I participated in many campus activities in college and wrote about many of them. For the year of 2007 I was the president of my fraternity, this paper is discussing the cultural change that took place when I was in office.
Climate and Culture Study of Kappa Alpha Order
The climate and culture of organizations changes as much as their members do. The Kappa Alpha Order at MTSU is no exception, this chapter has been through many culture changes since its founding on campus in 1969. The culture seems go in a cycle, where its members have different mentalities about certain issues and also differences in what motivates them. The cycle peaks at the top when the members are being motivated by the ideals of the organization such as scholarship, gentility, creating a better tomorrow and striving for excellence. The cycle may also get stuck in a rut on the bottom side where the members only motivation is partying, becoming selfish by only doing what they want to do, not serving the community, and not living up to the ideals of the organization.
Organizational climate is the environment that either encourages or discourages communication (cite). A strong positive climate can bring success to an organization; a negative climate brings the downfall to that organization.
A weak organization is going to have a judgmental and manipulative climate. You may start to see clicks rising about in the organization and see its members start talking negatively about other members. Most of the time the ones being judgmental are the members in the organization who do not participate in activities and just do not care about it anymore. They talk about the leaders of the organization in a bad way and claim that they are the ones that really know how to run the organization. Of course these are going to be the members who are going to go out and have a good time. Younger members start to hang out with them and the younger members see the way they act and start to consider it as the norm. This is how a cancer spreads through and organization, if it is caught in time it can be fixed, if not, the organization as a whole can die.
The climate of the organization can also be positive. Redding’s element of the ideal supportive climate (SCOPE), shows how to have positive climate in an organization. Supportiveness is crucial. When the officers of the organization support the decisions of the leader, the rest of the members will. Credibility helps the members feel good about what they are doing. If there is a member who did an exceptional job leading a committee it is best to recognize him at a meeting in front of the entire organization. This also shows the trust and confidence the members have for that person. The members must be open with one another, this also helps with trust. Openness builds friendships and also if the members of the organization are open with each other they are not afraid to express ideas which may be beneficial to success. The organization must be democratic and have all of the members input before making a decision. Finally, an emphasis on high performance and goal setting sets a positive standard and attitude for its members.
Organizational culture is defined by E. H. Schein as: “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems if external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way you perceive, think, and feel in relation to the problems.”
The culture of an organization can be a tool for excellence and also a cancer for an organization. Brent Fellows, the Director of Educational Programming for the Kappa Alpha Order explains that tradition (as well as culture) is four years in length. This is speaking in terms of a fraternity. If new members come into the organization and are taught that there is a positive culture of excellence that is what they are going to believe and teach for the next four years. On the flip side, if new members see a negative culture that is what they will be living because that would be all they know, therefore, having a possible culture change every four years.
Tim Hinote has been a member of the Kappa Alpha Order since 1999 and was active until 2003. In his tenure he held numerous offices and committee chairs but never served on the head table. Hinote is an excellent source of the climate and culture of KA from his era.
He says that at the time, communication from the leaders it its members sometimes seemed as an organized “bitch fest,” but goes on to explain that at the end of his active membership that a strong dictator was needed and was probably the best thing that could have happened. Members at this time were expected to give priority to first God, then family, school, work, and lastly KA. Hinote says that the members leading the chapter in the right direction where not always the ones who were being followed, and that sometimes it was the popular partiers that the chapter was behind. The organization at the time treated its members as equals and had a strong brotherhood. Decision making was a dictatorship most of the time but again he says that it was always in the best interest of the chapter. The members were assigned task on who would take them.
Hinote explains that during his time spent in new member education the concept of being one with the pledge class was stressed the most. There were many activities that built teamwork and internal communication that were learned and to be used in the active chapter once initiated. He says what he wished more information about the officers and chapter operations were taught.
Travis Moody was initiated in the spring of 2007. He is a younger member of the chapter but has exemplified many leadership qualities in his short term being a member. As a pledge, he was his pledge class president and was recently appointed treasure of the chapter by the president elect.
Moody says that the communication between the leaders of the organization and the active members is in a positive. As from the previous interview, members are expected to give first priority to God, then family, school, work, and lastly KA. The members who are favored in the organization are the ones that “pull their weight” and the ones that go above and beyond what is expected. Moody says that members are treated as “valued individuals” and have a strong brotherhood. Decision-making is said to be democratic, where everyone has their say before a decision is made. Members who are assigned task are chosen on their culpability to perform, not just who wants to do it.
Moody explains that during his new member education he learned the basic operations of the chapter which helped him adapt to becoming an active member. He was taught to get involved in other student organizations other than the fraternity. The historical values of KA were emphasized as well as the concept of being one with the pledge class.
Mottos, Values, Etc.
There has been little change to the mottos, values, heroes and rituals of the Kappa Alpha Order. The motto is “Dieu et les Dames” meaning for God and women. The values are chivalry, gentility, and an aim for excellence. Robert E. Lee is KA’s spiritual founder and is looked up to as a great leader, educator, and man of character. The rituals of the Kappa Alpha Order are secret, but have remained nearly unchanged since 1866.
For this study I chose a newly initiated brother and also a brother from an earlier era. There was a significant difference in the climate and culture of the chapter. Even though there was only a four year difference between the two active memberships it is easy to see that there has been progress made to improve the organization. Currently, the organization has a much more positive climate, and the members who are looked up to are the ones who do exceptional work to improve the chapter. This is a massive change in a short period of time.
My recommendations for this organization would be to continue going in the right direction. It his hard to say to get rid of the cancers in the chapter, and it is also hard to motivate them to do tasks that they have never had to do. This best thing would be to recruit new members that express the same interest as the organization in its current climate and let the few cancers die out. Secondly, I would recommend for the members of the organization to get more involved in student life out side of the fraternity. There has been a significant increase in involvement in outside organizations but it is still low. This is a great way to recruit productive members and also a chance to improve leadership and organizational communication skills.
Positive climate and culture are essential to the success of an organization. The two interviews show a major culture change in the studied organization in a short amount of time. The key to having a positive culture is to have a positive climate. It is easy for an organization to start and spread a negative culture and climate; it is very hard to change that negative culture into a positive one.