' ability to convince the donors' about the necessity of creating such culture by sharing the convincing stories, which share how the organizations with a similar mission and similar work environment achieved the success. This strategy has generally led towards the desired outcomes by winning the confidence of donors and other key stakeholders. 

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