An exploratory study of organisational factors associated with the effectiveness of companies in the Namibian tertiary industry

Ngwangwama, Matthias Mpareke (2018-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.


ENGLISH SUMMARY: Understanding the operational and strategic organisational practices and activities associated with effective organisations, collectively referred to as organisational factors in the title of this study, could be a key component of the business management science. With the view of making a contribution to the body of knowledge, this study addressed this key aspect of business management from a developing country perspective. Investigating this topic from a developing country perspective is important because business, in a constructive relationship with government and other stakeholders, could be a cornerstone of prosperity in society. With prosperous organisations come successful economies and with successful economies come prosperous nations. Like in the case of Namibia, business organisations are generally seen as the “engine for economic transformation and growth”. In this context, business organisations appear to play an important role in people’s daily lives and, therefore, might represent a key ingredient, particularly in developing countries’ efforts to attain meaningful social and economic transformation and development. One of the long-running issues within the research dealing with developing countries’ situations has been the extent to which management theories and practices rooted in the developed countries’ perspectives can be applied by organisations in the developing countries. Without doubt, the blanket application and transfer of “foreign” management theories and practices appears to be a long and challenging process that is far from ending. This matter has been complicated by several factors, such as the importance of history, values and unwritten rules, norms and related practices that cannot be easily identified and understood by outsiders and, as a result, there seems to be divergent views on this matter. The critical role of business in society is undisputed. Yet, the reality of non-performing organisations seems to be apparent and around us. It appears that not all business organisations achieve their intended objectives, nor the status of high-performance organisations. Invariably, there still seem to be frequent propositions that organisations, especially those in developing countries, are poorly managed. One outcome of poor management can include non-existing or low organisational performance. Ostensibly, some organisations fail to reach their strategic objectives whilst others achieve only the status of average or good performance, which does not appear to translate into organisational high performance. This exploratory study investigated this topic in a developing country, a context largely recognised to lack empirical literature on organisational practices, activities, mindsets and behaviours associated with effective organisations. The study is positioned within a constructivist (interpretivistic) research philosophy, which applied a qualitative research approach to investigate organisational practices, activities, mindsets, and behaviours that appear to be associated with effective organisations in Namibia. The views from 54 key role players and ultra-elites in organisations, such as members of the board, management and employees, were obtained through interviews and analysed using qualitative research techniques. The ideas contained in the interviews, combined with document analysis and observations, were used to develop and frame organisational practices and activities that appeared to be associated with effective organisations in Namibia. A somewhat concrete approach of investigating the actual organisational behaviours, actions, practices and activities of organisations through business actors rather than investigations at a seemingly abstract level was adopted in the study. To avoid the prospect of participants constructing the perceived organisational practices and activities in a favourable light and to avoid self-reporting, a research approach was employed of directly collecting primary data and carefully observing the organisational activities in practice whilst at the same time not informing the participants that the study was about effective or less effective organisations. Moreover, a technique of juxtaposing the views from the effective and less effective organisations was used in presenting the study findings. At broad levels, the study findings appear to incline towards the divergent view of business management theory and practice. A set of four Namibia-specific contextual influences as well as ten core contingent organisational practices and activities were developed and proposed in the study. Essentially, the study findings appear to suggest three main contextual case-based knowledge considerations. Firstly, the findings of this study relate to the pertinent need to develop strategies to contain the negative effects of the Namibian-specific contextual impediments, such as heavily politicised environments, lack of proper skills, the size of the economy and population as well as fear to express opinions, from adversely affecting organisational performance and effectiveness. Within this regard, the study suggests that the effects of the contextual influences (i.e. heavily politicised environments, lack of proper skills, the size of the economy and population as well as fear to express opinions) should be brought into academic discourses and not be concealed. Secondly, the findings relate to the need for Namibia to capitalise on the soul of what might be one of its key resources, namely the human resource. Namibia should optimally harness its human capital and intellectual resources’ potential to enhance organisational high-performance cultures. The mindsets of organisational high-performance cultures in organisations should depart from the premise of recruiting people carefully and correctly. Finally, the study findings relate to the need for the development, inculcation and entrenchment of an interconnected philosophy of a particular organisational mindset and being, that inclines towards reshaping people’s mindsets that could have been affected by historical realities such as genocidal and liberation wars, colonial legacies and past discriminatory practices. The core organisational practices and activities developed in this study are interlinked and suggest the need for developing values-based practices that seek to establish and entrench organisational virtues and high standards of ethics and moral behaviour in the organisation. For instance, it is absurd to talk about an organisational high-performance culture in the first place, or organisations achieving their intended objectives, if the processes followed to admit members in the organisation are tainted by political interference, nepotism or corruption. Conversely, engaging the human fundamentals in the organisations implies having the courage to resist political interference in recruitment processes, establishing effective and authentic communication practices, entrenching good people management philosophies, exercising leadership that exhibits authenticity, servant and ethical principles as well exercising managerial patience. Often, there is a temptation to elevate techno-economic factors (such as financial, physical and technological resources) as contributory to effective organisational behaviour relative to human fundamentals. However, this study has found that organisational practices and activities related to human aspects, such as those embodied in the resource-based view of organisations, appear to be significantly associated with the effectiveness of companies in the Namibian context. Therefore, the findings of this study suggest an emphasis on humanistic values and management by human relations philosophies to be the cornerstones of future leadership and organisational cultures in Namibian organisations as well as the basis for managing employer-employee relations, for developing and empowering people, and for offering experiential customer service.

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