Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Organizational Culture: Validating a Five Windows Qualitative Cultural Assessment Tool with a Small Franchise Restaurant Case Study

Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Organizational Culture: Validating a Five Windows Qualitative Cultural Assessment Tool with a Small Franchise Restaurant Case Study

Article excerpt


This case study examined a small restaurant franchisee's organizational culture using the qualitative assessment tool referred to as the Five Windows Framework (Levin, 2000). Data were collected and analyzed from a 12-person restaurant franchise owned by a female entrepreneur. Results revealed a high task, low relationship leadership style that relied heavily on task oriented exchanges between team members. The Five Windows Assessment Framework proved to be a valuable OD tool that offered a systematic way to assess a small franchise organization's culture.

Organizational Cultural Assessment of a Franchisee Restaurant

Organization development (OD) and change specialists are interested in assessing the culture of an organization for a variety of reasons, such as when conducting a needs assessment or determining which interventions may be appropriate during a merger, acquisition, or divestiture (Anderson, 2010). This interest in measuring organizational culture has been steadily growing over the last two decades, as OD and change specialists recognize the important role that culture plays at all levels of organizational functioning (Anderson, 2010). While studies of culture have taken place in a variety of organizations, to date there have been no studies of organizational culture in a franchise environment. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the usefulness of a promising organizational cultural assessment tool - the Five Windows Framework - in a franchise restaurant.


Franchising is a major economic force in the United States and continues to grow. This business format has shaped the U.S. economy over the last 50 years. Franchise businesses make up 11 % of the U.S. private-sector economy and there are over 900,000 franchised businesses in the United States (Economic Impact of Franchised Businesses, 2005). Despite tight credit markets, franchising continues to attract individuals seeking to establish and manage their own business. The importance to the economy isn't just in the livelihood of the franchise business owner, but the fact that more than 11 million jobs are created from franchising enterprises, which produce goods and services worth over $880 billion in direct economic output ( Economic Impact of Franchised Businesses," 2005).

Empirical data suggest that individuals pursue franchise formats because they allow for: (a) ease of entry, (b) risk reduction, and (c) the opportunity for self-employment. Also, having a franchise arrangement facilitates the ability to garner startup capital from lending institutions (Chiou, Hsieh, & Yang, 2004; Peterson & Dant, 1990). There is, however, scant research that explores how franchisees create and maintain an organizational culture that enables or inhibits effective performance.

Organizational Culture

"That's how things are done around here" is a shorthand definition for organizational culture. The more formal definition, provided by scholars, suggests that organizational culture is a shared set of values, beliefs, and expectations that people carry in their heads (Levin, 2000; Schein, 2004).

The manifestation of the culture is reflected in the leaders' management styles, what is considered success, relationships between employees, the language and symbols used, as well as the procedures and routines used by employees ( Cameron & Quinn, 1999; Schein, 2004).

Oden (1997) suggests that to be successful in the marketplace, a company must embrace innovation, generate new products and services, and do so with higher quality than the competition. These elements, however, do not guarantee success, nor do these external characteristics provide protection from failure. Firms can survive and thrive without these qualities. In fact, several of the most successful businesses in the last 10 years have relied heavily on the organization's internal culture to create a competitive advantage (Cameron, 2004). …

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