Capitol Records

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Artifacts, Norms and Assumptions

Published April 24, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Baack (2012) discloses in his book, Organizational Behavior, that artifacts are the overtly stated values and norms that identify individuals and organizations (Baack, 2012). Individual artifacts include the car a person drives, the clothing and jewelry they wear, piercings and other forms of items of value. These artifacts transmit nonverbal messages or kinesic cues that are communicated in a nonlinguistic way. An organization’s culture on the other hand, is determined by the observable artifacts. They represent the physical signs of an organization’s dominant culture, like the golden arches of McDonalds.  The most significant observable artifact at Capitol-EMI Industries, my former place of employment is the historic Capital Records Tower building in Hollywood. Like McDonald’s golden arches, the Capitol Records Tower is instantly recognized by the unique design which represents a stack of record discs. As a newly hired employee, I was fascinated with the design of a round building. It’s one thing to marvel at it from the outside, but another experience entirely from within the tower walls. The offices I worked at were located on the eleventh floor, so the views from that height were magnificent. When the Paramount Studios lot caught fire from the set of one of the Star Trek movies, we were able to view it from the office bay windows.  It wasn’t until I was promoted and transferred to the EMI offices down the road that I really began to appreciate the tower building. Although I was content to find employment in a smaller one story structure, where our executive offices were located, I look back now at the tower with fond memories.

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The Capitol Records culture was transmitted in a variety of ways through the espoused values which include emphasis on sustainability and a commitment to high quality entertainment. The combination of observable artifacts which includes the company brand and logo, the tower building, and the catalog of famous artists, along with the espoused and enacted values helped create role clarity for the employees. For example, the lobby of the building displays many gold records from artists including: The Andrew Sisters, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Nat King Cole, Neil Diamond, Bob Seger, and Tina Turner. The personnel who work at the tower encounter these observable artifacts every day that gives staffer a sense of pride. Many of us grew up listening to these artists and were proud to be a part of such a prestigious family.

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Schein (2010) contends the connection between leadership and culture is clear in organizational cultures and micro-cultures. Managers influence the behavior of the subordinates. Those who are resistant to change do not last very long. (Schein, 2010). For example, when I was initially hired, I had just relocated from Arizona where I grew up. I had not resided in California long enough to adapt and blend in with the Southern California culture which was entirely different from that of a desert state like Arizona. My sense of style reflected that of a conservative small town. In fact, I recall one individual compare my fashion style to that of an airline flight attendant, which translated as professional, but not very hip. The dress code varied from floor to floor and department to department. For example, the executive offices where the CEO and high ranking officers worked (all male) and each dressed in suit and tie, while their administrative staff were dressed in professional accouterments that reflected their executive office. The floor where the A&R (Artist and Repertoire) and R&B (Rhythm and Blues) departments were located (where our Business Affairs division was also situated) the executives attire resembled that of the artists they represented. For instance, the executives who signed the rock bands dressed like the rock stars; the executives who signed the rap artists looked like rappers. I was employed with the attorneys that negotiated the artist contracts and eventually adapted a style that blended with the norm of the support staff on that floor, which consisted of a combination of those from the A&R department and the executive offices upstairs. It was a professional style but appropriate for the LA music scene.

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The espoused values and assumptions both helped and hindered moving the company into a learning organization. Executive leaders learned to work together cohesively and in tandem to achieve company goals, but at times engaged in conflicts from policies and actions that were not always supportive. For example, when an artist’s profits and popularity soars after their initial debut album, the artist’s manager and attorney immediately look to renegotiate the contract. The department head of A&R must decide to either go up against manager and artist and refuse their requests, or face the other executive branches to keep in alignment with the artist. It is here the negotiation process begins pitting company leader against company leader as the artist’s camp engages into debates with the policy holders. Each incident becomes a learning experience as each situation is unique and no two artists are the same. Our department became involved when contractual questions or disputes arose so that we could either arm the A&R executive or some case, deflect the A&R department from operating outside the parameters of the contractual commitments. As a rule however, the members of the Capitol Records family enjoyed a positive culture of stability. The recognizable observable artifacts, perceptions of espoused and functioning enacted values, helped generate a greater sense of clarity for the personnel.

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References:

Baack, D. (2012). Organizational behavior. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

Schein, E. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Entrepreneurial Decision Making

Published March 15, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Introduction

Decision making is an essential part of entrepreneurship that affects numerous elements in operating a business. It is in an entrepreneur’s best interests to possess the skills to help them reach the best decisions available to insure the soundest opportunity for success. Low (2010) contends entrepreneurs play an important role in the economy with three major components that affect their decision making process: (a) the vision and operation of the venture; (b) the uncertainty and risks they confront; and (c) the innovation process or reallocation of resources (Low, 2010, p. 5). In addition, incorporating the necessary business acumen can: 1) influence political agendas; 2) help avoid violation of legal and regulatory issues that can yield outcomes with extreme consequences; 3) play an important role in cultural perceptions; 4) influence the demographic diversity of an industry; and 5) have a huge impact on the financial resources that affects the operation of a business.

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Demographic Diversity

A proprietor’s decision making process can also effect the demographic diversity of an organization. For example, when Virgin Company’s entrepreneurial giant, Sir Richard Branson (2012) was contemplating whether Virgin branch out to launch a new airline, he was advised to avoid certain competitors due to costs and for fear of going up against industry giants. He realized he was up against goliaths with sizable fleets, experienced staff, and strengths from holding huge portions of market share.  Branson’s intuition however, and personal grievances from traveling, kept focused on competitor complacency. He was passionate about creating a better flying experience and knew others felt the same.  With this energy and tunnel vision, Virgin Atlantic was introduced and made their mark in history (Branson, 2012).

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Legal and Regulatory Issues

Each year the US Supreme Court issues actions that constitute new litigation due to failed businesses because of gaps in legal insight in the decision-making process by leaders (Bardwell, 2009). For example, during my employment at Capitol Records, the organization expanded into the music video production market and created a new division called Picture Music International (PMI). This event constituted the rearrangement of senior executives in key positions who were disbursed in helm positions within the structural organization. The changes occurred quickly in an attempt to create a smooth transition while maintaining operations. As a result, important components were overlooked and errors were made due to communication barriers from the rapid transit.  In the process, a contractual renewal date for an important artist went undetected. The new senior executive did not negotiate the original contract and was therefore not cognizant of the issue. The artist’s legal representatives allowed the contract to expire and the artist signed to a competitive label. Because of the gap in legal insight, the oversight resulted in the forfeiture of a major industry player, and in the eyes of the shareholders, perceived as an embarrassing loss.

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Political Agendas and Cultural Perceptions

Steyaert (2000) purports the role of entrepreneurship in the modern era is far larger than previously considered and is closely involved with economics.  Entrepreneurship is viewed as an economic phenomenon, with innovative power that extends beyond its own economic ambitions and requires the examination of its political and ethical effects (Steyaert, 2000). For example, when a firm is exposed for polluting, activists use this opportunity to pursue political agendas.  In the meantime, scholars explore factors that determine how entrepreneurs help economies grow as a result of psychological approaches to an enterprise (Thornton, Robeiro-Soriano, & Urbano, 2011). Take for example the culture Starbucks created. Prior to its genesis, Americans were used to having coffee in diners or restaurants for under a dollar.  Starbucks vision focused on drinking coffee as a reason to socialize. In doing so they created a culture where consumers are happy to pay premium prices to partake in the Starbucks experience. This culture translates into enormous profits and a worldwide phenomenon that includes a Starbuckian dialect.

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Financial Resources

Financial advisors understand that cash flow is also an important component business owners require to make sound financial decisions to ensure growth and survival. A company with solid liquidity is not only able to meet short term financial obligations, but also has accumulated enough equity to take advantage of alluring business strategies as they expand (Cory, Envick, & Patton, 2011). For example, with each success Capitol Records enjoyed from an extensive catalog that includes the Beatles, Neil Diamond, Tina Turner, David Bowie and Kenny Rogers, UK based parent company, Thorn-EMI continued to incur huge revenues that allowed them to expand into other fields. However, for every successful venture, there are also ventures that fail and become corporate tax write-offs. In this aspect, the decision making process can result in failure and loss of revenue.

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Conclusion

Sir Richard offers the following tips that have helped in his decision making: (a) trust your instincts, (b) focus on your customers, not your critics, (c) always support your team, and (d) know when to say goodbye (Branson, 2012). In conclusion, the most important reason decision making is an essential skill for entrepreneurship, is that a wrong choice can become the game changer that makes or breaks an organization.

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References

Bardwell, S. (2009, January 1). Legal insight decision making for small business and entrepreneurs: A judicious approach. Retrieved February 28, 2013, from Freepatentsonline: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/article/Entrepreneurial-Executive/219010996.html

Branson, R. (2012, February 7). Richard Branson on decision-making for entrepreneurs. Retrieved February 28, 2013, from Entrepreneur.com: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/222739

Cory, S., Envick, B., & Patton, E. (2011, January 1). Sound financial decision making for entrepreneurs: can the GAAP cash flow statement mislead? Entrepreneurial executive. US: The DreamCatchers Group, LLC. Retrieved February 28, 2013, from http://www.freepatentsonline.com/article/Entrepreneurial-Executive/263157521.html

Low, S. (2010). Defining and measuring entrepreneurship for regional research: A new approach. ProQuest dissertations and theses; 2009; ProQuest entrepreneurship. Urbana, IL, USA: ProQuest LLC. Retrieved February 28, 2013

Steyaert, C. (2000, June 18). Creating worlds: Political agendas of entrepreneurship. Nordic conference on small business research. Aarhus, Denmark: ProQuest, LLC. Retrieved February 28 2013, 2013

Thornton, P., Robeiro-Soriano, D., & Urbano, D. (2011). Socio-cultural factors and entrepreneurial activity: An overview. International small business journal. Barcelona, Spain: Sage. Retrieved February 28, 2013

Social Change in the Workplace

Published January 18, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Precipitous change, both peaceful and vehement, is a fact of life that practically everyone on planet earth has come to envisage, if not unconditionally accept.  According to sociology professor and author Jay Weinstein (2010) from Eastern Michigan University, “a great social cultural revolution is sweeping the world” (p. 3).  A historical juncture has been attained at which the former ways of conducting human affairs from the interpersonal to the international levels are becoming less effective.  This year for example, because of the technological sophistication of electronic communication, for the first time in television history, a prime time television show drama on the CBS network’s hit series, Hawaii Five-O allowed viewers to choose the ending of an episode in real time with the aid of electronic devices like smartphones, tablets and computers.

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Just as the modern era deposed feudalism, globalization is reformatting contemporary society.  This research is focused on my personal experience of social change in the workplace and the impact it produced from the functionalist, conflict, and interpretative perspectives when the board members at Capitol Records (a former place of employment) restructured the organization.  This significant event involved substantial personnel cuts and the shutting down of an organizational branch.  These changes created conflict and confusion for both contractual and non-contractual employees as the functional requisites were shifting in the way of personnel and economic resources.  In addition, panic ensued within the organization as workers attempted to interpret the action and parameters of the social change.

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The music industry is constantly in a state of flux.  A musician can enjoy great success or can meet artistic doom through the efforts of their record company.  Executives are always searching for the next megastar.  There is no one way to success and no one can predict what the public will embrace as a hit, or scoff at as a flop.  As a result, the board of directors is, at times, forced to make changes when the executives miss the mark on what constitutes a successful music star and what is considered wasted energy.  When a company does not reflect significant profits, while the books reveal extreme expenditures for artists that are not attracting substantial returns, or worse, lose their popularity, adjustments are calculated to navigate the organization towards profit and success.

Revenue at Capitol Records was in decline and the organization was exhibiting signs of struggle.  The functional requisites were shifting with respect to the minimum number of personnel required to keep the company operational within the frame of the economic resources available.  As a solution, the organization faced a restructuring situation.  In their concerted effort to downsize, an outside agency was employed to provide the hatchet man duties.  The institution in this instance did not require the main body of personnel to conform or participate in the decision to remodel the organization.  Staff members were unsure of job security until they were summoned by the hatchet man for verification.

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The organizational change that was implemented created panic within the structure as workers were attempting to comprehend the action and parameters of this new paradigm shift.  The organizational edifice affected was comprised of two floors.  The main body of personnel was located on the ground level, while the upper floor housed two divisions – the offices of the President and the offices of the Vice President of Business Affairs (the author’s supervisor).  Our department was advised of the organizational changes and I was asked to participate as the assistant to the hatchet man in the downsizing process.

On the one hand I was relieved that, for me, a firm position within the organization still existed.  On the other hand, it was an emotionally difficult task to call each individual employee to their final exit meeting.  That call was something people I had worked with for years were dreading.  A situation-insensitive brother made remarks how proud he was that I was chosen to assist in the organization’s blood bath.  On the contrary, in my view, it was equated to the position of a modern day accomplice to the staff executioner.  Although the hatchet man was a very kind individual with a soft spoken demeanor, his task was not an easy one and it affected me deeply because of my empathy for the people that had been my colleagues and friends – some for many years.  The power of the event and my involuntary participation of this social change presented personal conflict because of my espoused values within the organization and my sympathy towards the people that were being asked to leave.

The new social setting created a reality that redefined the organizational structure implemented by the stranger cast as the terminator.  The idea of job stability was modified as each individual struggled with the change imposed on them.  When individuals heard the phone ring, a disposition of low self-esteem emerged as the withdrawal papers were delegated one by one.  The facility shut down shortly after the event concluded.  Employees that were not dismissed were assimilated in other areas of the organization.

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The world faces a long list of threats that include: (a) hunger, (b) disease, (c) poverty, (d) despair, (e) pandemics, (f) global climate change, and (g) aging economies.  Breakthroughs in society occur when the demand for an end to deprivation, marginalization, and equality ultimately overwhelms the resistance (Light & Reynolds, 2011). Breakthroughs in companies incur change with episodes of restructuring that often include considerable downsizing of personnel as part of the process.  These are the tools of agitation that disrupt and replace the status quo.  The changes that transpired at Capitol Records were instigated by a variety of circumstances which included (a) the completion of the President’s contract; (b) the sale and shutting down of the building; and (c) the financial climate of the corporation.  Individuals who initially challenged the reforms eventually learned to create a new normal.

In conclusion, social change continues to evolve with globalization having a significant impact on contemporary society.  Two fundamental principles drive change: (1) power, and (2) love.  Love is defined as the drive towards unity and power towards separation (Kahane, 2010).  To create lasting change, individuals should learn to work fluidly towards unity and must uncover a means to balance these two forces.  When we learn to shift between power and love, we can begin a new order that will assist to move society forward.

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References

Kahane, A. (2010). Power and love: A theory and practice of social change. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Light, P., & Reynolds, C. (2011). Driving social change: How to solve the world’s toughest problems. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Weinstein, J. (2010). Social change. (p. 3). Pymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

New Technologies

Published January 16, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair
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New Technology

New technologies and material changes transform businesses’ expectations and the way they interact.  Globalization has changed the markets and environments dramatically in which organizations function.  New countries, governments, leadership, and markets emerged that created a global economy which stimulates both opportunities and conflict.  The crumbling of the Berlin Wall for instance, which unified East and West Germany is one example of an emergence which transformed that region.  In addition, the European Union created a cohesive economic culture that changed the face of global markets and entrepreneurs began appearing in places like the Balkans, Russia and Siberia changing the face of the former Soviet Union.

Information technology redefined traditional business models by altering work performance, production costs and how information is used.  The methodologies of how organizations collect, store, manipulate, utilize and transmit information have lowered costs and increased the value and quality of services and products.  Information technology is at the heart of emerging e-commerce strategies and organizations (Cummings & Worley, 2008).

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Managerial innovation responds to globalization and information technology by accelerating their impact on institutions.  New networks, strategic alliances and virtual corporations provide innovative ways of manufacturing goods and delivering services.  Companies and individuals who implement new initiatives can address preliminary conditions, including initial ideas, investments and control systems.  In his book, The Origin and Evolution of New Businesses, Amar Bhide (2000) purports that differences in conditions have affect on:

  1. The nature of opportunities pursued;
  2. The degree to which dependence relies on former analysis and planning rather than adapting to unforeseen situations;
  3. The strategies to secure customers, employees, credit, supplies and other inputs; and
  4. The factors that differentiate the successful initiatives from the unsuccessful ones (p. 196).

Most individuals that start a new enterprise face inadequate conditions and traditionally lack ideas, experience and credentials.  In addition they usually experience significant capital constraints.

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The introduction of new technology can assist in stimulating a business. For example, a new technical system was introduced at Capitol Records in the early 1990s (a former place of employment).  At that time, support staff which included paralegals and administrative assistants, were being introduced to an upgraded technology for communication and documentation needs.  Traditional electronic typewriters that were standard issue at the time were replaced with word processing machines.  Most personnel affected were excited at the prospect of increased levels in their productivity the new technology offered and embraced the new tools.

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Electronic Typewriter

The new system allowed staff members to produce and save lengthy document templates in an electronic format.  In addition, errors and corrections could be made on a terminal monitor, rather than utilizing the auto-correct buttons the typewriters provided with a more primitive white out method.  This meant that mistakes could be corrected on a terminal screen alleviating the need to print a document before it was complete thereby saving time and production costs.  Up until that point, documents were typed up manually.  Corrections were generated on documents that sometimes left unattractive blemishes and marks from the white-out methods employed.

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Electric typewriter with small LCD screen

Other staff members were fearful and not as eager to embrace the new technology as it meant they were required to learn and train on a new system.  The more enthusiastic personnel who were not technology challenged, embraced the material change and welcomed the opportunity to learn and apply a new technology at their workplace.  Once the learning curve phase was complete they transformed into motivated individuals who were more effective.  The upgraded system increased the quality and levels of staff productivity.

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Word Processing Machine

In conclusion, Howard Means (2001) reminds us that before the internet there was Arpanet. The images in this post attest to how far we’ve come in word processing technology which can be traced back through laptops and desktops to the 30 ton ENLAC (electronic numerical integrator and computer).  Cars were preceded by steam powered tricycles and trains by wind propelled land ships (p. 17).  Digital technologies are an important tool in today’s world.  As the economy continues to evolve, businesses will seek solutions to enhance and develop their organizations.

References

Bhide, A. (2000). The origin and evolution of new businesses (p. 196). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Cummings, T., & Worley, C. (2008). Organizational development and change (9th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Means, H. (2001). Money and power: The history of business (p. 17). New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Internal Communication

Published December 23, 2012 by Mayrbear's Lair

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In the business world the key to effective communication lies in recognizing your target audience. The protocol in addressing a staff member of elite status requires a conscious effort to engage in a more formal respectful tone, while an informal casual rapport is common among peers and subordinates. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina states, “Leadership requires a great degree of self-awareness” (Baack, 2012). That kind of awareness plays a big role in our responsiveness within the corporate arena.

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When I was employed on the twelfth floor of the Capitol Records tower in Hollywood, recording artist Michael McDonald, former member of The Doobie Brothers walked out of the elevator on my first day.

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Technology and Communication

Published December 22, 2012 by Mayrbear's Lair

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The use of technology has impacted organizational communication in both a positive and negative fashion. In ancient times, messages had to be delivered via runner from village to village. Thirty years ago, when I joined the ranks of corporate America with Capitol Records, the main channels of communication were telephone, snail mail and face-to-face interaction. People needed good communication skills to deliver a message effectively and professionally. If a person was not able to reach someone by phone, they could leave a message with an assistant or an answering machine. Prior to answering machines a caller would have to keep trying until they made a connection.

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The full article can be viewed on amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B00G05W5QQ

Thank you for your support!