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External and Internal Organizational Environments and Corporate Culture

Organizing for Change in the 21st Century

  1. Identify environmental trends, demands, and opportunities facing organizations.

The 2018 annual Global Risks Perception Survey (GRPS) predicts the following trends in the external environment: (1) persistent inequality and unfairness, (2) domestic and international political tensions, (3) environmental dangers, and (4) cyber vulnerabilities. With this context, authors in this report suggest that complex organizations approach their futures with the “nine resilience lens”—i.e., the capacity of a company or other organization to adapt and prosper in the face of high-impact, low-probability risks.

The Global Economic Report, 13th Edition, World Economic Forum, 2018., p. 8 and pp. 54-57.

The nine lenses are grouped into three categories. First, structural resilience considers the systemic dynamics within the organization itself. The author calls for “system modularity,” i.e., structures and designs that are “loosely coupled,” which is another way of saying that rigid, mechanistic hierarchies will not function as well in these high-impact environments. Secondly, integrative resilience underlines complex interconnections with the external context. Here the author suggests that organizations must be part of and aware of their contexts: geographically and the health of “individuals, families, neighborhoods, cities, provinces, and countries” that are affected. Relatedly, the author notes that organizations must rely on their social cohesion—such as the social capital an organization has to fall back on in times of crisis—which is a strong source of resilience. Third, transformative resilience requires that mitigating some risks requires transformation. Important to organizations here is the need “to proactively change or it will end up being changed by external circumstances.” This process requires organizational foresight, not forecasting. Organizations need to apply different search, environmental scanning, and new discovery techniques “to engage with the uncertainty of multiple futures.” They do this through innovation and experimentation. In practice, Google, Amazon, Facebook, SpaceX, Tesla, Airbnb, Uber, and the resilience of other industry and organizational pioneering will be required.

Another trend on the horizon is that “[o]rganizations are no longer judged only for their financial performance, or even the quality of their products or services. Rather, they are being evaluated on the basis of their impact on society at large—transforming them from business enterprises into social enterprises.”

Agarwal, Dimple, “Introduction: The Rise of the Social Enterprise”, Deloitte Insights, March 28, 2018.?

A recent survey showed that 65 percent of CEOs rated “inclusive growth” as a “top-three strategic concern, more than three times greater than the proportion citing ‘shareholder value.’”


Deloitte researchers noted that “[a] social enterprise is an organization whose mission combines revenue growth and profit-making with the need to respect and support its environment and stakeholder network. This includes listening to, investing in, and actively managing the trends that are shaping today’s world. It is an organization that shoulders its responsibility to be a good citizen (both inside and outside the organization), serving as a role model for its peers and promoting a high degree of collaboration at every level of the organization.”


  1. Identify environmental trends, demands, and opportunities facing organizations.

Among the trends in the external environment: (1) persistent inequality and unfairness, (2) domestic and international political tensions, (3) environmental dangers, and (4) cyber vulnerabilities. Another trend is that organizations will no longer solely be judged only for their financial performance, or even the quality of their products or services. Rather, they will be evaluated on the basis of their impact on society at large—transforming them from business enterprises into social enterprises.

Chapter Review Questions

  1. Explain how several current environmental forces are affecting and will affect organizations and organizational structures’ effectiveness and efficiency in the near future?
  2. What are ways to classify and describe how industries and organizations fit and do not fit with their external environments?
  3. What are a few industries and/or organizations that are fitting well with their current environments? What are a few that are not? Why?
  4. What are some major differences between organic and mechanistic organizational structures and systems?
  5. Which organization would you work best in, an organically or mechanistically structured one, and why?
  6. What are some advantages and disadvantages of functional structures?
  7. Do you think it’s true that every organization has a hidden functional structure in it? Explain your answer.
  8. Why have functional structures been criticized for not accommodating new changes in the environment?
  9. What are some advantages and disadvantages of divisional structures?
  10. How is a product structure one type of a divisional structure? Explain.
  11. What are some disadvantages in working in a matrix structure and why?
  12. What advantages do matrix structures have compared to functional structures?
  13. What advantages do geographic structures have compared to a functional structure?
  14. What are issues that working in a networked team structure present?
  15. In what ways is a virtual organization and structure different from the other ones discussed in the chapter?
  16. What major trends discussed at the end of this chapter are different from previous external environments and the ways organizations were organized?
  17. What purposes does an organization’s culture serve when considering the external environment?
  18. How does (Figure) facilitate an understanding of how the internal organization functions with external environments?

Management Skills Application Exercises

  1. You have just been assigned to lead a functionally structured organization. Explain what types of skills you would need to best perform this function.
  2. What types of problems would you expect to have managing a divisionally structured organization? What skills would you need to excel in this undertaking?
  3. If you were assigned to work in a matrix team structure, explain the issues and benefits you might expect to experience and why. What skills would help you in this function?
  4. .You have just been assigned to work with a strategy team in an organization to predict issues and opportunities that might be expected for the next 2 years. Using this chapter, explain what information you would provide to this team?
  5. Use (Figure), “The Competing Values Framework,” to identify the type of organizational culture at IKEA, Home Depot, and Best Buy.

Managerial Decision Exercises

  1. You are a manager working in a functionally structured organization. A disgruntled employee is complaining about problems she is having in that structure. Outline a way you would find out more about her complaints with regard to her being in this type of structure and some ways to assist her.
  2. You are a manager working in a networked team structured organization. A disgruntled employee is complaining about problems he is having in that structure. Outline a way you would find out more about his complaints with regard to his being in this type of structure and some ways to assist him.
  3. You have been selected to lead a team to decide on a different type of structure in your organization to better serve customers who are complaining about poor service that is slow, impersonal, and not meeting their needs to be heard. Presently, the functional structure isn’t working well. Outline some information from your knowledge using this chapter that would help the team in its assignment.
  4. You witness a senior executive at your firm engaging in overly aggressive methods of pressuring employees to increase their sales quotas beyond reasonable means. You are in a networked team structure that is partly a matrix. You are uncertain about whom to discuss this issue with. What would you do?
  5. As a new graduate, you have been hired to help a medium-sized company come into the 21st century. Products need revamping, people aren’t sharing information, and customers are gradually leaving. The firm has a traditional top-down managed, vertical hierarchy. It is believed that the firm has very good potential to sell its products, but new markets may be needed. Outline an agenda you would work on to research and make suggestions with regard to this chapter’s focus and content.

Critical Thinking Case

Wells Fargo, Crisis and Scandal

The recent widespread scandal at Wells Fargo jolted and shocked the corporate world. How could such internal corrupt and outrageously illegal and unethical activities by professionals have occurred? Wells Fargo is “an American multinational financial services company headquartered in San Francisco, California” with offices nationwide and “the world’s second-largest bank by market capitalization and the third largest bank in the U.S. by total assets.” In September 2016 it was discovered that the company was continuing to create fake customer accounts to show positive financial activity and gains. 5,000 salespeople had created 2 million fake customer accounts to meet high-pressure internal sales goals, including a monthly report called the “Motivator.”

The out-of-control sales leadership pressured sales employees to meet unrealistic, outrageous sales targets. Dramatically unrealistic sales goals propelled by continuous pressure from management coerced employees to open accounts for customers who didn’t want or need them. “Some Wells Fargo bankers impersonated their customers and used false email addresses like, according to a 2015 lawsuit filed by the city of Los Angeles.”

The “abusive sales practices claimed in a lawsuit that Wells Fargo employees probably created 3.5 million bogus accounts” starting in May 2002. Wells Fargo is awaiting final approval to settle that case for $142 million. However, regulators and investigations found that the misconduct was far more “pervasive and persistent” than had been realized. “The bank’s culture of misconduct extended well beyond the original revelations.” For example, regulators found that the company was (1) “overcharging small businesses for credit card transactions by using a ‘deceptive’ 63-page contract to confuse them.” (2) The company also charged at least 570,000 customers for auto insurance they did not need. (3)The firm admitted that it found 20,000 customers who could have defaulted on their car loans from these bogus actions; (4) The company also had created over 3.5 million fake accounts attributed to customers who had no knowledge of such accounts.

Wells Fargo has had to testify before Congress over these charges, which have amounted to $185 million dollars, and more recently the company has been ordered by regulators to return $3.4 million to brokerage customers who were defrauded. The CEO and management team have been fired and had millions of dollars withheld from their pay.

In the aftermath of the scandal, even though Wells Fargo executives were not imprisoned for the extensive consumer abuses committed by the company, the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) imposed a $1 billion fine on Wells Fargo for consumer-related abuses regarding auto loan and mortgage products. The OCC also forced the company to allow regulators the authority to enforce several actions to prevent future abuses, such as and including “imposing business restrictions and making changes to executive officers or members of the bank’s board of directors.” The new president of the company, Tim Sloan, stated, “What we’re trying to do, as we make change in the company and make improvements, is not just fix a problem, but build a better bank, transform the bank for the future.”

Sources:; Pasick, Adam, “Warren Buffett Explains the Wells Fargo Scandal,” Quartz, May 6, 2017.; Bloomberg, “The Wells Fargo Fake Accounts Scandal Just Got a Lot Worse,” Fortune, August 21, 2017.; Horowitz, Julia, “‘huge, huge, huge error’ in Wells Fargo Handling of Ethics Line Calls, CNN, May, 6, 2017.;; Wattles, Jackie, Grier, Ben, and Egan, Matt, “Wells Fargo’s 17 Month Nightmare,” CNN Business, February 5, 2018. Hudson, Caroline, “Wells Fargo Stocks Still Struggling in Wake of Scandal,” Charlotte Business Journal, April 2, 2018.

Critical Thinking Questions
  1. What happened at Wells Fargo with regard to past activities that led to this major scandal?
  2. What internal dimensions of the company were part of the problems that occurred?
  3. How might the organizational structure of the company have been part of the problems that occurred?
  4. . Identify and use relevant concepts from this chapter as well as your own thoughts and analysis to diagnose the scandal at Wells Fargo. How could such a scandal have occurred in the first place? Who and what was at fault?
  5. Suggest some solution paths the company might consider, using knowledge from this chapter and your own thoughts/research, to avoid such a scandal from reoccurring.


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Principles of Management by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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