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Items filtered by date: November 2013

Friday, 29 November 2013 00:07

Undirected Journey to Love at Love

Undirected Journey to Love at Love


Basically, utopia is about how we would live and what type of a planet we would live in if we could do just that. The construction of imaginary worlds, free from the difficulties that beset us in reality, takes place in a particular form or another in many cultures. According to Levitas (1990), utopia is the expression of the desire for a better way of being. It includes both purposeful institutional approach to utopia, and the skewed, experiential concern of desalination. It allows for a desire to realistic or unrealistic. Dystopia is a futurist/imagined universe in which cruel societal control and delusion of an ideal society are maintained through companies, bureaucratic, scientific, moral, or dictatorial control. It is common for dystopias to criticize modern trend, norms or political system. Propaganda are common, and they are used to control citizens. There are restrictions of freedoms and rights. The society worships a figurehead. There is a perception that citizens are under constant control. Fear of the outside world is usually eminent, and members of the society are usually dehumanized. 


Octiva opens the narrative with a dystopia notion/concept. Rye expected trouble sooner.  This is notion common in most dystopia society, where trouble and conflicts are believed to be more than obvious. Octiva characterization of the society gives a clear implication of dystopia. Death, cruelty, incurable disease, collapse of political administration and poor state of infrastructures.  Citizens are portrayed as hostile and incapable of solving their problems. The disagreement in the bus is caused by mere nothing. The driver tries to use orthodox way to quell the disagreement. The disorderly nature of the society is also portrayed by the way other passengers easily pick fights over small things. The hopelessness of the society is also clearly indicated. People are not patient enough to wait for bus and they are skeptical as illustrated by their readiness to camp anywhere during intercity trips.


The manner in which Octiva set the occasion when the bus stalled and a “well wisher came to the assistance” create a different notion about dystopia. Unlike in ordinary utopia where everyone is driven by self-survival, Obsidian stop and helps. However, the method he uses to stop the conflict is cruel.  Aromatization is a common notion held concerning dystopia. This is the case in this narrative. Rye has a gun while the Obsidian is armed with a revolver. Octiva also uses propaganda to create an ideal dystopia society. The illness bewailing the society is blamed on the soviet. The notion of mistrust among citizen is also elaborate. Rye is reluctant to join the man how helped end the bus dispute.


The desolate nature of the country is demonstrated by the description given as Rye passed Washington. They passed blocks of burned, abandoned building and wrecked cars.  Despite the desolation and confusion that filled the region, Obsidian generosity was able to change Rye heart and attitude. Although, at the first time, Rye was furious and jealous of what she did not have, she was able to control herself. The short romantic union between Rye and Obsidian creates a utopia. The two achieve a sense of complete gratification and assume that they would live for evermore as such. This fit the description of utopia as a scenario where people want to live as they are living at that particular moment for ever.  The sexual relationship between Rye and Obsidian gives them future, and they forgot all the surrounding state of hopelessness. Rye meeting with Obsidian presents a utopia from the dystopia that was characteristic of the bus she was aboard. The two are swallowed by the passion of making love, and they are not ready to part. Sex created a sense of union and cooperation between the two. It was the only thing that had made her change her intent of committing suicide. Despite the lack of verbal communication, the two seemed to communicate effectively. The short contact the two had made Rye change her perception about what she already had. She acknowledged that they had enough to survive.


The incidence that took place on their return journey also augments a utopia.   Rye malfunctioning sense of hearing became function, and she heard the voice of obsidian. However, the ensuing confrontation between couples they met on the road ended dramatically. Rye lost her purposefulness for a moment for having to lose the only valuable she had managed to scavenge. Her   disappoint and frustrations were soon replaced with a sense of hope as two children emerged. The two children were effectively communicating. This gives her hope that may be the world will be the way it was before the collapse of institutions and the emergence of disease.. Rey finally seems to have a totally different attitude toward life on her return journey. This is regardless of the actuality that she is travelling back with three corpses.


Work cited

Howard Segal. utopias: A brief history from ancient virtual communities.  Blackwell Publishers. 2012; Pg 13.

Ruth Levitas. The concept of utopia. International academic publishers. 1990; Pg 213


Friday, 29 November 2013 00:00

Demystifying Notions of Utopia and Dystopia

Demystifying Notions of Utopia and Dystopia


Octavia Butler’s “Speech Sounds,”

Introduction

The world dreams of a beautiful society where money is not necessary, misery and poverty are non-existent, laws are unnecessary, and where people perform work that they like. It sounds like illusions, but that is the promise of life after the apocalypse, but Butler does not seem to share the same dream. These visions are described as utopia. In her short story, “Speech of Sounds”, Octavia Butler refuses to move along the waves of utopia terming it as masks that people use to conceal their true intention and desires. On the other hand, the enormous development in the capacity of humans to control the world with enhanced capabilities of war technology is the source of fear for the future, otherwise known as dystopia. This is what interests Butler. She remains true to the reality of human nature devoid of illusionary imaginations.


Setting and Characterization

The “Speech Sounds” presents a dystopian society afflicted by misery, disorder, and violence. Butler criticizes the society by presenting a story of Rye, a woman with the ability to speak among the rest of the people who are unable to speak due to the impact of a pandemic illness. Perhaps, this demonstrates Butler’s feminist views. The pandemic described by Butler represents the potential dangers in the current world including new pollutants, viruses, radiations, and even divine retribution. The disease was severe, cutting people down and affecting their capacity to communicate.


Demystifying Utopia

Butler uses the potential consequences of a loss of language to social order and Rye’s capacity to speak when others could not to the pandemic to present her visions of a society at the brink of transition.  Butler demonstrates the significance of language to culture and the fact that without the capacity to speak the social structures break down. It has negative effects as seen in the story.  Butler is interested in the loss of language considering it an apocalypse in itself. She says that there are no overwhelming natural disasters, bombs, fires, or large storms overthrowing the cities. I her book, the loss of complex language precipitates the apocalypse. In her story, the complexity of the linguistic language intricately connected to the complex social systems is described.


In line with the style of characterization, the story is a feminist work that describes a society in which women are the only ones who can speak. In society, language is the instrument of the people in power. Perhaps, Butler is hinting at a shift in dominance to women-oriented power systems in society. This, however, is contrary to the expected utopian society. In the pre-apocalyptic society women are not able to speak, but in the apocalyptic social order that results, women have the capacity to talk and be heard in the society. Butler portrays a society in transition in which life is difficult for the remainders of the old system. Obsidians and Ryes are the remaining people that remain out of the entire pre-apocalyptic society as Butler describes. They can speak and write, but are under intense pressure to integrate and form literate communities. They may not even find each other. But even if they do, their language skills may not be compatible. Thus, Butler’s story is a tale of a society in a time of suspended collapse, struggling to reject its old system and adopt its new atavistic, agrarian order.


In the myths surrounding utopia, the society of the post-apocalyptic order is a society where language difference do not matter, where gender difference is immaterial, and where all other social ills are irrelevant. In fact, it is a world devoid of human suffering, but, in the story that Butler presents, the resulting society is full of challenges and comes through destruction of life. In the end, Butler puts little hope and potential on the remnant community, Rye. The small community has a chance to form a new society that is more human than the cruel world that surrounds it.  However, it is not clear whether Butler foresees a recovery of the organization systems, language, and records. The world that society is in her vision is in flux. It is a society that is very much in her present but with a high potential of falling over to the Darwinian social order of the jungle rule. The transition is almost massive except the few communities that remain in the old system.


Technology Essential for Utopia

According to her, it is only through our capacity to communicate with distinction that we can sustain the communities that feed, house, and transports the people masses of people every day. She says that without effective technologies of communication, the systems of human existence will fall into despair. For her, language is the most fundamental elements that binds and holds together our complex society. In her dystopia, she paints a picture of a world without effective language, and that has reverted to one based on atavistic laws of nature that are just beneath the surface of our daily lives. In the story, the transition from a social order rich in language to a state of anarchy has not yet been accomplished but is in progress. Butler’s idea seems to be born of the idea of globalization and the potential exploitation of transitional states. She anticipates a world in which inter-state boundaries are fluid which may be the likely cause of the loss of identity, which she refers to in the story as loss of language.  In the post-Apocalyptic Wasteland described in the story, Rye struggles to reconcile the visions of her old self and the new role in the new world. 


Conclusion

In Butler’s vision, the loss of language has impaired the capacity of the society to progress. It has destroyed the organizational and technological webs that hold the modern society together. It has taken from humans the capacity to reconstruct history or write a new history. In her perspective, the chances of reconstructing positive societal structures or developing an environment where new linguistic societies can develop are nearly impossible. At the highest, the story indicates that Rye demonstrates intellectual and verbal desires essential for evading the new order. She is unique from the general society.  After the transition, she takes the vocal child home with a new desire and family. She will interact with other human beings, and through communication will be benefit from the new system of human protection which she did not enjoy in the former system.  They can discuss the past and the future. The exchange of ideas will raise them high above the present reality.


Reference

Butler, O. (1983).”Speech Sounds” Retrieved http://boblyman.net/englt392/texts/speech_sounds.pdf


Thursday, 28 November 2013 23:54

Online Music

Online Music


In today's world, there are numerous types of music that originate from different cultures, cultures and people. Some few types of music include classical, neo-soul, techno, hip-hop, rock, blues and heavy metal are among the many genres of music. Jazz music is one genre, which is popular in the world. Jazz has its root in American history that has contributed much to the society and cultural achievements. Jazz is created within an extensive historical timeline that began in the early 1700s and 1800s. This period is known as the ragtime era or the slave era. The unique formation of jazz music that is combining both the African musical style and the European musical style has helped to unite people of all national, regional and racial boundaries. Though jazz music is an entertainment form like other genres of music, it has been used to voice the sentiments on creativity, freedom, slavery and the character of an American not only in United States. Jazz music is the resultant products of other forms of music like ragtime, European, afro-Cuban jazz, modal and fusion among others. This paper examines the influence of the earliest composers of jazz music, and they have impacted on jazz music even to the present time. The paper will show how Mils Davis and Louis Armstrong have contributed to jazz music.


Louis Armstrong

Lois Armstrong was born in New Orleans from a humble background family. At an early age, he did odd jobs and through the help of a junk dealer he got a cornet. He was taken to reform after firing a gun, and this became a blessing in disguise. It was at the reform center that he found his first formal training in music and also learned how to be discipline which is a virtue expected in every musician. After getting out from the reform center, he ventured into laboring jobs, and he played music after working hours. He was taken by Kid Oliver and placed him in his Kid Ory’s band. On a part time, hours, he would join fate marble’s riverboat band. King Oliver took him to Chicago in 1922, and he made his first record with Oliver’s band. He later got married to Lil Hardin a pianist. Lil advised him to join Fletcher Henderson band and go back to Chicago and learning how to play the trumpet.


This became a new leaf for his life. He was noted among many for his stamina and incredible skills, as well as his improvisation to become among the greatest showmen in the history of American entertainment.. It was until 1925 when he made his first music record as a leader of his bands Hot Sevens and Sevens Five. His 1920s music is still considered as the modern day classics. He was famous for his usual voice of singing and his use of scat. He went as far as Europe during the early 1930s. He came back to America in 1935 with his manager Joe Glaser and set a big band and other media channels like TV, radio and film to become the star of pop music.. After the Second World War, he retired from being the leader of his band, and he ventured into leading a series of all starts groups that became highly popular and focused on the traditional theme style of New Orleans. By 1960, he had managed to develop big hits that were top on the pop music charts such as “ what A Wonderful World” and “Hello Dolly”.


He it was until he started suffering from poor health that he cut off his recording and appearing. He died in 1971. Louis Armstrong managed to set the standards for the jazz trumpeters that followed him. His singing has also been an influence to modern day jazz singers. Miles Davis is one of his followers who once said that no one can be compared to Armstrong’s playing because no one has managed to reach his standards.


Miles Davis

Miles Davis was born in Illinois from a middle-class family. The family later moved to East St. Louis a place where he grew and began to study how to play trumpet at the age of 12. It was until when in high school that he acquired his first Musical job. His inspiration came from the big band of Billy Eckstein comprises of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He found his way in jazz clubs where he learned a lot about this type of music. He managed to wake a good number of celebrated albums with his small group and Gail Evans. He also ventured into modal playing that resulted to his biggest selling album called “ Kind of Blue”. In the late 1960s, he started experimenting with electric instruments, and this ultimately led to his fusion work and Jazz –rock that become very attractive to the younger generation than the older generation. He also experimented with covers of pop songs like Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper and also rap music(Carr, 1998).


Before his death, he surprised many people in the Montereus jazz festival by doing something that he had never done. He used his old musical arrangements written by Gill Evans. This expressive and innovative music became his signature style after his death at the age of 65. Miles Davis style has been alive and will continue to because he has greatly influenced jazz musicians and many people are still his fans.


Styles of jazz music

The modern day jazz has been influenced by three types of music, which are City Blues, Country Blues and Be-bop recordings. Davis song, Milestone’ top many jazz musicians became the latest offering and were viewed as a small combo Be-bop. De-bop is a type of jazz music that is very demanding to its players for it requires great technical ability. Davis and his players were the best with this ability. The complexity of this type of music meant that his band could not incorporate chords into their songs. One way of simplifying their music is not to make the solos highly eloquent. Also, they did not focus on improving the arrangements or enhancing composition to a higher extent. The audience thought that the group had reached their peak and that the groups that followed would be just the same (Rowland, 28).


Davis Miles, however, had other plans. His jazz band a sophisticated and subtle human achievement has been a major achievement in the classical music. He showed that jazz music had great potentialities that one had managed to discover. Davis depth of creativity had not reached its peak. He became a genius to produce great music with much innovation. His Be-boppers technique in music is what made him differentiate himself from other jazz musicians. It is a style that increases the complexity and style up to a point where listeners cannot dance to the songs. By 1947, Miles Davis started to venture out from Charlie Parker’s confines on quintet. He managed to develop his own sound different from that of Parker and Gillespie, and at the same time demonstrating a unique style and voice as a bandleader and musicians. He experimented with a version of Be-bop known as the “stripped down”. This is a version that uses a lighter sound that contrast with frenetic, excessive texture that was typical to the time’s Be-bop. With the support of Evans, Davis further met and was influenced by other new players whom most were jazz investors like George Russell who was a music theorist, composer. There is Lee Konitz saxophonist and John Lewis a musical director and pianist.


In 1956 Davis prepared to venture into a new recording session. He changed some aspects of his band by replacing Philly Jones with Jimmy Cobb to beat the drums. He also included Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly to replace Red Garland to play the piano. This was the day they were going to play a new record known as Kind of Blue. Evans had written the songs “ Blue in Green” and “Flamenco Sketches” for Davis (31). During this time, chords were replaced by scales top become the basis of improvisation to develop the trademark characteristics of Modal Jazz. Modal jazz broke its tendency of becoming Be-bop or jazz itself, and modal in this case means scales. Davis was devoted to working with multi-chorded structures. His interest mainly was with the chord they. However, by looking at his songs one could see that he was shifting away from the use of these chords into less complex and simpler chords in his songs (Kahn, p. 66). This formed his shift towards modal jazz with longer solos and slower tempos. This enabled the sound of his music be much cooler, softer and mellower than his previous songs. Gil Evans was a major influencer to his new thinking in developing a new direction in jazz music as seen in Milestones with only two chords (Kahn, p. 66).


Davis innovation into jazz has been a great achievement in jazz music. His song, “ Kind of Blue” has become the modern masterpiece. He enabled jazz music to be among the top sales in Columbia. He played a crucial role in the development of jazz music during the mid 1940s that no other musician has managed to give the same effect on his rock. He managed to influence many notable bands and musicians such as Kenny Garret, John Coltrane, George Johnson and Paul Chaers among others (Monson, 2006).


Louis Armstrong in 1925 improvised solo in his bands Hot Seven and Hot Five. This marked a new change in the history of trumpet. He managed to reach a tipping point that was not like the usual slow rate of trumpeting that had been cases in the rest of the trumpet history. Through his song - in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, he improvised a genius musical potential using a family of treble bass musical instruments. The players of these instruments had always been investing in new techniques of playing the instrument since the industrial revolution. The new expressive and extended capabilities of trumpet and valve cornet fused with the musicians’ voices. This technique has managed to be transmitted to ear very region of the earth in broadcasting and recording industries. The trumpet history is characterized by many discontinuities, and the trumpet has many other distant cousins, subspecies and aboriginal survivors, but all in one family tree of trumpets. Various trumpet players have contributed to the development of jazz music. Some of the notable players are Haydn (1732-1809), Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), and Anton Weidinger(1767-1852).


However, the main idiom contributor to the trumpet history is Louis Armstrong (1901-1971). Armstrong’s improvisation and intervenes techniques together within is dazzling and energetic styles have influence musicians of his later generations. He was the first person to perform scat-style singing and also known for his distinctive singing grave voice. Louis Armstrong and other talented virtuosos developed a new trumpet for jazz. They worked out of the traditional art-music confines of the symphony opera house, and orchestra like Ernest Hall (1890-1984) of London and Helmut Wobisch (1912-1980) located in Vienna. They felt empowered to step out of their usual orchestral role top come up with a lost voice in using the trumpet to make classical music. The group’s first performance in public that as acknowledged as the finest concert trumpet was their solo voice in jazz music (Dahlqvist, 1975, p 20).


Armstrong successors and imitators such as Dizzy Gillespie (1917-93), Roy Eldridge (1911-89), and Miles Davis (1926-91) and beyond have extended and even transcended the various techniques of Armstrong in jazz medium. The technique used for playing the trumpet in jazz music is now different from the earlier conventional methods of the original classical music and this extended, and new technique looks as though it has migrated from one jazz player to another aurally. The prerequisite skills are systematic methodology that has been acquired in the recent past by Barkelee College of Music. This is a school that was founded in 1945 and has today become the most successfully popular and jazz music schools (Litweiler, 1994).


The deference in the way classical and jazz trumpeters learn is not clear and has become more blurred in the recent past century Wynton Marsalies and Miles Davis earned to play the trumpet at Julliard School. Armstrong has influenced jazz musicians in their tendency towards the virtuous brass, and this technique has spread all over Europe in the nineteenth century. The work of prominent and influential composers like Richard Strauss and Mahler affirm to this adoption. Jazz has given people from different background a commonplace. Armstrong has now become an improvised and precedence and a timeless miniature to bring a new turning point to the trumpet history.


Reference

Dahlqvist, R (1975) Keyed Trumpet and Its Greatest Virtuoso. Nashville Brass Press,p.20

Teichorew, J (2013) About.com, At a Galnce: Jazz History. Last modified Accessed.http://jazz.about.com/od/historyjazztimeline/tp/JazzbyDecadeHUB.htm.

Koehler, C (2010) Listverse, 15 Most Influential Jazz Artists. Last modified 2010. Accessed March 30, 2013. Http://listverse.com/2010/02/27/15-most-influential-jazz-artists/.

Deveaux, S (2001)Louis Armstrong and the First Great Soloists, Cool Jazz and Hard Bop. Jazz, 79-239, Edited by Gary Giddins. New York: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc., 2001.

Steve Rowland, Miles Davis Radio Project, part 2 of 7, American Public Radio, quoted in

Kahn, A (2000) Miles Davies p. 28.

Carr I (2008) Miles Davies definitive biography, Avalon Group publishers.

Litweiler, J (1994) A Review of Ornette Coleman Kelly Bucheger’s Jazz Pages, reprinted with

Http://www-cs.canisius.edu/~bucheger/OrnetteReview.html,

Monson, I (2006) “Jazz” in African American Music: New York: Routledge, 2006, pp. 145-167.


Published in Arts

Environmental Issues Affecting the Society and Business


The society and business fraternity are currently facing numerous environmental issues. The world has witnessed a massive change in climate over the past years. These changes have huge implications on human life. Some of the environmental issues affecting the society today include pollution, global warming, changing weather patterns and increasing desertification. These environmental issues can be termed s emanating from management of waste, sustainable development of raw materials and emissions. The businesses are affected by these issues because they operate within national and international laws that govern environmental issues.


The world is struggling with three main type of pollution: water, land and air pollution.  There is a growing concern on water pollution all over the world. Human activities and businesses operations have been associated with the increasing water pollution. Industries are some of the leading causes of water pollution (Carroll, & Buchholtz, 2010). They have been blame for releasing industrial affluent into the major sources of water. This threatens aquatic life and existence of human life. Industrial emissions into water bodies have been a huge threat to aquatic biodiversity. In order to reduce industrial emission into the river, businesses have adopted different strategies such water rehabilitation before releasing it into the river, paying for protective and proactive strategies aimed at reducing the impact of water emission.


Solid waste management is another environmental issue affecting both the society and the business fraternity. The society and businesses enterprises continue to emit tones and tones of solid waste into the environment. Some of these solid wastes are not biodegradable while others are toxic. Their impact on daily life of humans and other living things are immense. Most businesses operate within certain rules that govern the management of solid waste. Governments and environmental authorities all over the world have imposed certain strategies and approaches to reduce and discourage unwise disposal of solid waste. Business enterprises have been encouraged to recycle biodegradable products such petroleum products.  The society has been encouraged to use biodegradable products to avoid accumulation of waste products. There is also a growing concern over disposal of toxic and heavy metals into the environmental. Real estate businesses and other manufacturing businesses continue to use huge chunks of land for construction and farming. This has reduced the world forest cover and reduced biodiversity by destroying natural habitats.


Aggregate human and business activities have been blamed for causing global warming. Emission of carbon gases into the atmosphere has resulted into increased global climates (global warming). Global warming has a lot of harmful impacts on the environment. It causes unpredictable weather conditions such as hurricanes, prolonged periods of drought or floods and rising sea level. These impacts have overall impacts on businesses and the society. In order to reduce global warming, businesses have adopted sustainable development strategies. These strategies are aimed at ensuring businesses act in the most socially responsible manner by preserving the environment. Businesses are striving to source and use raw materials in a sustainable manner that has the slightest impact on the environment. The government has also stepped in, through legislations and incentives, to control emission of carbon gases. Businesses are also being encouraged to use optional sources of energy to lessen the use of biofuels, which contribute immensely to production of carbon gases (Elliott, 2003). Businesses, in major part of the world, operate under government legislations that limit the amount of carbon gases released into the atmosphere.


References

Energy, society and environment. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. New York, USA.

Carroll B. & Buchholtz (2011). Business & society: ethics and stakeholder management.


Published in Business Studies


Influence of Technology on Society and the Way of Doing Business


The world has witnessed an upsurge in technological inventions in the past century. The technological developments have impacted all aspects of life from locomotion to the medical field.  One of the areas where technology has significantly impacted in human life is social life. The advent of social media have created socialization hub that connected billion of individuals in the world. Social media has become a common phenomenon through which individuals exchange ideas, advocate policy changes and inform each other. It has also created virtual self. The social media has also been associated with constructive and unconstructive effects on the society.


Social media has been blamed for weakening communication ties. It also offers a sense of anonymity, which has been misused in the past. Technology has also ushered a new kind of freedom. Technological devices are currently being used by human beings to record important events in their lives. It has provided the society with unlimited opportunities to create and do things in different ways.  The internet has also offered a different kind of freedom that has its advantages and disadvantages. In additional to providing a pool of immense knowledge, the internet has then opening for negative use by the society.  Advancement in technology has also revolutionized industrialization (Richard, 2010).). Machines and computers have become part of human life in conducting the daily chores.


Human being has become reliance on technological devices in virtual all daily activities. Technological devices are used in industries to do manual jobs, carry out complicated procedures and increase efficiency. In the medical field, technology has facilitated invention of new diagnostic procedures such as radiotherapy and production of medicines and drugs. Technology has also penetrated sporting sector of human life. Video gaming has been embraced by thousands of individuals in the world. the education sector has also benefited magnificently from technological advancement. Technology has increased education coverage through online programs and virtual learning.


The business sector has benefitted a lot from advancements in communication and information technology.  Inventions from this field have dramatically changed how business is conducted.  Technology has enhanced communication, which facilitates collaboration.  Over the years, businesses have exploited the internet to increase inter business communication thus increasing collaboration.  Internet defies geographical distance thereby connecting businesses thousands of miles apart. It also connects the business to billion of clients. Collaboration among business has actively benefitted from video conferencing, use of smart phones, Skype’s and other technology.


Technology has been shown to increase productivity and increase efficiency in managing resources.  Application of technology has increased innovativeness. Advancement in technology has a direct impact on the prices of commodities. It reduces the cost of doing business and increases effectiveness.  Businesses are currently utilizing technology to solve their problems and overcome their challenges. Technology has also improved how businesses connect and sell to customers. Technology has opened up the world into a global world.


The internet has created unlimited market for business products unlike the traditional form of doing business, which was restricted by geographical distance. The technology has also introduced new ways of paying goods such through the use of credit and debit cards. E-business is a common phenomenon in the world. Technology has enabled the development of e-banking, e-trading where customers access and purchase products from remote areas. It has also revolutionized marketing and advertising industry (Brian & Kidd, 2010).


References

Brian S. & Kidd T. (2000) E-business: key issues, applications and technologies. IOS press. Burke, USA.

Richard Sproat (2010). Language, technology, and society. Oxford university press, Oxford, UK.


Published in Social Sciences
Thursday, 28 November 2013 23:27

Consumer Rights

Consumer Rights


Right to be heard

This is among the most fundamental rights of all consumers. This right stipulates that a consumer can complain, express dissatisfaction, and ask about any product. This right is influential in terms of enhancing the standards of transparency in business operations. The right to be heard safeguards consumers from being shut out by any business organization. This right plays a massive role in the enhancement of ethical standards in business (Bryan, 2011). When a consumer is treated unfairly, he or she can file complaints with the respective business.


Right to Choose

Consumers can freely choose a given product over another. Based on the stipulations of this right, business organizations should not force consumers into purchasing or selecting a given product. In essence, companies should just provide adequate information about the product in order to enhance the consumer’s capacity to make the best decision. Forcing a consumer to purchase a given product is tantamount to coercion. This is also a violation of fundamental provisions of business ethics. Consequently, business organizations must respect the consumer’s right to purchase whatever he or she prefers.


Right to be informed

This serves as another fundamental right of the consumer. It is critical for any consumer to access the relevant information and details concerning any given product. Whenever consumers seek clarification about a product, the company or business should readily provide the same. The right to information is an essential stipulation that facilitates for the consumer to make rational decisions about purchasing products (Bryan, 2011). For instance, it is massively critical for consumers to be familiar with the ingredients of a burger.


Right to safety

Safety is major priority in almost all aspects of life. Based on this stipulation, the consumer sector is not an exception. Business entities must establish adequate mechanisms for upholding the safety of all consumers. In essence, the products sold to consumers should not expose them to any physical or psychological perils. It is also against federal consumer laws to sell products whose safety has not been ascertained. The right to safety also applies to services offered to any consumer. Consequently, this provision plays an instrumental role in terms of safeguarding the wellbeing of consumers.


Right to Education

This right focuses on the educational initiatives established in order to offer an insightful analysis of different products to consumers. Such educational initiatives enhance the capacity of consumers to make appropriate decisions about consumption of any product. This right ensures that adequate knowledge is passed on to consumers as pertains to the best practices while purchasing. For instance, consumers should be enlightened about the different shortcomings of impulse buying. This is essential towards enhancing responsible spending among all consumers.


Right to healthy environment

This right seeks to ensure safe environments for all consumers. The environment is highly susceptible to degradation especially from pollution and species endangerment. In order to avert such ramifications, business entities must operate in an environmentally sustainable manner. This includes the mechanisms used in the production of consumer products, the advertising strategies, and the like. The immediate environment for consumers must be protected adequately (Bryan, 2011). This alleviates the environmental threats posed to consumers. For instance, the products sold by a business organization should not have heavy metals. This protects the consumers from environmental poisoning. The implementation of corporate social responsibility also helps in protecting the environment.


Reference

Bryan, D. (2011). Straightforward guide to the rights of the consumer. Essex:          Straightforward Publishing


Published in Business Studies

HOW TO INVESTIGATE AND RECOMMAND CORPORATE IDENTITY PROGRAMMES? A CASE STUDY OF ARGOS


ABSTRACT

Corporate identity refers to how a corporate entity presents itself to its stakeholders. Corporate identity plays a vital role in determining the performance of a business entity. However, this concept is least understand by many people within the business field. This study sought to elaborate how to investigate and recommend a corporate identity program using the case of Argos Retailer.


Argos is a large scale player within the UK retail industry. This paper explores the corporate identity of this retail chain. The researcher has used the ACID test model to explore Argos’. ACID test model suggest that a company projects varying image to different stakeholders. A company may mean one thing to the customers and something else to the management.


Thus, the ACID test divides corporate identity into four main identity types. These include the actual identity, communicated identity, ideal identity and desired identity. According to the ACID test model, a company must exhibit consistency between these four identities in order to excel. The researcher collected data using qualitative and quantitative techniques in order to evaluate Argos identity and make recommendation.


Result indicates that there were some gaps between Argos actual and ideal identity. Argos actual positioning did not respond adequately to its core competence, industry and general environment. A gap between the communicated identity and desired identity is also visible. The identity perceived by a client was different from the manager perception. The researcher has made recommendation on how the corporate identity can be enhanced.


Chapter One: Introduction

1.1 Organizational and Research background

 Argos is a catalogue merchant company which operates only in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Argos is the largest all-purpose good retailer in the United Kingdom.  The company operates almost 740 stores.  Argos and Homebase are parts of Home Retail Group.  Argos owns several brands such as Elizabeth Duke, Alba Bush, and Chad Valley and many more.  Argos was a FTSE 100 index constituent, but it is represented by the parent firm Home Retail Group in the FTSE 250 Index.    Richard Tompkins established Argos Company. He had founded Green Shield stamps in the UK before.  He decided that people could buy goods from the Green Shield Gift House while on holiday in the Greek City of Argos. He believed that people could buy goods using cash instead of saving stamps. As a result, Richard rebranded the initial Green Shield stamps catalogue shops as Argos in 1973.  The first store opened on the A28 Sturry Road in Canterbury in 1973. BAT   industries bought Argos in 1979 for £32 million.  The company established the Elizabeth Duke jewellery in 1980.  The Elizabeth Duke was the fourth largest jewellery retailer in UK in 1982.  The Elizabeth Duke was replaced with the Jewellery and Watches brand. Argos was separated from BAT industries in 1990 and listed on the London stock Exchange. GUS Plc acquired Argos in 1988. 


Many companies have realized the importance of corporate identity.  Corporate identity plays a fundamental function in the manner a firm presents itself to its stakeholders.  Corporate identity determines how a company presents itself to external and internal stakeholders.  It determines the personality that a company exhibits.    A corporate identity consists of the corporate behavior, communications and looks. Branding is an important aspect of corporate identity.  Branding deals with the company logo, which differentiates a company from other companies.  Another element of corporate identity is communication. Communication entails advertisement, press release and other strategies that a company uses to convey messages to its stakeholders. Companies concentrate on offering uniform communication that depicts the organization in a positive manner.  The communication encourages customers to think of the firm when they need certain services or products.   Corporate behavior and ethics are also essential components of corporate identity.


Corporate identity affects the performance of an organization.  Organizations that have strong corporate identities perform well compared to companies that have weak corporate identity. Managing corporate identity is not easy especially in the crowded and competitive market.  Companies have invested a lot in the management of corporate identity so as to enhance their performance.  They have worked with specialists to manage their corporate identity.


Argos has realized the importance of corporate visual identity in improving its performance. The company has focused on changing its corporate identity so as to stay competitive in the current market conditions.  The company established its first corporate identity in 2010 after 10 years in order to improve the popularity of the brand.  The company changed the tone of voice and logo so as to change its corporate identity and brand perception. In addition, Argos changed the catalogue and website to improve the comprehension of the brand.  The corporate identity has influenced the performance of the company.


1.2 Problems related to the topic

 

1.3 Research aims and objectives

1.3.1 Aim

The main aim of this research is to investigate the corporate identity of Argos and make recommendations.


1.3.2 Objectives

The research objectives include:

  1. To review the literature related to corporate identity and its components.
  2. To identify Argos corporate identity and its components.
  3. To investigate and discuss the corporate identity of Argos selected for the sample study.
  4. To analyze the impact of corporate identity on Argos.
  5. To generate recommendations for improving Argos corporate identity.

1.4 Research Questions

1) What is corporate identity and what are its components?

2) What is Argos corporate identity and components?

3) How to investigate corporate identity of Argos?

4) What changes can Argos make to improve their corporate identity?


1.5 Research motivation

 Companies in the retail industry have relied on corporate identity to enhance their performance.  Corporate identity has enabled companies to attract customers and retain them. However, several factors have affected corporate identity such as culture and corporate identity management.  The factors have affected how customers view the company and its products. As a result, companies have changed and managed their corporate identity to attract consumers and retain existing ones. Corporate identity management leads to a favorable reputation and image.  This in turn, increases customer base and sales as customers use the products and services offered by the company.  A strong corporate identity differentiates a company from   other firms in the competitive business environment by strengthening the view of the company and hence increasing customer demand. Unsuitable corporate identity misleads customers and affects the company performance. All companies have a corporate identity, but they differ in the management of corporate identity.


Some companies actively manage their corporate identity while others do not consider the management of corporate identity important.  This has led to confusion among stakeholders as stakeholders do not identify with the corporate identity.  Companies should understand the impact of the external environment on the corporate identity. Understanding the external environment and its effect on corporate identity will improve corporate identity management and organizational performance. Therefore, research is aimed at understanding Argos corporate identity and factors that have impacted the corporate identity in the fast consumer moving goods. Further, the research focuses on understanding the impact of corporate identity on Argos and suggesting ways that Argos can improve its corporate identity and performance.  Understanding the Argos corporate identity will help determine factors that affect corporate identity in the fast moving consumer market and find solutions.


1.6 Structure of content

 The research consists of 6 chapters that focus on different topics. The first chapter provides a concise background of Argos Company to enable the reader understand the company. In addition, the chapter analyzes the motivation, objectives and aims of the study.  The second chapter deals with different aspects of corporate identity including components, definition of corporate identity and its importance. Further, the chapter examines the models of corporate identity. Other sections in chapter two include Argos corporate identity programme, components and how to investigate it.  The third chapter focuses on research methodology and ethical considerations.  The fourth and fifth chapters focus on data presentation, analysis and significance of results. The last chapter offers recommendations and draws conclusions.


1.7 Summary

 This chapter has provided background information about Argos Company including the company history for the reader to understand. Also, the chapter has given a brief overview of corporate identity and Argos corporate identity.  Argos Company has changed its corporate identity in order to improve its performance in the market.  The company has changed its logo and front office including catalogue several times to enhance its identity and hence performance. Further, the chapter has identified the research objectives, research motivation and structure of content. The research determines the existing corporate identity of Argos, factors affecting corporate identity and its impact on Argos performance.


 Chapter Two

2.1 Introduction

 This chapter will attain the following objectives.  First, the chapter will examine corporate identity and components by reviewing relevant literature on corporate identity. Second, the chapter will examine Argos corporate identity and its components. Third, the chapter will discuss the factors the effect Argos corporate identity in conceptual framework. Fourth, the chapter will focus on corporate identity ACID test.


2.2 Corporate identity and its components  

 Researchers such as Buendia and Meljoum (2004) have examined corporate identity to enable managers understand corporate identity and its importance in organizations.  Researchers have defined corporate identity differently.  Murphy (1992) defines corporate identity as the branding and packaging of a company. Corporate identity comprises of the business concepts, leadership style and products. In addition, it consists of packaging, personnel, architecture and strategies of an organization.   The corporate identity is considered the interface between the organization and its surrounding. It communicates the purpose of the company to internal and external stakeholders. In addition, corporate identity creates a sense of security and belonging.   


Additionally, Balmer and Wilson (1998) have defined corporate identity from a communication perspective.  Corporate identity refers  to visual and  non visual methods used  by an organization  to present itself  to  different target  groups based on the  corporate  identity plan.


The internal corporate identity groups have also differentiated corporate identity from convectional brand marketing.  Corporate identity focuses on all the stakeholders in the organization and how an organization communicates.  Every company has a corporate identity that reflects its aims, values and ethos. The values, ethos and aims, differentiate a company in the competitive environment by developing a sense of individuality.


In general, corporate identity refers to the overall image of an organization in the minds of different publics like workers, customers and investors. Corporate identity exists when there is common ownership of a company’s philosophy that manifests in a unique corporate culture or corporate personality. A corporate identity leads to ownership of philosophy as customers, investors and employees feel they have ownership of philosophy.  A corporate identity aids organizations in answering different questions such as “who are we” and “where are we going”.  


A corporate identity enables an organization to determine its purpose and determine its future status. In addition, a corporate identity permits customers to show their sense of belonging with certain groups.  Corporate identity consists of different   components including design, behavior and communication. Corporate design comprises of   logos, uniforms and corporate colors.  Corporate communication includes advertising, information and public relations. Corporate behavior refers to internal norms and values. Branding is an essential aspect of corporate identity. The logo is the main component of branding as it differentiates an organization from other organizations in the market. Branding also entails color schemes and the general look and feel across product families that make the products recognizable. Color scheme enables customers to differentiate a company product from other products in the market. 


Companies use related design for packaging to enable customers to differentiate the product from competing products.  The look and feel of a product influence consumers’ ability to purchase the product.  Argo has used a different design for packaging its products from its competitors, and this has made it easy for consumers to differentiate Argo’s products from competitors’ products.  Argos logo, and color scheme differ from competitors.  Argo uses a red color scheme to distinguish its products from other products.


Communication is also an essential component of corporate identity.  Companies provide uniform communication that portrays the organization in a positive manner. Communications encourage customers to think of the organization when they need certain services and products. Corporate behavior and ethics are also vital components of the corporate   identity. Customers base their purchasing habit on how an organization acts.  Organizations present specific images depending on their goals and objectives.  Some companies promote themselves as environmentally friendly firms by offering products and services that conserve the environment. How an organization presents itself influences customer purchasing behavior. Thus, organizations should present an image that appeal to customers. The behavior of employees also affects the organization by influencing customer purchasing habits.  Employees should behave well so as to project a positively image to the customers.


2.3 Importance of corporate identity

Organizations have focused on the management of corporate identity so as to realize its benefits.  A corporate identity is important in the organization as it influences its performance in the market (Hinn and Rossling, 1994). Organizations have different corporate identities. Some organizations have a strong corporate identity while others have a weak corporate identity.   Identity carriers collaborate to attain a positive image in organizations with strong corporate identity.  This improves the image of the organization and performance by increasing sales. Also, corporate identity enhances understanding and commitment between different stakeholders.  Organizations that have strong corporate identities attract customers easily and retain them. 


Additionally, the organizations   attract and retain employees easily enhancing the organizational performance. Moreover, organizations with strong corporate identities form strategic alliances easily and get support from financial markets.  A corporate identity makes a merge less agonizing as companies examine the corporate identities of companies involved in the merger to avoid disappointments.  In addition to that, organizations with a strong corporate identity have a strong sense of purpose and direction which enables employees to work towards attaining the organizational goals.


Corporate identity is also vital in product differentiation (Rowden, 2000). Organizations have used the differentiation strategy to differentiate their products from competitor products.                                        Differentiation strategy has given companies a competitive edge in the competitive market and improved their performance.  The differentiation strategy has increased company sales as customers easily differentiate products from competitor products.  Corporate identity helps in the differentiation of an organization.  A corporate identity makes an organization visible and separates it from other organizations (Rowden, 2000). Rowden (2000) believes that what makes an organization different should attract, motivate and guide a person based on the organizational ambition.  A strong corporate identity leads to better corporate image and reputation and hence improves the performance of an organization.   A strong corporate identity improves company judgment as customers view the company positively.


2.4 Models of corporate identity

Researchers have developed different corporate identity models.   The models explain how corporate images are formed. They explain how corporate personalities and philosophies are transformed into corporate identity leading to the development of a favorable reputation and image and hence competitive advantage. 


Figure 1: Kennedy’s Model

Kennedy developed a model of corporate identity to show how corporate personalities and philosophies lead to the development of corporate image and reputation.  Kennedy did not include the term “corporate identity” in the model.  Instead, Kennedy has included the “company personnel perception of the company”.  Kennedy acknowledges the importance of workers in the formation of corporate image.  He claims that the perception of a company is determined directly and indirectly by workers and managers. Kennedy believes that the company policy is crucial in image formation and should be based on the company reality for effective development of the company image.  Communication in the organization affects employees, external groups and other people who have no experience of the company.  Further, Bick, Jacobson and Abratt (2003) developed a corporate identity model known as “the 21st century model of corporate identity management process”.


Figure 2: Bick, Jacobson and Abratt’s Model

 According to the model, corporate culture and personality affect all aspects of managing the corporate image. This is because a company derives its features from the mix of cultures found in the organization. Personality is a mirror of the underlying cultures of different people in the organization.  The definition of personality must mirror individuality and distinctiveness so as to be considered corporate identity. Bick, Jacobson and Abratts, have put the reputation as a different element, and they consider competitive advantage to be the end of the management process.   Corporate personality is also a reflection of the strategy in terms of ethos and mission.  Strategy is emergent and adapts to the outside environment. The adaptation process results to change in the organizational culture and thus corporate personality. Hence, strategy should be differentiated from personality. 


The model considers strategy as a responsive evolutionary process, and this is evidenced by regular feedback from different sections of the organization and outside environment.  Corporate identity leads to communication of images to internal and external stakeholders creating corporate reputation.  The organizational systems and structures should be developed well to communicate congruent messages to all audiences.  The corporate image is a momentary perspective of the company held by stakeholders at a given time. Employees play a significant duty in the way a company is seen by stakeholders. Customer contact influences the view individuals have regarding the Company. Customer’s overall view of the organization may be different. Corporate reputation enables an organization to survive.


2.5 Argos corporate identity

2.5.1 Logo and color

 Argos has a different corporate identity from other companies in the retail industry.  The corporate identity can be understood by examining various elements in the organization including logo, products and services, culture and color.  Argos has used its logo to communicate its corporate identity to customers.  The company has changed its logo several times in order to communicate its identity and meet customer needs. In addition, the logo has enabled the company to differentiate itself from competitors.  Argo changed its identity in 2010 by changing its logo and brand. The New identity was designed by the Brand Union. The New identity seeks to reflect consumer confidence in Argo brand.  The company acquired a new look and feel by changing its logo. The new look and feel reflected the brands appeal.  The new logo has the company name, and states the purpose of the company.  The company had other logos before though they were not effective in communicating its purpose. The first logo had the company name only written in red and small typeface. The second logo had the company name written in red   and small typeface.   The company increased the typeface in the third logo, and the logo had only the company name. The current logo is exceptionally developed as it has a big typeface and the company name is written in white. The background of the logo is red. Argos cleared the corporate mark and modernized the logo. This made it easier for customers, and other stakeholders to read.  The changes made to the logo increase its appeal to customers.


Argos also reduced the amount colors used with the aim of reasserting confidence in the mark.  Argos has used red and white in the new logo.  The preceding logos had several variations.  Some of the logos utilized two colors including red and blue. Other logs had a drop shadow and 3 color options. This affected Argos corporate identity as customers did not understand the aim of the company. The red and white color has differentiated Argos from other companies. Customers can easily identify Argo products and distinguish them from competitors’ products.  The change in the corporate has enable Argo to increase its customer base and hence sales, making the company one of the biggest in the United Kingdom.


2.5.2Symbols and strap lines

 Argos has used symbols, and strap lines to communicate the company corporate identity to customers and the public.   The company has used the “red thread of value” to communicate the corporate identity.  The ‘read thread of value’ communicates the important components of Argos. Customers see strap lines written “helping you live for less” in Argos store. Consumers see the Argos web address and 5 icons that communicate the multichannel nature of the organization.  The company has included a laptop symbol to show online shopping and a lorry to symbolize home delivery.  The strap lines have enabled consumers feel more in control than before. The symbol and strap lines have improved customer perception regarding the company as customers buy Argos products because of the strong brand.


2.5.3 Culture

Argos culture has influenced its corporate identity. Culture refers to values and beliefs shared by employees and managers in the organization.  The company changed its culture to ensure it reflected the company strategy and concentrated on customers. The managers have developed an environment that values customer service. In this case, the company offers an experience that is friendly, efficient and enjoyable.  Also, the company encourages team work. This has improved cooperation and sharing of ideas and responsibilities among employees.  The new organizational environment has encouraged managers to take ownership for decisions and solve problems on their own instead of passing them to other people. The managers have encouraged workers to respect each other so as to encourage innovation and creativity.  The employees in the organization are committed to the values and uphold the values when providing services to customers.  Besides, managers have changed the organizational culture to promote effective communication between employees and leaders. 


This has ensured employees understand their roles and company objectives.  The new corporate culture has led to the development of a strong identity and hence strong reputation and image.   Customers buy products from the company because of its strong identity, reputation and image.  The company has developed a good reputation within the last years by meeting the needs and interests of stakeholders consistently. Argo has met customer needs and interests by providing superior services and products. This has improved customer experience regarding Argo products and services.  Communicating the company purpose and employee roles to employees has improved the reputation of the company among the workers.  The company has met employee needs and interests through effective communication and support.  The new organizational culture has changed the image of Argos by changing the impression stakeholders have regarding the company and its services.


2.5.4 Mission

Argos has used its mission to communicate the company corporate identity.  The mission has given the company direction and sense of purpose.  Argos mission statement differentiates Argos from other companies. First, Argos offers quality products to customers at an affordable price.   Argo understands customers have diverse needs and prefer to shop in diverse ways. Most customers are aware of what they want to purchase before visiting Argos stores.  Customers prefer to buy products from Argos instead of competitors because they are certain of getting value for their money.  Argos manages to provide goods to customer cheaply because of its online services. Retail space has made competitor products expensive as companies charge high prices to cater for the space. 


Argos offers consumer’s value for money as it has a low cost strategy with few products on display.  The company also offers affordable products as it benefits from economies of scale by buying in bulk. Second, the company offers convenient services to customers. The company has used the catalogue to provide services to customers while at home.  Argos offers very convenient way for consumers to shop.  Customers can look through the catalogue and select their product of choice. The company offers a wide range of products to customers through the catalogue and hence gives customers a chance to select their product of choice.


2.5.5 Marketing strategies

The company has used different marketing strategies to market its products and services and communicate its corporate identity. Argos brand was considered stuffy and boring in 1998. However, the company modernized the brand to give it an appealing look. The company   developed a new logo and another brand strap line (“Brighter shopping”). This improved the   company corporate identity, image and reputation as customers now consider the Argo brand superior to other brands.


The company has used campaigns and promotion to market its products and hence articulate the corporate identity.  The company has segmented its markets into two groups. That is customers who do not use Argos brand often and those who use the brand occasionally.  The advertising campaigns have focused on reaching the market segments.  The latest campaign consisted of two characters. That is an elderly rock star that represented customers who do not buy Argo products often and a personal assistant representing customers buying Argos products often.  The company has used the advertisements to introduce customers who do not purchase Argo products often to Argo products.  The advertisement campaign has promoted a more modern image of the company so as to attract seasonal customers and reinforce the loyalty of existing customers.  This has strengthened the company corporate identity and improved its reputation and image.  This has in turn, increased the company sales as more customers purchase Argos brands.


2.5.6 Corporate strategy

A strategy refers to a plan implemented by an organization to attain its objectives.  Companies employ different strategies that differentiate them from their rivals. Argos has implemented a different strategy from its rivals.  Argos strategy entails driving frequency and sustaining the loyalty of old consumers.  The company has used television adverts to target seasonal customers and regular customers.  The company encourages customers to buy products from one store. Also, the company targets regular customers to increase its sales.  The focus on the convenience for consumers has increased the company sales as customers buy Argo products, unlike competitor products.  The corporate strategy has defined Argos corporate identity and enhanced its image and reputation.


2.6 Argos corporate identity program

Companies have established corporate identity programs to manage their identities.  However, most firms have not developed effective corporate identity management programs as they have not stated purpose of the program.  Corporate identity in the organization is about how a company projects itself to customers through corporate social responsibility, marketing and human resource.  Argos has focused on corporate social responsibility, human resource and marketing to improve its identity, image and reputation.   Managers have developed a corporate identity program to manage the company’s identity.  Argos has established social responsibility programs that focus on conserving energy and reducing waste. 


The company has worked with charities and local communities to protect the environment and conserve energy. This has enabled the company to improve its relationship with customers and communities.  The managers claim that acting responsibly it’s important to the company, customers, communities and investors.  The company has helped customers live sustainably.  The company also developed health and wellbeing programs to promote social mobility through the talent and skills programme. The company has worked with charity organizations like Teenage Cancer Trust to support the charity and help in the marketing and merchandise.  Argos has acknowledged the importance of supporting the community in which it operates so as to benefit the members and improve its relationship with customers.


Further, the company has focused on improving its sales through the corporate identity program.  The company has used different marketing strategies to improve its image and reputation and encourage customers to buy its products.  Argos has segmented its markets so as to reach the target customers easily. The company has divided the market into regular customers (Gets its) and irregular customers (don’t quite gets its). The company has used several methods to meet the requirements of every category. The company understands customers have different needs. It uses promotions, campaigns and media advertisements to reach customers.  The campaigns, adverts and promotions, have targeted the two groups of customers but with different purposes. The company targets the irregular customers to enable them appreciate the range of products offered by the company. Also, the campaigns have helped irregular customers appreciate the value for money of the offer. The company has sought to encourage irregular customers to buy all products from the catalogue.  Additionally, Argos has used the campaigns to encourage regular customers to buy more and increase the company sales.  The marketing strategies have worked effectively as Argos is considered the largest company in UK in terms of sales.


 2.7 Conceptual framework                                                                              

Figure 3: Conceptual Framework
 

The conceptual framework shows the relationship between various factors that affect Argos corporate identity and hence its performance in the retail industry. The Argos corporate identity has been affected by corporate communication, culture, behavior, strategy and structure.  The company employees controlled uncontrolled and direct communication to communicate its identity to customers. It uses promotions, campaigns and advertisements to articulate its corporate identity to customers and other stakeholders.  The company has changed its corporate culture including values and mission to focus more on customers and enhance its public image and perception customers have about it. This has made Argos the most popular brand and bought brand due to its quality.


The strong company reputation and image has attracted customers to purchase the product. The company history has also influenced its corporate identity.  Customers considered Argos brands boring before 2010 when the company changed its logo and services offered to customers. The experiences customers have had have led to increase in customer base and sales. Moreover, the behavior of workers, management and the organization has led to a strong identity and enhanced its image and reputation.  The employees interact well with customers and this has enabled customers to buy Argos products. Also, the organization focuses on meeting the needs of stakeholders including customers and communities through the catalogue and corporate social responsibility. IT has facilitated protection of the environment and energy conservation. The managers ensure employees work towards satisfying customer needs and improving their experience.


The corporate structure especially the brand structure has improved Argos identity, reputation and image. The company revealed a new brand identity to compete effectively in the market and increase sales by meeting consumer expectations. Lastly, the corporate strategies have focused on   positioning and differentiating the company from its competitors. The company has segmented its market into different sections and positioned itself to serve every segment. It has also made the products unique from competitors. The company logo has differentiated it from competitors. This has enhanced Argos performance in the market as it is the biggest retail firm in UK in terms of sales and revenue.


2.8 How to investigate Argos corporate identity

Argos corporate identity will be investigated using the Acid test. Acid test is a foolproof test that determines the validity, worth and value of an organization’s identity.  Acid test offers detailed methods to corporate identity management.  The Acid test model is based on the idea that there are different facets (identity types) of a firm’s identity which interact to produce a balance. The balance should be scrutinized and restored regularly because of the changes in organizational reality. The identity types should be recognized and restored because of changes in management strategies, structure and product and services.


In addition, the  identity types  should be  examined  and restored often because  of the  external environment  including  the  social, competitive , economic, market  and  legal  factors.  What a company is may not be in line with what it says.   In addition, what an organization says and what the organization is might not identify with what employees consider to be organizational reality.  Acid tests reflect the sophistication and richness of corporate identity (Balmer and Soenen, 1999).  There are different ACID   Tests that have been developed before   and currently. The past Acid Tests include ACID Test, AC2ID Test and AC3ID Test.  The AC4ID Test is most recently developed test. The numbers reflects the numbers of Cs in the Acid Test models.


2.8.1 Past Acid Test

There is a strong need by academic corporate identity management and practitioner   to identify a suitable corporate identity management program and show a company’s corporate identity management. Several scholars have analyzed techniques of revelation and measurement. Most of the  models  and methods  are conceptual or  depend on the  research conducted   within  identity consultancies  and has  shown bias towards  communication management  and  visual identity. Current technique takes a functional approach to the management of corporate identity and fails to give attention to other aspects of corporate identity management.  However, current research has bridged the gap and led to the development of the ACID Test of Corporate Identity Management by Balmer and Soenen (1999).


2.8.2 ACID Test

 
 

 Balmer and Soenen (1999) developed the first ACID Test model in 1999 after conducting research within corporate identity consultancy.  The ACID test differentiates corporate identity from other 4 identities.  The identity types can be dissimilar with some of the identities or all of them.


Figure 4: ACID test

 Hence, managing   the corporate identity in Balmer and Soenen Acid Test model (1999) implies bringing the different identity types into alignment or preventing misalignments.  The 4 identity types include actual, communicated, ideal and desired identity.  The actual identity refers to the reality of the company (what the company is). This includes internal vales, activities, behaviors and performance in the market. The communicated identity refers to how the company is perceived by different publics and how the company communicates.  Communicated identities refer to how the company communicates the company image, reputation and total corporate communications. Ideal identity refers to the optimum positioning of the company in the market. Desired identity implies the identity which the management board and chief executive officers want to attain. Communicated identity should be emphasized so as to comprehend the evolution of the Acid Test models.  This is the type that includes all other types found in AC2ID, AC3ID and AC5ID and AC6ID tests.  The C-S results from the communicated identity.  In AC4ID the 4th C (cultural identity) comes from the Actual identity.  In the Acid Test, communicated identity comprises of how the company is perceived and how the company communicates (Balmer & Soenen, 1999).


In AC2ID, Balmer and Soenen (1999) have separated perception (image and reputation) from the model and have included conceived identity. Van Rekom (1997) has examined actual identity and desired identity in his model. He claims that a company’s actual identity may impose restrictions on the communication of the organization (communication identity). Hence, the communicated identity should be balanced with the factual identity of the organization. The fit between actual identity and communicated identity is vital in determining the effectiveness of communication (Van Riel, 1995).


Balmer and Soenen (1999) provided processes of applying the ACID test.  The process consists of 3 stages.  The first stage is revealing the 4 identities. The second stage is examining the 6 interfaces or gap analysis.  The third state is diagnosing the situation. Balmer  and  Soenen  named the model as the RED  acid  Test process(4+6  principle, 4-  identity types  and 6- interfaces).


Organizations should examine the 6 interfaces in the organization by conducting a Red Acid test or the   gap analysis of the Acid Test (Balmer & Soenen, 1999).  When examining the first interface, the management should determine whether the positioning of the company is optimal.  The management should determine whether the behaviors of employees, internal values, services and produce performance, management policies and market coverage depict the optimal positioning of the company. 


In the second interface, the management should determine whether all company communications conveys the actual image of the company.  In this case, the management determines whether the corporate reputation depicts the company’s reality and whether third parties give a real account of the company. When examining the third interface, organizations should determine whether the reality of the company accurately reflects the top management vision.  In the fourth interface, organizations should determine the ideal positioning in relation to the reputation of the company and industry. The managers determine the extent to which the existing reputation can be enhanced. 


In the fifth interface, the management  determine  whether the  corporate  mission and management vision  are strategically sound and  whether they  exploit the organization’s  capabilities  and market opportunities.  In the sixth interface, the managers determine whether the corporate mission and management vision   are successfully communicated both inside and outside the organization.  The managers determine whether the reputation of an organization and communication policies are in line with the management vision.


2.8.3 AC2ID Test

Balmer and Greyer (2002) developed the AC2ID model in 2002.  In AC2 ID Test, the conceived identity is incorporated into the ACID Test model. In this model, the communicated identity refers to how the organization communicates.  Balmer and Greyer (2002) included a new identity type, public perceptions. The new model of Acid Test consists of the following components.   The first component is the actual identity which refers to the present attributes of the company. It comprises of different elements including corporate ownership, leadership style, structure, activities, market targeted, products and services.  The actual identity consists of values held by workers and the management.  The actual identity is a crucial element in the growth of Acid Test models and is known as C4 (cultural identity) in AC4ID.


Communicated identity entails different types of controlled communication like public relation and advertising. It also involves non controllable communication like media commentary and word of mouth.  Conceived identity is the corporate image, reputation, branding and perceptual concept. Balmer and Greyer have identified the conceived identity as covenanted identity in AC3ID.   The covenanted identity is a unique identity type created by the organization as corporate promise.  The ideal identity involves proper positioning of   the company in the market in a given time.  The desired identity is something that lives in the mind and heart of organizational leaders. It is the organization’s vision. Desired identity differs from ideal identity in that ideal identity is a source of the 2 identity types. Ideal identity results because of analysis and research.  Desired identity depicts the vision of the chief executive officer instead of the internal and external factors.


2.8.4 AC3ID Test

Balmer and Greyer define covenanted identity as a unique identity type. The scholars have replaced the covenanted identity with the conceived identity.  Covenanted identity is the corporate brand and the corporate brand is not part of the perceptual concept.  Balmer (2002) refers to the conscious decision by the top management to distil the characteristics of a company identity in a clear form as stated in the brand proposition.  The proposition is considered a covenant with important stakeholders and important networks. Balmer and Greyer (2003) defined the different types of identities based on the AC3ID model.  Actual identity implies what the company is and include components such as; the corporate identity and multidisciplinary. The communicated identity in AC3ID test refers to the reputation of the company or what people think about the company. The covenanted identity is the promise an organization makes or the brand promise. The ideal identity is what the company needs to be or the strategy. Desired identity involves what the company longs to be including the vision of leaders and leadership.


AC2ID test differs from AC3ID as the identity types in AC3ID are described according to dimensions, stakeholders and important concepts.  In addition, the two models differ as the communicated identity in AC2ID test has included the non controllable communication. In AC3ID, the communicated identity has included controllable communication.


2.8.5 REDS’2 Acid Test Process

Balmer and Greyser (2003) have developed a REDS2 AC3ID test process to operationalise the AC3ID test. The processes are made up of five stages as opposed to the 3 stage process discussed above under ACID test. The first step is revealing the identity types. The second step is examining the important identity interfaces. The third step is diagnosing the problem and ranking the problem. The fourth step is selecting the interfaces to be aligned. The fifth step is developing a strategy so as to align the important identities into alignment.  When identifying the interfaces to be aligned, managers should determine what is feasible, desirable and urgent.


2.8.6 Present AC4ID test

Balmer (2005) developed a new ACID test model known as corporate brand. AC4ID   introduces another identity type C4 (cultural identity).   Kiriakidou and Millward (2000) argue that the perception of actual identity and ideal identities of the organization perceived by works affect employee attitude and identification with the company. Kiriakidou and Millward (2000) have examined the misalignment that could happen in the future between the different types of identities.  The misalignments are discussed below:


Cultural- actual misalignment- in this case, the worker identifications can be incongruent with different aspects of organizational reality, activities and strategy. Employees might feel adversely about different aspects that impact their identification and attitude.


Cultural- communicated- Employees can disagree on what and how the organization communicates inside and outside to them.  Employees in the organization perform different roles as they contribute to the development of a favorable organizational image. Also, employees are the   external receiver. Therefore, employees might not agree what the organization states it is because they have experienced the company reality as members.  This forces employees to dissociate themselves from the organization. For instance, employees can disassociate themselves from the company advertising.


Cultural- conceived- employees and managers have identity problems resulting from bad image and reputation outside the organization.  The employees form an image about how the company is perceived by audiences outside.


Cultural - desired- The employee values differ from the   management values and vision for the company. Corporate identity programs start with a mission. The mission statement depicts the desired identity of the managed and ignores cultural values and workers’ attitude.  Corporate identity programs ignore the values and attitudes of the employees.


Cultural-ideal- Employee identification may not be in line with what the organization needs to be.  The employee values should be changed to ensure they are congruent with the company objective. However, employees may not accept the new values and this affects the performance of the organization.


Cultural- covenanted- The organizational brand promise and people identification might have a gap that needs to be bridged. Workers should align with the organizational moral brand.  Workers should not be considered brand ambassadors.


Chapter Three

3.1 Introduction

 This chapter discusses the action framework which is the RED ACID test and explains the research strategies used to carry out the research.  In addition, the chapter presents potential research approaches and justification for choosing the approaches. The research approaches utilized include interpretvism and inductive. Moreover, the chapter outlines the research design to be used in the research including qualitative and quantitative research design.  The   chapter provides a justification for using the mixed research design. Lastly, the chapter examines the ethical considerations.


3.2 Investigate Argos corporate identity program using the RED ACID test.

 The gap analysis is crucial in understanding Argos corporate identity program.  Balmer and Soenen identified 6 gap analyses used to examine the company identity program.

 
 
 
 

 

 

Figure 5: RED Acid Test

However, only three gap analyses will be used. That is gap analysis 01, gap analysis 04 and gap analysis 06.  Gap analysis 1 determines whether the positioning of the organization is optimal. The internal values, behavior of employees, product and service performance should reflect the ideal.  Also, the coverage of the market and management policies should reflect the ideal.  Gap analysis 01 compares the actual identity with the ideal identity.  The actual identity refers to the reality of the company and ideal identity refers to the positioning of the company in the market. In this case,   gap 01 shows how Argos employees and managers position Argos.  Employees and managers position Argos differently. The behaviors of employees and managers depict the positioning of the organization in the market.  Managers and employees position the company differently depending on the performance of the company products and services. They also position the company based on the management policies and the market covered by Argos.


Gap 04 deals with ideal identity and communicated identity. Gap 04 determines to what degree is the ideal positioning in the light of market, country and company reputation.  Also, gap 04 determines to what degree the present reputation can be improved.  Gap 04 examines how customers   consider the ideal positioning to the   market, country and organizational reputation.  The market and industry reputation affect the reputation of the company and hence its performance. The reputation of the retail industry and country of operation affect Argos reputation and how customers position the company. This determines the ability for customers to buy products and get services from Argos. Gap06 determines whether the mission of the organization and management vision is well communicated internally and externally.


It also determines whether the company reputation and communication policies are in line with the management vision. In this case, managers have different views regarding the communication of Argos mission and management vision. Some managers believe the company mission and management vision is effectively communicated inside and outside.  They also believe the company communication policies are in line with the management vision. Argos uses different techniques to communicate its mission including public relation, advertisement among others. The communication methods used affect the organization negatively or positively as it influences its identity and image.


3.3 Research philosophy: Interpretvism

Different research philosophies were used in this research. Interpretvism and positivism are some of the philosophies that the researcher used.  The positivist believes that the social world exists externally and objectively and knowledge is considered valid if it depends on the observation of the external reality. Positivism depends on different values including truth, reason and validity.  In positivism, the   fact is collected via direct observation and experiences and then measured using quantitative methods and statistical analysis.  Positivists believe that what happens in the organization can be comprehended via categorization and scientific measurements.


Interprevitists believe that reality can only be understood via subjective interpretation.  Phenomena should be studied in their natural environment and scientists should not impact the phenomena being studied. Interprevitists believe that there are many interpretations of reality and the interpretations are part of the scientific knowledge scientists are pursuing.  Hatch and Cunliffe (2006) claim that there is a difference between the subject matter of social sciences and natural sciences. In the social world, people make sense of circumstances according to their personal experiences, expectations and memories.  People construct meaning and reconstruct it with time through experiences that result to different interpretations. The different interpretations develop a social reality in which individuals act.Therefore, people should understand and discover the meanings and contextual factors influencing the interpretations.  Interprevitists claim that there are many realities (Eriksson & Jackson, 2008). They also believe that knowledge is relative to the knower and hence they work with other people to understand their perspectives and interpret their experiences. In this case, the researcher concentrates   on comprehending the meaning and interpretations of other people so as to understand their world view (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2007).


Researchers should understand what people think, feel and how they communicate when using the interprevitism approach (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Jackson, 2008). In this case, the Interpretivism approach is used to understand how customers and the management perceive Argos corporate identity. Customers and the management at Argos have different interpretations.  Customers and the management make sense of the circumstances based on their experiences in the organization and outside. They also make sense based on memories and expectations according to their experiences inside and outside the organization. Customers and the management construct meaning and reconstruct it and this leads to various interpretations.  The different interpretations customers and managers have led to the development of social reality that they act upon.  Therefore, the researcher should understand the meaning and factors that impact the interpretations customers and the management have (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2007).


3.4 Deductive and inductive research approach

There are two research approaches including deductive and inductive approach.  Deductive research approach works from the general to specific. Deductive research approach uses the top down method and conclusions are made from the facts available. In deductive method, the researcher develops the hypothesis and theory.  The investigator obtains data and develops a theory after analyzing the data.  On the other hand, inductive research approach works   from specific observation to generalization and theories. Inductive research approach uses bottom up method and conclusion is based on the facts gathered.


Deduction is related to positivism and induction is linked to Interpretivism.  An inductive method is used to understand the relationship between cause and effect connection between variables.  Inductive method helps understand how human beings interpret the social world.  In this case, the  inductive  research  approach will be used to understand  the cause  effect  relationship between variables  and also to understand  how customers  and the management interpret the  social world.


3.5 Research methods

The researcher employed both qualitative and quantitative method.  In quantitative method, the researcher uses postpositive claims to develop knowledge. The researcher uses cause and effect thinking to develop knowledge. In addition, the investigator studies variables to determine the relationship (Clark & Creswell, 2010). Quantitative research design entails collecting quantitative data or numerical data. The researcher uses a large sample size to collect data. Qualitative research concentrates on the analysis of numerical data. Quantitative research design follows scientific methods such as design, sampling etc. Quantitative research can be grouped into different categories. That is; non experimental, experimental and quasi experimental. The research designs differ in terms of mode of conducting research. The non experimental design entail assigning subjects to groups randomly and there is no control group.  Non experimental design is used mainly in descriptive research questions.  Experimental research designs manipulate the research variable to determine the effect it has on other variables. The researcher manipulates the independent variable to determine its effect on dependent variables (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003). Quasi experimental designs entail manipulating the independent variable to determine its impact on the dependent variable.  In this case, the quantitative research design was used to determine the relationship between research variables. The researcher used a large sample size to ensure the study findings are reliable and valid.  Quantitative research design has advantages and disadvantages.


Quantitative research design permits the investigator to measure and analyze data gathered using statistical methods (Symon &. Cassell, 2004).   In addition to that, quantitative research design allows the investigator to measure the relationship between dependent and independent variables.  This is advantageous as the investigator becomes more objective about the research findings.  Quantitative research has proved effective in testing hypotheses in an experiment due to its capability to measure data using statistics.  Quantitative research design does not lead to unbiased research and subjectivity as the investigator is not involved in the research. The investigator conducts research in an objective and unbiased manner. However, quantitative research ignores the research context. Quantitative research design does not study issues in a natural setting and fails to examine the meaning of things to various people. Moreover, quantitative research design requires the researcher to use a big sample size to ensure the results are accurate (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003).


Conversely, qualitative research design is intended at gathering an in-depth understanding of a phenomenon. It enables the researcher to determine reasons behind the behavior depicted by human beings (Clark & Creswell, 2010).  Qualitative research answers different questions such as why, how, where, what and when. In qualitative research design, the researcher requires a small sample in order to have an in depth understanding of the human behavior.  The qualitative research design has merits and demerits.  Qualitative research does not require a fixed research design, and this gives the researcher an opportunity to let the research unfold naturally.    Also, qualitative research design enables the researcher to gain comprehensive and rich data by understanding the behavior of subjects and getting responses from the participants. 


The qualitative research design deals with the social meaning and context of the study and how it impacts people (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003).   Nevertheless, qualitative research design has disadvantages.  Qualitative research design leads to bias in the research and affects its reliability and validity.  In qualitative research design, the researcher is highly involved in the research process resulting to establishment of bias.  Involvement in the research process gives the investigator a subjective view of the research issues and the subjects. The investigator interprets the research based on his biased views and this skews the data obtained. Lastly, qualitative research design is time consuming (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003).


In this case, the investigator employed both qualitative and quantitative research design (mixed method design) (Murray, 2003) to investigate RED ACID test.  Using the mixed design eliminated the weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative research design (Clark & Creswell, 2010).  Using qualitative and quantitative design together provided a detailed understanding of the study’s problem than when using each design independently. Mixed method design can be used when the qualitative or quantitative research design is not adequate to address the research problem and answer the study questions (Yin, 2003).  Using mixed method research design led to a pragmatic view.


It resulted to multiple perspectives including biased and subjective perspectives, as well as, unbiased and objective perspectives (Murray, 2003). Further, using a mixed method design eliminated biasness and subjectiveness linked with qualitative research design as the researcher was able to examine the research problem in an objective and unbiased manner (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003). Mixed research design aided in explaining the results of the study.   The mixed research method was used to examine the qualitative and quantitative data obtained.  The qualitative findings were used to expand on the quantitative results. The qualitative research design helped in understanding Argos corporate identity including its formation and factors that influence the corporate identity.  The corporate identity is influenced by corporate culture, communication and strategies. 


In order to understand the corporate identity, one has to understand the perception customers have towards Argos corporate identity.  The corporate identity is subjective and   changes depending on the organizational culture, strategies and communication. Thus, qualitative research design was effective in understanding how the corporate identity was conceptualized and formed in the company.  The quantitative research design enabled the researcher to gather data regarding corporate identity in Argos and how customers perceived the company identity. The researcher determined whether the corporate identity affected customers’ purchasing power (Creswell, 2012).


3.6 Data collection instruments

The investigator used a wide range of instruments to gather data. Questionnaires and interview were the main data collection instruments that were used in this study.  The instruments have weaknesses and strengths that impact on the research. In this case, a customer base survey was used to gather data from participants. Questionnaires were used to obtain data from the respondents.  The questionnaire consisted of both open ended and closed ended questions. The questionnaires enabled the researcher to collect data and get explanations from subjects regarding various issues related to corporate identity.  


Open ended questionnaires lead to a huge amount of information and this affects the analysis of data obtained. On the other hand, closed ended questionnaires provide limited data as subjects answer the questions provided and this makes the analysis of data easy.  Closed ended questionnaires prevent the researcher from getting participants views where needed. This affects the accuracy, validity and reliability of the data.  Therefore, using both closed and open ended questions helped overcome the shortcomings of closed and open ended questionnaires.  The researcher was able to get data from the participants and also get the subjects view on various corporate identity issues (Creswell, 2003).


The questionnaire consisted of two sections as shown in the appendix. That is demographic section and question section. The demographic section helped in the collection of demographic data and the question section contained survey questions. Participants provided their demographic data by filling the demographic section. The questions section comprised of closed and open ended questions aimed at understanding Argo corporate identity and factors influencing the identity (Clark & Creswell, 2010).


3.7 Participant selection

Customers and managers from 3 different Argos stores were used as research participants. The research sample consisted of 100 customers and 6 managers.  Only participants who met the inclusion criteria participated in the research. The researchers were interested in participants aged 18 years and above.  Only Argos customers were used in the study. The customers should have bought Argos product for the last one year to be included in the study. Argos has two types of customers. That is regular and irregular customers.  Regular customers purchase Argos products often while irregular customers sometimes buy Argos products. The sample comprised of 50 female and 50 male Argos customers. The stratified random method was used to select the participants. The stratified method ensures the sample selected represents the population being studied. In this case, the sample selected represented Argos customers’ population (Clark & Creswell, 2010).


3.8 Ethical consideration

All organizations conducting research should have an institutional review board. Universities and colleges have established institutional review boards to ensure researches are conducted based on the ethical standards set.    Researchers should get permission from the institutional review board by submitting their proposal to the board.   The institutional review board reviews the ethical considerations after receiving the proposal.  The board determines whether the research has adhered to the ethical standards or not.  The investigator obtained permission from the institutional review board before conducting the research.  Further, the researcher obtained permission from the participants before carrying out the research. The investigator administered the questionnaires to the participants to fill them and return the questionnaires to the investigator (Shapiro, Meslin & Childress, 2005).


Researchers consider a wide range of ethical principles while conducting research including informed consent, privacy and confidentiality, autonomy etc. The ethical principles ensure the studies conducted are in line with the ethical standards set. In this case, the investigator followed all the ethical principles (Kimmel, 2009).


Researchers adhere to the principle of informed consent when conducting research. Some studies need the informed consent of the subjects while others do not.   Studies that use anonymous questionnaire do not require informed consent as the participants cannot be harmed. An informed consent consists of different components. That is disclosure, understanding, voluntariness, competence and consent. In disclosure, the participant should be informed about the nature, purpose, benefits, risks and procedures of the study. In addition, the participants should be informed of discomfort and stress.  The subject should understand what the research is explaining and should get answers to his questions from the investigator. The informed consent form should be written in plain language.  The subjects consent to take part in the research should be voluntarily (Kimmel, 2009).


The investigator obtained informed consent from the subjects. The customers were educated on the importance and risks of the study.   The subjects willingly decided to participate in the research after examining the benefits and risks of the study.   The research did not have any risks, but it had   advantages. Customers and Argos would benefit from the research as it would lead to improved customer relationships, services and organizational performance.  Thus, the participants were familiar with the advantages of the research. The participants were assured of their confidentiality, and they were free to refuse to be included in the research. Involuntary participation in a research affects the subjects and research outcome. This happens when subjects do not provide information or answer questions freely (Miller, Jessop, Birch & et al, 2002).


Apart from the informed consent, the investigator upheld the principle of confidentiality and privacy.  He ensured the confidentiality and privacy of the participants was not infringed when conducting the research. The investigator ensured the information provided by the participants including private details remained confidential.  The researcher assured the subjects of privacy and confidentiality by not sharing the information obtained with unauthorized people.  The investigator ensured the information obtained was stored in a safe area to avoid access by unauthorized individuals (Sales & Folkman, 2000).


Moreover, the researcher allowed participants to withdraw from the research anytime.  The participants were educated on their rights to withdraw from the study. These ensured participants   were involved in the research comfortably. Those who found the research uncomfortable were allowed to withdrawal (Sales & Folkman, 2000).


Additionally, researchers are not allowed to use deception when conducting research.  Researchers should inform the participants about the nature of research without giving away the hypothesis. Researchers find it hard to tell the participants about the informed consent without telling them about the hypothesis.   As a result, researchers word the consent well to inform the subjects about the research without revealing the hypothesis of the research.   Deception is not permitted unless when justified.  Deception is not allowed if disclosing information about the nature of research would change the subject’s willingness to participate in the research.  Deception and its aim should be explained to the subjects after the research. In this case, the investigator did not use deception, and this ensured the research was reliable and valid. The researcher informed the participants about the nature of research, and they willingly participated in the research.  Therefore, the investigator ensured the study conformed to the ethical standards governing human subject research (Sales & Folkman, 2000).


3.9 Summary

The chapter has explained the research design; Interprevitists research paradigm and inductive research + used qualitative and quantitative research design to eliminate the weaknesses of the methods.  Qualitative research design enables the researcher understand the subjects behavior. The quantitative research design enables the researcher to determine the relationship between variables using quantitative data.  The Interpretvism research approach helps understand the meaning constructed by customers and the management through their experiences in the organization. It aids in understanding how customers and the management perceive Argos corporate identity.  Customers and the management have different meanings and interpretations that result from the Argos corporate identity.  Moreover, the researcher adhered to the   ethical principles governing human subject research.  That is the principle of informed consent, voluntarily, confidentiality and privacy.


Chapter Four: Data Presentation and Analysis

 This section focuses on scrutinizing the presenting and scrutinizing the data collected during the study. Data was mainly collected through questionnaires and interview. Various techniques of data analysis and presentation are used.


4.1 Questionnaire Analysis

4.1.1 Customer Perception

Figure 6: Customer Perception

Questionnaires were issued to Argos consumers to explore their perception of the firm’s corporate identity. The first section of the questionnaire gathered the demographic information while the second section address issues relating to corporate identify. The first question in section 2 sought to identify factors that customers associated with Argos advertisement. Respondents were provided with four choices and asked to rate these choices on a scale. These choices include; low price, convenience, product choice and product quality. The table able indicates that 25% of the respondents associate Argos with low prices, 90.9 % acknowledge the firm for offering convenient services while 60.3% of the respondent love Argos for offering choices to the customer and 18.2% of the respondent associate Argo brand with quality products.  


Retail companies have different points of competitiveness. For some companies, it is their ability to deliver services that are pocket friendly while others compete based on their ability to deliver quality products. For Argo, it appears as if convenience is their main point of competitiveness. Clients love services that are convenient to them. When it comes to the retail business, clients want a firm that will save them from travelling long distances or from queuing so as to receive services. Over 90% of the respondents associate the Argo brand with convenience.


This may be attributed to Argos’ strategy of selling through multiple channels. Argos provides its consumers with multiple channels through which they can access the company’s products (Home Retail Group, 2011). Argo’s retail outlets are the main channel of sales. The organization runs 10s of stores in across the country. This makes access to Argo easy for many clients. Argo has also established hundreds of convenience stores throughout the country. The convenience stores enable clients to who live far from Argo outlet to access the company’s products. These stores provide customers with convenient pickup points. Argo also makes sales its products through the online channel. Online sales are becoming a significant part of Argo’s transaction. This channel enables customers located in remote locations to access Argos’ services. The digital services also enable customers to reserve products and collect them at convenient locations.


A significant number of respondents also shopped at Argos because of the firm’s capacity to deliver an assortment of products thus broadening the customer’s choice. Customers love to visit establishments that provide a variety of products to choose from. Argos seems to excel in this area. This may be attributed by the firm’s effort of expanding the product line. Argo has increased the assortment of products in two years.  In 2011, Argos expanded its product lines by 21% from below 20,000 in 2010 to 23,300 lines (Home Retail Business, 2011). The expansion of product assortment has provided consumer with choice thus making create an image of choice.


Only 27.5% of the respondents associated Argos with low prices. This suggested that only 27.5% of consumers visit Argo’s because they think that the firm offers low prices. Price is an essential source of competitiveness in the retail industry (Minark, 2007). Companies such as Asda have excelled due to price advantages. However, there are other sources of competitiveness. Porters identified three essential sources of competitiveness; cost leadership, differentiation and focus strategies. Companies that compete based on prices make use of the cost leadership strategy. These companies seek to create the perception that they offer the lowest prices (Minark, 2007). Argos does not create this perception and thus does not rely on cost leadership strategy. Differentiation entails providing customers with additional features that add value to their experiences. Companies that rely on this strategy create a perception that what they offer is superior to other offers. Argos has managed to create this perception and use it to compete. Only 18% of consumers associated Argos with quality product.


4.12 Communication Channels

Figure 7: Communication

Corporate identity is also created through the company’s communication. The second question of the survey sought to explore the methods used by the company to intentionally communicate a given image to the customer. Various communication channels where explored. These include; text messages, TV advertisements, radio advertisement, E-mail and newspaper and magazine. Email appears to be the most utilized media of communication with 81.8% of respondents reporting to have come across emails from the firm.  Email is an effective communication channel as it takes a personalized approach in address potential and existing clients (Asiendu & Acheampong, 2012). Emails also provide a platform for interactive communication between customers and the service provider. They enable mutual sharing of information between the company and its customers.


Television is also popular channel of communication in Argos. Over 45% of the respondent reported having come across a television advertisement message from Argos. However, radio advertisement are not so common among the respondents with only 27%  of the respondent reporting to have come across a radio message. Television and radio have some advantages as marketing communication media. One of the advantages is access to a mass audience. Television and radio advertisement communicate to large audiences. However, these media do not enable mutual sharing of information between the company and its customers. Customers have no means for providing feedback, and thus the company just hopes that the intended message has been communicated.


 Text messages are also popular among Argos consumers. Over 45% of respondents reported having come across text messages from Argos. Text messages are also effective communication channels as they utilize a personalized approach in communicating the company’s messages. However, texts have limited communication capacity as they do not offer room from graphics and audio messages. Newspaper and magazine are utilized sparingly in Argos communication. Only 36.4% of respondent had come across an Argos newspapers or magazine advertisement.


4.13 Communication Message

Figure 8: Communication Messages

The corporate identity is largely determined by the message communicated by a firm. It is not enough to analyze the methods used in communication. There is also a need to analyze the conveyed messages. Argos promotion and gift cards are the most popular message among the respondents. Over 81.8 % of the respondents identified Argos’ promotion and gift cards as the best message passed by Argos. Gift cards are cost effective way of promoting sales. Gift cards enable an organization to create long term relationships with the customer. This may be the reason behind the overwhelming support for this communication tactic. Gift creates portrays an image of an organization that values its customers’.


Availability of different brands under one roof was also popular advertising message among the respondents. Customers love choices. This may explain why the respondents were pleased by this message. Customer wants to shop in an establishment were they can find an assortment of product to choose from. Over 27% of respondent were pleased with Argos messages about home delivery and availability of stores and customer experience. Home delivery and convenient stores are among Argos’ main selling points. However, it appears that the respondents do not rate these as vital elements in Argos’ offers.


4.14 Argos Logo and Color Scheme

Figure 9: Argos Logo and Color Scheme

Logos and color schemes are also essential determinants of corporate identity. Logos and color schemes provide stakeholders with visual elements that represent the company. Logo color schemes form part of the corporate design that differentiates a company from competitors. This question sought to determine whether Argos’ consumer thinks that the company’s logo and color scheme are effective in distinguishing Argos from competitors.  Over 54% of the respondent feels that Argos logo and color schemes are effective in differentiating the company from its competitors while over 34% of the respondent thought that the logo and color scheme were not effective. Nine percent of the respondents were not sure.


4.2 Interview Analysis

A semi-structured interview was conducted on six of Argo’s management team. The interview sought to gather information concerning the desired identity of the company. The research got 15 minutes to speak with the participants. The results of this interview were instrumental in answering the research question.

Interview Questions

Responses

Do you think Argos provide the best value for money by providing the most convenient shopping experience for the customer?

All the six interviewees were in agreement about Argos capacity to enhance value to its clients by providing convenient services. One of the interviewees noted that Argos provide customers with multiple shopping channel. “If a customer cannot come to the store, he can go online to check out our products”, he stated. Another interviewee commended the company’s capacity to deliver products closer to the customers. He noted the influence of the convenient stores and pick up points in clients shopping experiences. One of the interviewees explained that Argos has over 750 outlets across the United Kingdom making it easy for customers to access their services regardless of where the customers are located.

Do you think Argos provide a broad range of product choices with such easy reach to the customers?

The management also believes that the company has been successful in terms of delivering a range of product options. The interviewees noted the role played by the company’s online applications in providing consumers with choices. The applications provide consumers with adequate information concerning products that available in Argos’ stores. One of the interviewees also reported that Argos has concentrated on providing customers with goods that fulfill their basic needs. Thus, customers know they would like to purchase the products before they even come to the store. The company has also developed a catalogue from which customers can check out products and make purchasing decisions.  

Do you agree that your employees excel in understanding customer needs and wants?

The management had reservations concerning their employees’ capacity to deliver unique experiences to the customers. They noted that this has not been the focus of Argos in the past. One of the interviewees reported that the organization priority has always focused on getting stock into the stores and selling them with little focus on customers’ feelings. Argos had viewed itself as a destination store where customers walk in with a clear understand of what they would like to purchase. Thus, little emphasis was placed on customer services. However, things are changing. The management realizes the significance of delivering unique experiences to the customers.

Do you think your employees have established a competitive will to win by working as a team?

The management believes that the company has made significant steps towards developing high performing teams. One of the interviewees narrated some of the efforts made by the company to promote team work. The company organizes activities such as team building and company meals. The management has also been played its roles in terms of providing leadership to the team.

Do the employees of Argos take ownership of the company’s processes?

The management believes that Argos employees are committed to the organization. The interviewees stated that the management goal has always been to provide employees with a platform that encourages employee to be enterprising and go ahead of what is expected of them. However, some interviewees noted that the commitment of employee is hampered by the nature of the employment contracts. It was reported that most of Argos employees work on flexile contracts thus introducing some distance between the company and the employees.

Do you think the advertisements of Argos do justice in terms of creating awareness of the company’s products?

The management feels that Argos advertisements have been effective in creating awareness of the company’s products. The interviewees noted the role played by the advertisement in informing customers about products that available in Argos’ stores.  The advertisement also based on the prevailing needs within the market. However, one of the interviewees noted that Argos experiences some difficulties in providing information about all the products that Argos offer as the firm has a wide assortment of products.

Do you think the advertisement of Argos convey the company’s values and mission?

The management feels that the advertisements are also effective in communicating Argo’s values. One of the interviewees explained that the gift card promotion is a way of expressing gratitude to the consumers. This promotes Argos values that emphasize on valuing our customers.


Chapter Five: Discussion and Conclusion

This section discusses the implication of the results of the study on the goals of the study. The study focused on evaluation three gaps within the corporate identity interfaces. This section discusses these gaps and what it implies to the company.


5.1 Gap 1:  Is the positioning of the company is optimal?

The retail industry is evolving. Today, retail customers are characterized by diminished spending power (Delloite and Touché, 2012). This is attributed to rising inflation and the prevailing economic crisis within Europe. Consequently, customers are looking for service providers who can provide them with services that match their needs. Argos brand identity is associated with convenience. This is an ideal identity as it appeals to the prevailing market condition. Providing services to customers through channels that are convenient enables them to save costs. Argo customers’ do not have to travel for long distances in order to access retail services. This is because they can access the services through the convenient stores or the online channels. This saves the customers from incurring high fuel costs. It also saves the customers a lot of time.


Delloite and Touche (2012) also noted that the retail environment has become extremely competitive. The industry is saturated by both big and small players. International players such as Asda have joined the market fueling the rivalry within the market. In order to compete, Argo needs a unique positioning.  A corporate identity that emphasizes on convenience and choice provides Argos with a unique source of competitiveness. It is difficult for other players with the retail industry to replicate what Argo has done to make its services convenient and to provide customers with an assortment of options. This is an unlike when low prices are the main drivers of competitiveness. Price advantages can easily be replicated and eroded by other players.  


However, the corporate identity is yet to reach the optimal point. Results of this study reveal that only 18% of client associate Argos with quality products while only 27% associate the firm with low prices. Product quality has a significant impact on customers’ purchasing decisions. This implies that Argo’s may be losing some customers because it does not create an image of quality. There is a need for the company to enhance its image in regard to the quality of its products. Though it may not be feasible for Argos’ to pursue differentiation and cost leadership at the same time, the company should be effective in communicate the cost advantages presented by the firm’s convenient services.


The interviewee analysis also revealed that the company is yet to achieve success in terms of delivering quality experiences to customers. The management stated that the priority of the organization has always focused on getting stock into the stores and selling them. Argos cannot continue to operate in this manner if the company intends to maintain its existing clients. The retail industry has become extremely competitive. Argos needs to go beyond providing products to the consumer in a convenient manner. The company need to provide customers with unique experiences that attach them to the company. The company needs to develop customer friendly services that make the client feel appreciated.


5.2 Gap 4: To what Extent is the Ideal Position Possible?

This section evaluated the ideal positioning in relation to the standing of the firm, as well as, in relation to the industry and the general environment. The ideal identity refers to the optimum positioning that a firm can take in a given period (Balmer & Greyer, 2008). The ideal positioning is determined by an assortment of factors. The organization’s capabilities, core competences, resources, and prospects are among these factors. One of the areas in which Argo has excelled is the establishment of multiple retailing channels (Ranchhod, 2012). The company sells its products through multiple channels including physical stores, convenient stores and online platforms. This has enhanced the company’s capacity to provide convenient services to the consumer.


Argos has also excelled in terms of providing options to the consumers. Analysis of the questionnaires revealed that a large number of the responded shopped at Argos due to its ability to deliver an assortment of products to consumers. Argos is also endowed with massive resources including; 750 stores, a strong brand (intellectual resource), over 500 catalogue showrooms, IT resources including online applications, call centers and a well trained workforce (Ranchhod, 2012). These resources also determine the ideal positioning of the organization. Resources such as stores, online platforms, and catalogue showrooms give Argos the capacity to position itself as a retailer that is capable of delivering the most convenient services to consumers. Resources such as call centers and a well trained workforce give Argo the capacity to position itself as a retailer that deliver the most customer friendly services. While Argos has been successful in terms of positioning itself as convenient retailer, it has not achieved the potential that comes assume the positioning of a customer friendly retailer.


The ideal positioning is also determined by the industry environment. Argos operates in the retail industry. Thus, the company must respond to forces that act within this environment. One of the significant forces within the industry environment is rivalry (Porter, 2008). Rivalry has become extremely fierce within the industry (Grocery News, 2013). Argos has to compete with numerous other players including Morrision, Tesco and Asda. International players such as Asda are competing based on prices driving commodity prices within the industry downwards. The threat of new entrants is also significant (Grocery News, 2013). The retail industry makes it easy for smaller players to enter and exit the industry. Argos positioning needs to respond to this industry environments.


It needs to provide Argos with the capacity to hold on its existing customers and promote additional spending from the customers. Argos positioning should enhance the company capacity to attract new clients. Another industry force that is likely to affect Argos is the power of suppliers. In past few years, the UK retail industry has witnessed vertical integration of players within the industry. Retailers such as Morrison Supermarket own farms, processing facilities, transportation facilities, warehouses and outlets (Kalmarova, 2012). This gives Morrison a lot of power to influence the suppliers and the retail supply chain. Argos’ positioning needs to respond to changes within the retail supply structures. The ideal corporate identity should make Argos appealing to suppliers.


The ideal positioning is also determined by the general environment. The general environment refers to factors that affect all business that operate within a country or a given market (Grundy, 2013). Argos positioning needs to responds to UK’s prevailing business environment. Economic factors are among the significant determinant of ideal positioning. The UK has suffered from increase inflations, increased unemployment and high interest rates in the past few years (BBC, 2013). These trends are largely attributed to the Euro zone crisis. Consequently, the purchasing power of retail consumers has diminished. Argos positioning must respond to this change within the general environment.


Argos corporate identity needs to project an image of affordability to the customers. The social environment also affects the positioning. The economic crisis has also affected UK’s social environment. Many families are characterized by dropping income levels. This trend has affected retail sales. According to Elliot (2013), 37% of UK retailers reported a slant in sales for the month of April as compared to the year 2012.


5.3 Gap 6: Is the Organization Vision and Mission Effectively Communicated?

This section examines whether the mission and vision of Argos has been effectively communicated both inside and outside the company. An organization is defined by its mission and vision. The mission defines what the firm is about while the vision defines the intentions of the firm. The mission and vision represent an organization desired identity. The communicated and perceived identity needs to be congruent with the mission and vision of the organization so as to avoid misalignment between identities.


Argos mission is to provide customer with superior value for money by given them the most convenient shopping experience (Argos, 2013). Argos’ vision is to provide customers with choice, convenience and value. Argos mission is not effectively communicated through the organization’s communication strategy. The analysis of the questionnaire indicates that customers value the gift card promotional campaigns rather than any other communicated messages. The gift cards tend to promote values such as appreciation rather than conveniences and choice. Only 27.3% of the respondents appreciated Argos message concerning customer experience. Similarly, only 45.5% of the respondents appreciated Argos message concerning availability of options while only 27.3% appreciated advertising messages concerning home delivery services and availability of stores. This is an indication that the mission and core values of Argos are not effectively communicated through the advertisements. Thus, there is a gap between the communicated identity and the desired identity.  


A company can also create an identity through unintentional communication. This may include unpaid news or reports about the company, company’s practices and image. This unintentional communication interacts with intentional communication to generate the company’s perceived identity. A company perceived identity needs to be in line with the mission and vision of the company in order to guarantee success. The analysis of questionnaires revealed that 90.9% of the respondents have the perception that Argos offers customers convenient ways of shopping. This perceived identity is consistent with the vision of the firm. Argos has made the firm’s intention to provide convenient services explicit in the firm’s vision statements and strategies. Strategies such establishment of online platforms and convenient stores are directed towards providing a high level of convenience. This identity is not only shared by the customers but also the employees and the management team of Argos.


5.4 Conclusion

In conclusion, Argo has a strong corporate identity. However, some gaps are visible between various identity types. Argos actual identity positions the company as a retailer that offers convenience and choice to the customers. However, there is a gap between the actual identity and the ideal identity. The ideal identity seeks to assign the company an optimal positioning within the market. Thus, the ideal identity takes factors such as organization competency and resources, the industry environment and the general environment into consideration. The analysis reveals that Argos has not optimally exploited its resources and core competence. Argos can use resources such as well trained workforce and the call center to boost the quality of the service delivery. The study also reveals that Argos has responded to industry and market factors such as diminishing purchasing power and increased competition. Argos needs to address these factors in order to align the firm’s actual identity to the firm’s ideal identity. There are also gaps between the actual, conceived and desired identity. Argos desired identity can be derived from the company’s mission, values and vision. The study has highlighted some discrepancies between what the company does, what the company communicates, what is perceived by the customers and what the management expects.


Chapter Six: Recommendations

Argos can enhance its corporate identity through the provision of the right products. As already stated in previous sections, the customer spending power has declined (Delloite and Touché, 2012). This means that customers have reduced expenditures of luxury items and began focusing on basic commodities. Argos needs to respond to this market situation in order to create a favorable corporate identity. The firm should concentrate on providing basic items thus serving the needs of the majority of the customer. Concentrating on basic commodities will also enable the firm to reduce the cost of spacing and take advantage of the economy of scale. This will result in lower prices from the customer and a favorable image for the organization.


Argo can also enhance its corporate identity through a sustainability agenda. Environmental sustainability has become a significant issue in the 21st century. Customers have become environmentally conscious. According to Delloite and Touché (2012), 60% of consumer rate environmental friendliness as the most essential factor when selecting a service provider. Twenty two percent of consumers are also willing to pay premium services in order to save the environment. Thus, best environmental practices will not only enhance Argos’ corporate identity but will also enhance the performance of the organization.


Argos can also enhance it corporate identity by redesigning its communication strategies. It has become clear that the communicated identity of the company differs from the desired and the actual identity of the firm. Argos needs to design effective ways of communicating to the consumers in order to reduce this gap. Argo needs to move way from mass marketing and focus on personalized forms of marketing such as word of mouth, network marketing and relationship marketing. Argos has made a step toward relationship marketing through it gift card promotion. However, Argos needs to put more effort, in terms of enhancing the experiences of customers, in order to promote network and word of mouth marketing. Existing customers are likely to give an accurate account of their shopping experiences to friends and family than print and mass media (Leskovec, Adamic & Huberman, 2006). This can only be achieved through strategies such as developing a customer friendly workforce.


References

Argos (2013) About Argos. May 14, 2013. https://www.argoscareers.com/jobs_argos/careers/about.aspx

Asiendu K. & Acheampong I. (2012). Integrated Marketing Communications. Modern Marketing Journal. 5 (3): 54- 61

Balmer J. & Greyser S. (2008). Managing the Multiple Identities of the Corporation. California Management Review. 44 (3): 72- 86

BBC (2013). Eurozone Unemployment at Record High as Inflation Drops. May 14, 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22353726

Delloite & Touché (2011). The Changing Face of Retail. May 13, 2013. http://www.deloitte.com/assets/DcomUnitedKingdom/Local%20Assets/Documents.pdf

Elliot L. (2013). UK Retail Sales Show Surprise Fall. May 10, 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/apr/24/uk-retail-sales-surprise-fall-cbi\

Grocery News (2013). UK Supermarkets. May 10, 2013. http://grocerynews.org/2012-06-16-08-27-26/supermarkets-market-share/grocery-stores

Grundy T. (2006) Rethinking and Reinventing Michael Porter’s Five Forces Model. Journal of Strategic Change. 15: 213- 229

Heath P. & Oyelayo L. (2011). Opportunities for Growth in the Retail Industry. May 13, 2013. http://www.brandchannel.com/images/papers/530_head_wp_customer_experience_deficit_0911.pdf

Home Retail Group (2011). Argos Business Review. May 13, 2013. http://www.homeretailgroup.com/ar/2011/_downloads/homeretail_ar_argos_review.pdf           

Kalmarova Z. (2012). Sainbury’s vs. Morrison. May 10, 2013. http://is.muni.cz/do/econ/soubory/aktivity/fai/35724989/FAI_issue2012_03_Kalmarova.pdf

Leskovec J. Adamic L. & Huberman B. (2006). The Dynamics of Viral Marketing. Social & Behavioral Sciences Journal. 11 (15)

Minark M. (2007). Cost Leadership and Differentiation. May 10, 2013. http://arc.hhs.se/download.aspx?MediumId=315

Porter M. (2008). The Competitive Forces that Shape Strategy. Harvard Business Review. (2008): 78-93

Ranchhod A. (2012). Strategic Marketing in Practice. UK. Routledge Publishers


Published in Education
Thursday, 28 November 2013 21:22

The Strategic and Performance Management

The Strategic and Performance Management


Introduction

Performance management and strategic management are two exceptional platforms for human resource management. Performance management pertains to the mechanisms established within an organization’s human resource department in order to monitor, assess, and streamline the output of employees. On the other hand, strategic management encompasses a systematic approach to human resources with the goal of addressing all components of an organisation’s operational frameworks. The modern human resource systems have strongly emphasized on the role of both performance and strategic management.


Organisations across the globe seek to maximise their performance by streamlining their human resource systems. This has formed the basis of establishing numerous tactics for both perspectives. In order to facilitate for performance management, an organisation may implement an elaborate mechanism for employee appraisal. Such assessments cater for the quantification of employees’ capacity to fulfil different tasks. In terms of strategic management, some of the most notable tactics pertains to the enhancement of organisational culture. By streamlining organisational culture, it is considerably easier for human resource systems to boost operational efficiency. In any organisation, strategic management serves as an essential platform for decision making. In the absence of effective decision making, organisations struggle to attain the expected standards of performance.


Through strategic management, the human resource manager can examine the benefits and shortcomings of different decisions.  These perspectives outline the significance of both performance and strategic management. This analysis focuses on the different roles of strategic and performance management. This is based on the ICHRM research and theoretical material. Practical examples will serve as essential components of the entire analysis.


Literature Review

Numerous researchers have performed extensive surveys on the roles of performance management and strategic management especially as pertains to human resources. The extensive nature of such research is largely because of the numerous needs of the modern human resource systems. In all organisations, human resource systems are pivotal components of the operational efficiency (Ansoff, 2007). It is thus pertinent to assess the different insights provided in literature as pertains to perspectives on performance management and strategic management. Most researchers have accentuated on the instrumental role played by strategic management in human resources (Amason, 2010). Based on such frameworks, strategic management is presented as a fundamental component of organisational change.


In the modern corporate establishments, change management helps in the alignment of an organisation towards its corporate goals. However, change management must be based on an elaborate plan (Jeffs, 2008). For instance, the different stakeholders must be integrated into the change management framework in order to mitigate any obstacles within the implementation framework.


The different perspectives on strategic management are highly effective with regard to the actualisation of change management (Witcher, 2010). This accentuates the pertinent role of strategic management in the modern day corporate entities. Based on current literature and ICHR< research material, strategic management should be used by human resource managers in order to facilitate planning.


The mechanisms implemented for planning can make an extensive impact in the performance of any company (Hunger, 2009). The world’s most reputable corporate establishments are based on elaborate systems of strategic planning.  For instance, the prevailing planning mechanisms are sensitive in terms of boosting the capacity of an organisation to attain its corporate goals (Martin, 2010). Through strategic management, organisations establish the most effective global operational plans in line with their respective sizes. The efficiency of an organisation’s human resource system is massively dependent on the company’s ability to implement effective platforms for strategic management. This has formed the basis of extensive investments in different organisations as they seek to streamline their efficiency in strategic management.


Apart from strategic management, there is extensive literature on the concept of performance management. Performance management encompasses the identification of the different perspectives influencing the productivity of employees within an organisation (Cole, 2003). The frequent assessment of employees within an organisation is instrumental towards determining whether they conform to the company’s values. The mechanisms established for performance management within an organisation are massively influential from the perspective of operational efficiency. For instance, performance management has significant implications on a company’s capacity to remain competitive. This is because of the inherent implications of employees on a company’s internal systems (Jones, 2009).


In line with such frameworks, corporate entities must establish elaborate frameworks for performance management. Most researchers provide excellent insights into the available platforms for streamlining their mechanisms for performance management (Gael, 2011). Among the most notable mechanisms pertains to peer-appraisal. This encompasses an approach where the employees assess each other. This is approach is highly beneficial in that employees are familiar with each other. Additionally, such an approach to performance management is not characterised by hefty costs. Another pertinent element concerning performance management is the scorecard.


The scorecard is an excellent platform for assessment of performance (Hill & Jones, 2012). The score attained by each employee helps in depicting the overall contribution towards the performance of an organisation. The scorecard mechanism has been implemented widely across numerous organisations across the globe. This is largely because of its capacity to enhance efficiency within a company’s mechanism for performance management (Hill, 2011). Additionally, the scorecard approach enhances time efficiency while also minimising the overall costs incurred by an organisation from the perspective of operations management. Despite the numerous merits of strategic and performance management, some organisations struggle to implement both (Jones, 2012).


In view of such complexities, an organisation might prioritise performance management over strategic management. Such approaches cause discrepancies in terms of the output generated by an organisation. This highlights the significance of implementing both systems within the human resource framework of any organisation. The actualisation of both systems should be based on operational efficiency. This is because of the integral role played by each system within an organisation (Morden, 2012). The actualisation of both management platforms requires sufficient resources. Adequate planning is another pertinent aspect with regard to the implementation of strategic and performance management.


The nature of planning mechanisms has strong implications on a company’s capacity to cope with the technicalities which may characterise the actualisation process (John & Harrison, 2009). Apart from planning, cooperation is another crucial element with as pertains to the actualisation of performance and strategic management.


Cooperation from the organisation’s workforce is immensely influential towards the efficiency of human resource systems.  For instance, employees must appreciate the integral role of strategic management. This enables them to embrace the different aspects of change within the company’s entire framework for management. In order for the modern-day organisations to attain competitive advantage (Sekhar, 2009), they must establish the relevant mechanisms for performance and strategic management.


Critical Analysis

Strategic Management Approach to Human Resource Management

Strategic management is among the most influential perspectives of human resource management. Strategic management encompasses the different frameworks used by an organisation in order to attain competitive advantage. In international human resource management, competition is immensely extensive (Caldwell, 2002). This makes it inevitable for companies to devise adequate tactics for remaining competitive. In line with such perspectives, strategic management is crucial. Different companies across the globe have integrated strategic management into their HRM policies in order to gain competitive advantage (Bacal, 2011).


Google Inc. has successfully integrated strategic management into the framework for HRM. . Such an approach enables the company to streamline its operations across the globe. As an outstanding firm in the telecommunications sector, Vodafone’s system for strategic management is exemplary (Aguinis, 2008). This company uses strategic management as its basis for geographical expansion. This approach is directly related to strategic planning. Although British Petroleum is a public entity, it considers strategic management as an indispensable component of its global operations. This applies to the company’s recruitment policies and also its relations with different clients (Pulakos, 2009). 


One of the most influential reasons behind Wal-Mart’s continued success is exemplary strategic management. The standards of job satisfaction in this retail giant are attributed to the exceptional frameworks for strategic management (Smither, 2009). In order to streamline the company’s system for marketing, Mercedes has positioned itself strongly using strategic management. This accentuates why the company is highly competitive across the globe. As an international entity in the logistics industry, DHL Express has streamlined its framework for human resources using strategic management. For instance, the firm uses strategic management in order to attain efficiency. This has strengthened the position of DHL Express in the international logistics sector.


Nestle is a dominant firm not only in the European markets but also from a global perspective. The success of this organisation in the international markets has been largely due to the strategic management mechanisms developed by Nestle (Armstrong & Baron, 2006). Although the company has a large workforce, it streamlines the human resource systems using strategic management mechanisms.


The implementation of strategic management is also evident at Samsung Electronics. The company’s framework for international growth hinges on strategic management (Pope, 2005). This accentuates the value of strategic management in the global operations of Samsung Electronics. Toyota Limited is another company whose framework for international operations is characterised by exemplary mechanism for strategic management. This approach has established Toyota as an outstanding brand in the automobiles sector.


The Virgin Group has grown tremendously in recent decades in all its global operations. Even in the wake of recessions, the Virgin Group has been steadfast in the attainment of operational efficiency. This is mainly because of the company’s exemplary systems for strategic management (Armstrong, 2009). Aspects such as Porter’s Strategy have been integral components of the company’s strategic management framework. Most of the strategic principles at EBay are based on effective mechanisms for strategic principles. All these dimensions accentuate the role of strategic management in boosting international operations for different organisations across the globe.  


Performance Management

International performance management pertains to the established goals in order to facilitate for the efficient attainment of goals. Companies and organisations have different goals depending on their operations (Lawler, 2008). This necessitates the development of a reliable framework that caters for the attainment of such goals. Through performance management, organisations minimise their costs and also maximise the performance of employees (Schwartz, 2001).


Different companies use different tactics in the development of adequate platforms for performance management. In line with this, it is crucial to examine how different organisations have implemented performance management systems.


Barclays is market leader in the financial sector (Edwards, 2006). With international operations spread across over one hundred countries, this company has exceptional systems for performance management. It mainly achieves this through auditing (Harris & Brewster, 1999). FedEx is another notable company whose international operations are characterised by excellent platforms for performance management. This logistics firm has attained global reputation due to the effective mechanisms for performance management (Muller, 1998).


As an international telecommunications entity, Nokia enjoys an excellent market share internationally. This can be strongly attributed to the excellent systems for performance management in the company. Nike specialises in sports apparel. Through performance management, the company has significantly boosted its global operations. For instance, the company’s systems for performance management haven influential in terms of cost alleviation (Sparrow, 2010).


Apart from Nike, the Coca Cola Company is an outstanding example of a company with exceptional platforms for performance management. The company is renowned globally for its workforce. The excellent levels of output from its workforce are down to its mechanisms for performance management (Stone, 2012). Additionally, performance management has boosted the company’s competitiveness in the global markets.


Microsoft has attained efficiency within its human resource systems due to its mechanisms for performance management. Performance is an integral aspect of Microsoft’s operational framework (Wilkinson & bacon, 2009). In the absence of effective platforms for performance management, Microsoft would not have been such an outstanding brand in the international markets.


PepsiCo is another outstanding corporate entity that has been massively successful in the implementation of performance management. The company’s systems for performance management facilitate for frequent reviews and evaluation of employees (Schuler & Briscoe, 2012). Such reviews are crucial in the alleviation of a company’s overall operational costs. Consequently, PepsiCo is an excellent model with regard to the systems for implementing performance management within an organisation.


British Airways is another outstanding example of an organization that has made excellent strides in the implementation of performance management. In order to avoid the different complications that characterise the implementation of performance management, British Airways has an elaborate mechanism for the management of inter-country differences. This has significantly streamlined the country’s framework for operational efficiency (Dash, 2007).


Ernst & Young is another outstanding example of a firm with exceptional frameworks for performance management. For instance, the company has streamlined its performance mechanisms in order to attain safety within its mechanisms for global human resources. The evaluation of employee diversity is massively influential towards mitigation of potential conflicts among employees.  This streamlines the efficiency for internal and external operations.


Recommendation and Conclusion

Performance management and strategic management are integral components of internal human resource management. While both perspectives have numerous areas of similarities, they are characteristically distinct. In view of such differences, it is essential for human resource managers to establish adequate frameworks for implementing both strategies (Mathis, 2010).


In order to streamline a company’s framework for strategic management, it is massively critical to clarify its goals in global markets. While some companies focus on geographical expansion, others seek to enhance their revenues. Consequently, the clarification of international goals is an essential pillar in the actualisation of strategic management. It is crucial for companies to use strategic management frameworks in the enhancement of competitive advantage. Companies like Coca Cola and Microsoft have been highly competitive due to their systems for strategic management (Jackson, 2010). From the perspective of performance management, organisations must establish systems that boost the productivity of employees.


References

Ansoff, HI 2007. Strategic management, New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan

Amason, A 2010. Strategic management: From theory to practice, New York, NY:            Taylor & Francis

Jeffs, C 2008. Strategic management, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

Witcher, B 2010. Strategic management: Principles and practice, Mason, OH: Cengage      Learning

Hunger, JD 2000. Strategic management, New York, NY: Prentice Hall

Martin, F 2010. Strategic management: Awareness and change, Mason, OH: Cengage        Learning

Cole, GA 2003. Strategic management: Theory and practice, Mason, OH: Cengage            Learning

Jones, GR 2009. Strategic management: An integrated approach, Mason, OH: Cengage     Learning

Gael, R 2011. Strategic management, Reiner Geel

Hill, CW & Jones, GR 2012. Strategic management: An integrated approach, Mason,         OH: Cengage Learning

Hill, CW 2011. Essentials of strategic management, Mason, OH: Cengage Learning

Jones, GR 2012. Strategic management theory, Mason, OH: Cengage Learning

Morden, T 2012. Principles of strategic management, London: Ashgate Publishing

John, CH & Harrison, JS 2009. Foundations of strategic management, Mason, OH:             Cengage Learning

Sekhar, GV 2009. Business policy and strategic management, New Delhi: I. K.        International Publishing House

Caldwell, CM 2002. Performance management, AMA Publications

Bacal, R 2011. Performance management, New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Professionals

Aguinis, H 2008. Performance management, New York, NY: Prentice Hall

Pulakos, ED 2009. Performance management: A new approach for driving business          results, Hoboken, NJL John Wiley & Sons

Smither, JW 2009. Performance management: Putting research into action, Hoboken,       NJL John Wiley & Sons

Armstrong, M. Baron, A 2006. Managing performance: Performance management in         action, CIRD Publishing

Pope, EC 2005. Performance management and HR, CCH Publishing

Armstrong, M 2009. Armstrong’s handbook of performance management, London:             Kogan Page

Schwartz, AE 2001. Performance appraisal: Appraisal and meeting, MA: AE Associates

Lawler, JJ 2008. The global diffusion of human resource practices, Cheltenham: Emerald     Publishing Group

Edwards, T & Rees, C 2006. International human resource management, New York:                     Prentice Hall

Harris, H & Brewster, C 1999. International HRM: Contemporary issues in Europe,                        London: Routledge

Muller, M 1998. Human resource and industrial relations practices of UK and US                     multinationals, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 9(4)

Sparrow, P 2010. Handbook on international human resource management, Hoboken,                  NJ: John Wiley & Sons

Stone, D. & Romero, ES 2012. The influence of culture on human resource management               processes, Oxon: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

Wilkinson, AJ & Bacon, NA. (2009). The Sage handbook of human resource                                   management, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications

Schuler, R & Briscoe, D 2012. International human resource management, Boca Raton,                  FL: CRC Press

Dash, A 2007. International human resource management, New York: McGraw-Hill                       Education

Jackson, SE 2011. Managing human resources, Mason, OH: Cengage Learning

Mathis, RL 2010. Human resource management, Mason, OH: Cengage Learning


Published in Management


Strategic Management Approach to Human Resource Management


Introduction

Human resource management as a field of study came of age in the 1990s.  Human resource has now advanced to become a recognizable disciplinary field in which theories and models are generated and their proposition tested by rigorous empirical research.  Management of employees in an organization is one of the most complex processes in management.  The diversity of the working force and the evolving nature of staffs have required a shift from traditional models of human resources management to more flexible and practical forms of managing human resources. In any organization, human resources are vital resources that must be considered with the ultimate attention and interest.  The abilities, motivation, development and management of human resources are decisive factors in the competitiveness and management of any organization.


There is a growing demand for a shift toward effective management of human resources that have resulted into adoption of a strategic approach to human resources management and performance management. These approaches to human resource management provide the future of human resources in the changing internal and external environment. Various scholars have defined strategic management in different ways. The concept of strategic management of human resources gained momentum in the late 1990s, and it is touted as one of the best solutions to human resource management. Many organizations have adapted the approach to maximize productivity of their staffs. It effectiveness in aligning the goals of an organization with those of the organization has increased its application in human resource management. 


Literature Review

In 1987, Thompson & Strickland defined strategic management as the process in which mangers establish the long-term direction of an organization, set specific performance objectives, devises strategies of achieving the identified objectives in the framework of interior and exterior environment of the organization.  Strategic management aims at helping an organization to achieve a competitive advantage that allows the organization to manage the influence of environment on its operations.  The managers are given consistent guidelines to use in making decisions and taking actions (Chaneta, 2005).


John Bratton (2012) defines strategic human resource management as the process of linking the functions of human resource with the strategic objectives of an organization so as to improve the performance of the organization.  It is the set of managerial decisions and actions that are used to determine the long-term performance of an organization.  These are the actions that an organization takes in order to improve its competitiveness. 


According to Deb (2006), strategic management is the managerial process requiring human resources policies and practices to be linked to strategic objectives of the organization. Human resources management is gradually being changed to strategic human resource management (the strategic implication of human resources management).  Deb gives the reasons for the changing shift toward strategic management of human resources as the problems that have been characteristics of tradition human resources management approaches. Some of the identified challenges include: the traditional human resources management was consultative in nature, the human resources management functions were not involved in the business planning and the pressure from increasing human resource cost. He also quoted that  need to shift to strategic management of human resources was necessitated by difficulties in gaining competitive advantage through the effective alignment, integration and utilization of human resources. There was also failure to understand the impact of globalization on HR practices, including capitalizing on the global workforce and its untapped potential. The tradition human resource management approaches lacked accountability function in the event of failure in implementation of corporate/ business strategies.


The above definitions of strategic management share certain concepts. First, there is a general agreement that strategic management of human resources aims at making the objectives of an organization coherent with the actions taken by the management. Secondly, strategic management is determined to increasing the competitiveness of an organization by taking decisions that are maximizing on the environment in which an organization operates. It gives an organization direction by making sure the human resources are utilized in a manner that meets the long term goals of an organization. The managers are directed by a set of rules that ensure their actions and decisions are in line with the goals of the organization.


Kandula (2006) defines performance management as a process of designing and executing motivational strategies, interventions and drivers with an objective to transform the raw potential of human resources into performance.  It is the process needed for improvement within an organization to occur (Cardy & Leonard, 2011). He argues all human beings possess potential within themselves in a few or more functional areas.  However, utilization and conversion of this potential into deliverable performance is often suboptimal due to a variety of reasons.  Performance management acts as an agent in converting the potential into performance by removing the intermediate barriers as well as motivating and rejuvenating the human resources. Performance management is a critical and necessary component for individual and organizational effectiveness.  Effective management of performance in an organization requires an understanding of the context in which the process of performance management takes place.   Despite the great role performance management plays in increasing the performance of employees, the field has received the least amount of force in human resource management.  Pulakos argues that performance management is the process through which an organization communicates its expectations and drive behavior to achieve important goals.


It is the process through which the organization identifies ineffective performance for development program. It is the inclusive, incessant and supple approach to the management of organizations, teams and persons which involves the utmost amount of dialogue between those concerned.   The problem of gaining the commitment of line managers to performance managements and of getting to do it well or at all is one of the issues concerning performance management. Many managers view the process of performance management as problematic because of the complexity and difficulties involved in the process. There are also issues pertaining to poorly administered performance management models that do not meet the needs of modern organization (Armstrong & Baron, 2005). The general purpose of performance management is to add to the achievement of high productivity by the organization and its employees. High performance means reaching and exceeding stretching targets for the delivery of productivity, quality, customer service, growth, profit and shareholders.


The performance of an organization is related to the performance of employees. It is crucial to manage the performance of employees to increase their productivity for the benefit of an organization. There are three theoretical approaches to strategic management of human resources.  They include universal access, access to opportunities, and resources based approach.  The focus of universal access is the concept of human resource management based on objectives of human resources management. It ensures that employees are motivated to the highest level to increase their productivity. In some instances, performance management is confused with performance appraisal.


Critical Analysis

Strategic approach to human resources management

Strategic approach to human resource management is one of the emerging trends in human management. The approach has been adopted by many organizations because of its business approach to management of human resources. It was established to meet the shortcoming of traditional human resources management.   In modern organizations and workplaces, human resource management is affected by many factors. These internal and external factors must be identified and considered for effective management. Human resources management is influenced by several factors such change in technology, the law within which it operates, social and cultural values, and economic environment of its operations. It is also influenced by inner factors such as the objectives of the organization, the construction of the organization and culture. These factors influence the objectives of an organization’s human resource management.  The call for a strategic approach to human resource management is invertible in the current turbulent economic conditions. Human resources managers are under steady pressure to guarantee that the productivity of employees is increased.  


 In order to meet the changing needs in human resource managements, a strategic approach is essential.  Effective human resource managements are based on four aspects (Armstrong, 2005). It is a particular constellation of beliefs and assumptions.  It is a strategic thrust informing decisions about people management. Human resource involves line mangers and it relies upon a set of supports to shape the employment. Strategic approach to human resources approaches human resources from a holistic angel.   In 1992, Burns outlined the concerns of strategic human resource management.  Strategic management offers a full scope of an organization’s activities that include its objectives and boundaries.  It matches the activities of an organization to the environment in which it’s operates. It also ensures that internal structures, practices and procedures enable the organization to achieve its objectives. It also involves matching the activities of an organization to it’s resources ability, evaluating the degree to which adequate resources can be offered to take benefit of openings or to avoid threats in organization’s environment. Strategic management involves identification of organization’s objectives and strategies and giving attention to the resources needed for strategies to succeed. The process of strategic management involves five basic steps. The first step involves identification of the goals of the organization/the mission of the organization. Then, the internal environment and external environment are analyzed.  The managers are then expected to choose the strategy that best suits his or her company. The four steps in strategic management are the formulation of organization strategies and functional strategies and goals. Any successive strategy must have an effective monitoring and evaluation of the strategy that the company has adopted.


Strategic goals and strategic plans are two important concepts in strategic management. Strategic goals are the definition of what the organization wants to achieve. These goals are particular in terms of actions, enumerated in terms of growth, or articulated in general terms.  Strategic plans are the expression of how the organization plans to attain its strategic goals.


Implications of strategic human resources management on the organization

Strategic human resource management is basically concerned with its ability to add value to the organization and accordingly has to focus on what human resources management c contributes to the business instead of the activities it does.   Strategic approach to human resources management centers on understanding, forecasting, directing, development and alignment of human behaviours and resources in an organization, which demands commitment from staffs, self-control, an elevated  level of confidence, professionalism and continuous education to improve their working abilities. The contribution of human resources focuses on the outcomes of human resources management.  There are three identified areas in which strategic human resources has been identified to add value to an organization.  These areas are strategic domain, human resources service domain and administration domain.  Strategic human resource management aims at ensuring that an organization has the capacity for change, listening and responding to human resources and to provide them with the necessary resources to perform.


Performance management in human resource management

 The need to manage performance of employees is an integral component of an effectual human resource management system.  Performance managements has general been accepted as a natural process of managements that contributes to the effective managements of individuals and teams to achieve high levels of organization performance.  Performance management complements strategic management. Strategic management ensures that human resources management is in line with the ambitions of the organization while performance management ensures that worker/employees work toward the goals of an organization. The need to incorporate performance management is greatly influenced by the need to increase productivity of employees. This is to make the company succeed in the competitive market.  Employees in any organization are mandated with carrying the vision of the organization. The daily operation of any business or organization is hinged on employees. Therefore, their performance direct affects the outcome of the organization.


Managing performance is a complicated endeavor given the many factors that affect performance of an employee.  An effective performance management strategy must clarify performance expectations and standards. It must have the potential of improving productivity of the organizations. Effective performance management should ensure that employees have the opportunity of increase with knowledge and skills to perform optimum.  Performance management is different from performance appraisal. Performance appraisal involves the evaluation of staffs’ performance for the purpose of offering feedback to the employees and supervisors. Performance appraisal is also conducted to make salary adjustments and to provide information for human resource planning.


Organizations have been forced to adopt performance management systems. Most of theses traditional performance management systems provided an organization with data for human resources planning and for administrative purposes. The offers an individual a chance to know where he or she stands in job evaluation (Schwartz, 2003). It I also used to increase/ improve the productivity of the employee. Setting of common goals is a key component in performance management.  The progress of accomplishing these common goals is continually monitored and workers given feedback on the right time (Mcgee & Rennie, 2009). 


Performance management uses benchmarks to assess the performance of employees. These benchmarks are developed in line with the overall expected outcomes of the organization activities.  The function of the management is to help employees meet these benchmarks by offering conducive environment for improving ones skills and knowledge about the job and also investing in areas that motivate workers (Weatherly, 2004). A clear job description is the first step in performance management. Through the job description, the management is able to outline what each of the employees is expected to do. Job description sets out the actual activities, responsibilities and duties of a particular employee (Kinne & Hutchinson, 2003).


Performance management provides a company’s business process with a clear focus and has a mobilizing function. It is an incentive to formulate goals as ambitiously as possible. It also provides management with most relevant information about the activities performed in the capillaries of the organization (Verburg, Roland & Dicke, 2006). Performance management is also used to improve transparency in an organization. Therefore, organization stands to benefit a big deal for embracing performance management. Despite the complexity associated with the process, performance management is a sure way of ensuring the potential of employees are entirely exploited for the advantage of the organization.


Conclusion

The modern dynamics of human resources in organizations require innovative and effective management to make sure organization reaps the best out of their employees.  Traditional methods of human resources management cannot meet these needs, and as such, modern approaches such as a strategic approach to human resource management, and performance management have become invertible. Strategic approach to human resource management streamlines the goals of the organization with management of human resources. The process of human resource management is incorporated in the business running of an organization.


Strategic management ensures that the long term outcomes and purpose of an organization are supported by the objectives set by the human resource department. Application of the strategic approach to human resources management has been proved to have beneficial impacts ion the performance of an organization.   Strategic human resource management aims at ensuring that an organization has the capacity for change, listening and responding to human resources and to provide them with the necessary resources to execute.  Performance management is an fundamental part of a successful human resource management.  Performance management does not necessary means performance appraisal. 


Its focus is not only, to evaluate the performance of staffs only but to facilitate them in achieving the goals of the organization.  Performance management helps workers in achieving an elevated level of complacency and a combined effort toward improving the performance of the organization. The complexity of human resources in many organizations requires a focused leadership that will align the goals of an organization with those of its employee. Mangers must realize that employees remain the most valuable resources of any organization and as such a lot of attention should be dedicated toward ensuring they are productive.


References

A.E. Schwartz (2003). Performance appraisal: Appraisal and meeting. New York.  A. E Schwartz & Associates.

Armstrong M. & Baron A. (2005). Managing performance: performance management in action.  London. Chartered institute of personnel development.

Asbjorn Rolstadas (1995). Performance management: a business process benchmarking approach. London. Chapman & Hall Publishers.

Cardy R. &  Leonard B (2012). Performance management: concepts, skills, and exercise. New York. M.E. Sharpe, Inc.

Isaac Chaneta (2005). Strategic human resource management.  Retrieved from http://ir.uz.ac.zw on 8/5/2013.

John Bratton (2012). Strategic human resource management.  Retrieved from http://www.palgrave.com on 8/5/2013.

Mcgee, R. And Rennie, A. (2009). HR Strategy. Toolkit. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Ranko L., Zelimir S. & Vladimir R. (2004). Strategic approach to human resources management. Retrieved from http://www.defendologija-banjaluka.com on 8/5/2013.

Srivinas Kandula (2006). Performance management: strategies, interventions, drivers.  Delhi. Prentice Hall.

Tapomoy Deb (2009). Strategic approach to human resource management: Concept, Tolls & application.  Atlantic publishers. Delhi, India.

Thompson A. & Strickland A. (1987). Strategic management. 4th Edition. Business publication. Texas. USA.

Vergug M., Roland O. & Dicke M. (2006). Managing technology and innovation. An introduction. New York. Routledge.

Weatherly, L. (2003, March). Human capital.Journal of Research Quarterly


Published in Management
Thursday, 28 November 2013 21:05

Project Management

Project Management


Introduction

            A project refers to a temporary undertaking that is designed to achieve a certain goal. Projects are temporary because they are terminated after delivering the desired objectives or after it become clear that the project is incapable of producing the desired outcomes. Today, project management has become a profession, with individual dedicating their time to learn this discipline in depth. High learning institutions have established programs in project management up to the PhD level. Though this specialization is vital, I believe every individual need basic project management skills. Projects are a vital part of life. Everybody has to undertake a project at given points in life. Undertaking such as planning a wedding, buying a house and undertaking an academic program can also be classified as projects since they are transient in nature, unique and designed to achieve explicit outcomes. However, these are projects that individuals have to implement on their own. Thus, everybody should have basic project management skills so as to make certain that individuals become successful in implementing projects. Thus, this discipline should be incorporated as course in all vocational training programs.


What is a Project?

Project management refers to activities directed towards meeting a specific goal. A project is defined by three basic characteristics. Uniqueness is one of these characteristics (The US Bureau of Reclamation, 2012). A task can only be describe as a project if it not a routine task. Projects require people to come together and implement tasks that are outside the day to day activities. Projects are also characterized by a transient nature (The US Bureau of Reclamation, 2012). Any project must have a start and end point. The duration of a project ends when desired outcomes are accomplished or when the project is terminated as it becomes clear that the project is least likely to deliver desired outcomes. Though a project is transient in nature, the outcomes of the project are permanent as they are integrated into the routine activities of an entity. For instance, if the project entailed installing a new information technology network, the project will come to an end, but the information network will continue to serve the organization. Progressive elaboration is another characteristic of a project (The US Bureau of Reclamation, 2012). Progressive elaboration means that some details of the projects are established as the project progresses. This is because the uniqueness of a project makes it difficult for managers to know all project details from the beginning.


Basic Project Management Skills

            The project manager is the person charged with the mandate of delivering the project deliverable. The project manager requires various skills in order to learn a successful project. One of these skills is planning (Jenkins, 2011). Planning is a vital skill in project management. A project manager must plan for a project by establishing the projects objects and establishing ways in which the project team intends to realize the objectives of the project. Project manager need to establish action plans on how resources will be acquired and how tasks will be implemented. Leadership is another essential skill in project management (Smith, 2002). Projects bring different people together. Thus, the project manager must possess the ability to make these people cooperatively towards the realization of the project’s goals.


          Communication is also a vital skill in project management (Smith, 2002). The project implementation team requires a lot of coordination between the implementing parties. High level of coordination cannot be achieved if there is inefficient communication, especially from the project manager. Project managers also need financial management skills (Jenkins, 2011). Projects are often characterized by resource constraints. Thus, the project manager needs to ensure that available resources are utilized optimally and that the project does not exceed the planned budget. Project manager also require general skills such as negotiation, time management, conflict resolution and risks management.


Significance of Project Management Skills

People often have the misconception that projects must always be formal undertakings. Projects come in different shapes and sizes. They may range from simple projects such as organizing a birthday party to complex projects such as organizing a space trip. Thus, every person must implement projects at given points in life. In the person sphere, a person may be called upon to organize an office party, a wedding, buy a house, undertake an academic program or buy a car. In the teaching profession, a teacher may be required to design a new curriculum or take students on a school tour. A nurse may be called upon to oversee the acquisition and installation of new equipment within the hospital. All these are projects since they are transient, unique from the routine activities of the individual involved, and are directed towards the realization of precise goals. This projects may not be as big as planning a space visit but will require project management skills. It may be difficult for a nurse, teacher or any other individual to implement such projects without the basic project management skills.  


Research indicates the many projects do not achieve the desired level of success (Stuckenbruck, 2007). Many projects often exceed their budgets, go beyond the time limits or deviate from the intended objectives. Many individuals obtain mortgages and end up foreclosing their contracts. Others begin academic programs and fallout of the programs before completion. These are examples of projects that fail due to lack of adequate project management skills. Some projects fail due to lack of adequate planning. Lack of adequate planning may results in a project that does not have precise goals and objectives (Stuckenbruck, 2007). This is can be a significant problem in any project. Absence of clear goals leaves the project team without a sense of direction. Thus, the project may move in any direction. Lack of adequate planning also leaves a project without clear cut action plans on how the project objectives are going to be delivered. The project team may not have a clear plan on how resources will be acquired and how these resources will be utilized. This will also result in confusion and wastage within the project team.


Many projects are often successful in terms of planning but fail in the implementation phase.  The project manager may make an excellent plan on how the project task will be implemented and include definite budgets and time frames for all tasks (Munns & Bjeirmi, 2006). However, the project may fail if the project manager lacks the skills required to ensure the project tasks are implemented with the budget and time frame. The project manager will require managerial skills, communication skills and financial management skills in order to ensure that tasks are implemented as planned. Similarly, the project managers may make an excellent plan concerns skills that the project needs to acquire and how to acquire these skills. However, the project may fail if the project manager is unable to coordinate the project team and provide leadership to the team.


Project management skills are also vital in any entity, formal or informal, as it enhances the flexibility of an entity in responding to opportunities and threats (Ara & Al-Mudimigh, 2011). Projects are often initiated in response on an opportunity or problem. For instance, a firm may undertake an IT network project after realizing that the existing network is not providing adequate services to the organization. This is a project that responds to a certain problem within the organization. One of the options for an organization that does not have employees with basic project management skills is to leave such a project to unknowledgeable employees. Absence of individuals within basic project management skills may result in poor implementation of the project. The project may fail to achieve the desired outcomes or may go beyond the defined timelines. This implies that the organization will continue to experience the difficulties of having a defective network. The second option for this organization it to obtain outsource project management expertise. This has an implication on resources and the duration of the project. Thus, the organization may have to wait longer than expected in order to enjoy the outcomes of the project.


Not all companies can afford to hire certified project management staff. Small and Medium Scale companies may not have resources to hire certified project managers (Mohammadjari & Ahmed, 2011). However, these companies must undertake projects in order for them to improve their performance and manage change within the business environment.  Teaching basic project management skills in all vocation training program will enhance the success of projects within such small organizations.


Conclusion

            Projects are a vital part of everybody’s life. Every person has to implement a project from time to time, either in his professional or personal life. Thus, basic project management skills are vital to all individuals. These skills include planning, leadership, communication, financial management and problem solving among others. Researchers reveal that many projects do not achieve desired objectives because of poor planning, management and implementation of the project. In order to enhance personal and professional development of individuals, basic project management skills should be incorporated in all vocational training programs.


References

Ara A. & Al-Mudimigh A. (2011). Role of Project Management in ERP Projects. Computer Science and Technology Journal. 11 (5)

Jenkins N. (2011). A Project Management Primer. May 7, 2013. http://www.nickjenkins.net/prose/projectPrimer.pdf

Mohammadjari M. & Ahmed S. (2011). The Importance of Project Management In SME. African Journal of Business Management. 5 (30). 11844- 11855

Munns A. & Bjeirmi B. (2006). The Role of Project Management in Achieving Project Success. International Journal of Project Management. 14 (2): 81- 87

Smith K. (2002). Team Work and Project Management. May 7, 2013. http://www.rose-hulman.edu/eceweb/ECE362/Lectures/ECE362/Smith-TPMS03.pdf

Stuckenbruck L. (2007). Integration: Essential Function of Project Management. May 7, 2003. http://gspa.grade.nida.ac.th/pdf/PA%20780%20(Pakorn)/10.Integration%20The%20Essential%20Functin%20of%20Project%20Management.pdf

The US Bureau of Reclamation (2012). An Introduction to Project Management. May 7, 2013. http://www.usbr.gov/excellence/Finals/FinalIntroPM.pdf


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