Lululemon Athletica Inc. is a yoga-inspired technical apparel company. The Lululemon company culture can be described using the iceberg model. On the surface, Lululemon sells yoga apparel and is a glorified publicly traded company. However, below the surface, Yogadork.com describes Lululemon's corporate culture as selling a "bastardized version of yoga." The company tends to co-opt something related to yoga and warp it until it loses meaning (YogaDork, n.d). One value of the company is employee commitment, where the company feels employees need constant feedback and are therefore scrutinized from the time they join the company to the time they leave (YogaDork, n.d). One underlying assumption of the company is that the designs the company creates for a man (duke), or woman (ocean) customer, appeals to an imaginary muse which, however, hard they try, can never be the ideal muse. Some of the company's artifacts include "Pramana," an employee's regulations book, and "Asteya," an ethical guideline for yoga (YogaDork, n.d).
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Culture
Constant employee and customer scrutiny have the advantage of employee responsiveness, innovation, and providing product quality. Organizational commitment to employees improves customer satisfaction (Gonzalez-Padron, Hult, & Ferell, 2016). The company artifacts such as a regulations book and ethical guidelines organize employee conduct and help employees provide the best customer care. The weakness of the company culture is brand perception. Whereas the company is viewed as a yoga brand, it has failed to expand its image past this demographic - high employee turnover results from poor brand perception based on its underlying perceptions and cult-like values.
Recommendations for a New Corporate Culture
The proposed organizational structure for Lululemon is a supportive model that focuses on managerial-oriented support. The model focuses on leadership values and not authority or money, which motivates employees towards performance and participation. The strength of Lululemon in attracting employee responsiveness can be enhanced by a supportive model of leadership. The company's value of innovation will be promoted when leadership gives employees opportunities to improve themselves. The employee values consistent with ideal self encourages valuing of self-duty and responsibility (Wallace, Butts, Johnson, Stevens, & Smith, 2016). The benefit of employee self-management is employee thriving and innovation. "Thriving is the psychological state where individuals experience vitality and learning at work" (Wallace, Butts, Johnson, Stevens, & Smith, 2016). Lululemon provides coaching for employees; the supportive model can enhance the coaching process by asking employees their professional goals and coaching them to establish actionable plans for realizing their goals.
The symbolic frame of an organization includes the unique culture which is driven by stories, heroes, rituals, and ceremonies (Black, n.d). The symbolic frame of Lulu views the organization as a play and individuals in the organization as actors. Symbolic actions are taken for a people who share a common purpose and are willing to sacrifice to achieve (Black, n.d). The supportive model of organizational structure enhances cohesiveness between the actors in the organization.
New Culture Political Arena
Company politics are driven by actors in positions of power. The political arena of Lululemon has been described as cult-like authoritarian organization culture. The "top dogs" who are the managers hold the most power at Lululemon. As recounted by an anonymous ex-employee, a manager refused to act on a complaint about customer conduct, telling the employee that it was their choice to be upset after the unwelcome customer conduct. The managerial positions can, therefore, initiate change by acting as negotiators between employees and customers whenever there are disagreements.
Coaches hold the power of helping employees get connected. Lululemon offers goal coaching for new employees who are expected to put their goals on display. Employees are required to pinpoint what they want. Coaches have a chance to initiate change by encouraging employees to set goals but not necessarily making them public as it is felt intrusive when everyone else knows what someone is going through at all times.
The recruitment team is among the first line of human resource actors who can initiate change in the organization's culture. Lululemon has been described as a prominently white company. Diversity management is needed to foster positive cognitive effects of diversity (Ashikali & Groeneveld, 2015). The high turnover at Lulu is because the recruitment team did not sell the idea of what the company aims to achieve but rather spoke of empowering women. The recruitment team possesses a lot of power in the sense that what they feed to potential employees determines their perception of the company.
Organizational managers hold legitimate power. The managers' organizational power are arises from the positions they hold. The title of the managerial position makes it clear who the employees will be reporting to and the team the manager will be leading. Because of the legitimacy of their organizational power, the managers can delineate tasks to employees and review their performance (Belias & Koustelios, 2014). The coaching team and managers hold expert power. The coaching experts possess knowledge in empowering employees and are therefore specialized to offer to coach to employees. Expert power provides a channel for gaining legitimate power.
The upper-level managers at Lululemon document what an ideal employee should look like. According to the managers, a person in leadership should be relentless and uncompromising. The upper-level managers hold coercive power. The managers use analogies and mild threats to keep employees in-line with the company objectives. The managers at Lulu use coercive power to improve employee performance and encourage employees to challenge themselves.
Recommendations for New Company Culture
An analysis of the political actors at Lululemon reveals an authoritarian corporate structure. There are increased constraints when a company moves from a role culture where individuals act within their job description to power culture where individuals are told what to do (Belias & Koustelios, 2014). This is the kind of political atmosphere observed at Lululemon. For management to successfully change Lululemon's corporate structure, the management needs to leverage increased autonomy by moving from task achievement where employees act in ways suitable to complete tasks to person support where employees use initiatives (Belias & Koustelios, 2014). The adoption of the supportive model for organizational structure can help the management realize this.
To leverage successful organizational management, the company should invest in establishing clear company values and goals. Leadership change and management strategies are needed to effect change. The managerial, political actors can effect change through engaging in the staff selection process, removing deviating numbers, and, most importantly, establishing cultural communication mechanisms and role modeling appropriate behaviors. The coaching team can apply Kotter's Change Model to initiate positive change in employees. Kotter's model includes eight steps of change which include creating urgency, forming coalitions, creating a vision for change, communicating the vision, removing obstacles, creating short-term wins, building on change, and anchoring the change to the corporate culture (Appelbaum, Habashy, Malo, & Shafiq, 2012).
The human resource recruiting team can foster change by embracing diversity in recruiting. A diverse team encourages new ideas and perspectives from differentiated experiences (Ashikali & Groenveld, 2015). Employee attitudes and behaviors mediate the relationship between HRM and performance (Ashikali & Groeneveld, 2015). The human resource team should also be on the frontlines of encouraging communication between the employees and management to prevent high employee turnover. Better communication improves the transparency between management and employees, and new hires will carry the skill in triggering change.
Appelbaum, S. H., Habashy, S., Malo, J. L., & Shafiq, H. (2012). Back to the future: revisiting Kotter's 1996 change model. Journal of Management Development, 31(8), 764-782. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Steven_Appelbaum/publication/242339672_Back_to_the_future_Revisiting_Kotter%27s_1996_change_model/links/0f31752f14502e718d000000.pdf
Ashikali, T., & Groeneveld, S. (2015). Diversity management in public organizations and its effect on employees' affective commitment: The role of transformational leadership and the inclusiveness of the organizational culture. Review of Public Personnel Administration, 35(2), 146-168. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tanachia_Ashikali/publication/258867094_Diversity_Management_in_Public_Organizations_and_Its_Effect_on_Employees%27_Affective_Commitment/links/0046352f8d6b9f1999000000/Diversity-Management-in-Public-Organizations-and-Its-Effect-on-Employees-Affective-Commitment.pdf
Belias, D., & Koustelios, A. (2014). The impact of leadership and change management strategy on organizational culture. European Scientific Journal, 10(7). http://www.academia.edu/download/33454414/2996-8812-1-PB(1).pdf
Black, J. ("n.d"). Defining Enrollment Management: The Symbolic Frame. Retrieved 14th October 2019 from https://hilo.hawaii.edu/uhh/vcsa/documents/Defining_EM_The_Symbolic_Frame.pdf
Gonzalez-Padron, T. L., Hult, G. T. M., & Ferrell, O. C. (2016). A stakeholder marketing approach to sustainable business. In Marketing in and for a Sustainable Society (pp. 61-101). Emerald Group Publishing Limited. https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/S1548-643520160000013012
Wallace, J. C., Butts, M. M., Johnson, P. D., Stevens, F. G., & Smith, M. B. (2016). A multilevel model of employee innovation: Understanding the effects of regulatory focus, thriving, and employee involvement climate. Journal of Management, 42(4), 982-1004. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Marcus_Butts/publication/258698435_A_Multilevel_Model_of_Employee_Innovation/links/00b49528d2ee5e9d68000000/A-Multilevel-Model-of-Employee-Innovation.pdf
Yogadork.com ("n.d"). 'Lululemon Diaries' - Employee Recounts Cult-ish Corporate Culture And Disturbing Co-Opting Of Yoga. Retrieved 14th October 2019 from http://yogadork.com/2015/07/16/lululemon-diaries-employee-recounts-disturbing-cult-ish-corporate-culture-and-co-opting-of-yoga/
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