NZJHRM 2009 Special Issue: HRM & Performance Work Environment and Retention Page | 147 NZJHRM, 9(2), 147.
Book Review: Gray, R. (2007).
A Climate of Success: Creating the Right Organizational Climate for High Performance, Oxford: Elsevier.
Kristen Cooper - AFHRINZ
Kaycee Projects, New Zealand
Firstly, let me get my lasting question out there, and perhaps it is climate related: why does a British-published book spell organisation “organization”? That dealt with, I can let you know about the book. It begins with an analysis of organisational climate (which Gray colloquially refers to as “what it feels like to work here”) and its theoretical underpinnings. His overview of the literature is useful for the subject novice, and provides an interesting interpretation for those who are more familiar with the theories. Of particular value to practitioners who are responsible for organisational climate/culture/engagement surveys is the research rigour applied to the analysis of climate dimensions.
Inevitably, Gray proposes his own eight dimensions of organisational climate, derived from a research based “series of qualitatively testable propositions” (p. 65). He contends there are six positive factors – the more there are of these, the better the climate – and two negative factors, which are likely to have a depressive impact on climate.
The positive factors are aligned with concepts of individual autonomy, responsibility and control. They are free expression of ideas, free expression of concerns, freedom to question (especially decisions and policies determined by more senior people), genuine participation in defining goals and objectives, intrinsic satisfactions derived from the work itself, and innovation (freedom to try new concepts and approaches).
The negative factors are purposive threats (those threats focused on getting individuals or groups in organisations to do, or not do, specific things – the likes of sanctions and penalties, which Gray’s work suggests as ineffective management tools) and environmental threats (those natural events or societal forces that are largely uncontrolled by organisations).
Gray’s eight dimensions of climate are then explored through a series of case studies – two for each dimension. The case studies are more accessibly written than the literature review, and for those of us who enjoy good stories, these fit the bill. However, I found most of the case studies very individual-centric, raising the question of whether they were ultimately helpful for informing organisation development efforts. After all, isn’t that the aim when we embark on efforts to understand organisation climate? Hopefully such efforts are based on broader, shared experiences of the organisation.
Overall, while I do not regret reading this book and I am happy to have it on my shelf, it didn’t live up to its potential. The theoretical underpinnings in the book were not easy-reading, and those of us familiar with the theories could argue the logic. The quotes from very diverse settings were the highlights for me. The style and interpretations of the case studies were engaging, though, and the format ably illustrated the author’s dimensions of climate.