This study goes back to 1995 and the commencement of research by Flt. Sgt Irvine Ferris (Retd). The title of the research is Organisational Development and Management of Change in the Irish Air Corps and was concluded in 1997.
The thesis will be published over a number of weeks due to its physical size starting with chapter 8, the final chapter. The research findings are still valid today even though the original study commenced 26 years ago.
Irvine Ferris retired from the Air Corps in 1999 after 24 years service and went on to further study. He also held appointments at university and at senior management level in organisations questing for change. Irvine, now resides in Spain and England and continues with research into many interest areas.
Irvine is living with Parkinson’s disease having been diagnosed in 2015.
General Summary and Conclusions
This chapter gives an overall summary of the study and where appropriate recommendations will be made in areas where they are further research a comprehensive list of recommendations will also be afforded.
The research undertaken shows that the Air Corps is a male dominated working environment. Only nine females are currently employed as military members of the organisation. It is important to note that only three females responded to the survey. The majority of respondents who replied to the attitudinal survey are aged between 24 to 27, followed closely by personnel in the age category 36 to 39. Many of the respondents are married and the standard of education is high in terms of personnel possessing the Leaving Certificate and Technical Certificate standard of education. Many of the subjects under study are pursuing a variety of part time studies. Twenty-two percent of respondents are in the long service category of 20 to 23 years of service in the Air Corps. All units of the Air Corps are represented in this study. Non-commissioned officers, in the rank grade Corporal and Sergeant, constitute the most significant proportion of the sample under study followed by Air-persons. A very large number of respondents in the social survey sample intend to take long term careers in the Air Corps. Only a minority of the respondents are graduates of the Air Corps Apprentice College. Many of the respondents hold technical jobs while the remainder are classified as line occupations under various headings.
In this empirical research, I have discovered the following problem areas require action by management at senior Commissioned Officer level in the Air Corps.
Promotion in the Air Corps is very sluggish and is really a haphazard affair. The current 85% embargo on promotions in the Defence Forces should be lifted immediately. Many of the personnel under study want to see the development of a career structure in the Air Corps. This is further supported by the respondents who indicate that the opportunity of career advancement in the organisation is very poor. The call to have more NCOs commissioned as officers from the ranks is very significant in this study. A very large number of personnel are in disbelief and amazed why senior ranking officers of the Air Corps do not recommend a return to NCO pilots. A large number of commissioned officer pilots are requesting to resign from the Air Corps. The situation is so serious that it is impinging on the future development of the Air Corps. Currently, up to ten fully qualified pilots are ready and waiting within the enlisted ranks and are prepared to fly military service aircraft. If senior management of the organisation decided to use this pool of untapped potential, then after a short period of re-orientation, all of the pilots could be used gainfully by the Air Corps.
Despite the lack of a career structure in the organisation, many of the respondents are prepared to accept extra responsibility. The analysis undertaken, shows personnel would like to be highly specialised in some specific functional or technical area. It was not surprising to discover that the majority of personnel believe there is insufficient opportunity to develop and learn new skills in the Air Corps. A very large number of personnel want to reach a level in terms of rank where their decisions make a difference to the out turn of the functionality of the Air Corps. This can be contrasted with the reality of the current working environment that people who work well in the Air Corps receive no recognition.
The above analysis of the career potential of Air Corps personnel is very poor in terms of promotional activity, progressive career skilling, and the lack of opportunity afforded to people to improve or to learn new skills. In chapter five of this study, I stated that a dynamic career structure provides work enjoyment and life satisfactions. Organisational members regard this to mean that the intrinsic values can be contributed by providing sufficient openings for abilities, needs, values, interests character traits, and self-concepts.
I agree with the definition applied by Super and Hall (1978), in chapter five of this study when it is applied to the Air Corps. The authors confirm that a career is a sequence of positions occupied by an individual over a lifetime or time shared with an organisation. Hall (1986), also takes the view which I acknowledge that “failing to plan is planning to fail”.1 This is the situation in the above analysis. Enlisted Personnel of the Air Corps cannot plan careers through no fault of their own. The organisation is currently misaligned in terms of professional management techniques. This will become apparent as this chapter develops. One section of the workforce, that is, Commissioned Officers have a career based on task allocation and career development for Enlisted Personnel is a ‘hit and miss affair’. This analysis is supported by evidence emanating from the social survey and research documented in chapter five of the study.
1 Hall T. – Career Development in Organisations, P 3.
The experience of career development in the Air Corps is not conducive to the intentions of Cummings and Worley (1993), who I agree with, broadly defines careers in a holistic sense by including individuals, attitudes and experiences. This probably would be the case if the Air Corps were moving from the mechanistic management style to a more organic style of management. In a bureaucratic organisation such as the Air Corps, careers are judged in terms of advancement and promotion achieved and this is where I agree with the authors. The research undertaken highlights that promotion in the Air Corps for Enlisted Personnel is problematic in terms of opportunity. Opportunity for most will be further depleted as the ‘old organisation’ converges with the ‘new organisation. The authors suggest people should plan their careers and map out career goals broadly in line with career avenues, goals, planning and development. All of the fore-going are not available to Enlisted Personnel of the Air Corps. However, I agree with the merits of what the authors have examined. Gunnigle and Flood (1992), put forward a view of career development which I acknowledge. Their analysis is very similar to data emerging from the career potential section of my survey. The authors suggest… as organisations seek to establish competitive advantage through changes in workforce management which increase morale, help good employee relations, cater for changing employee expectations and increase productivity”.2 It seems likely if one could invent a yard stick to measure the preferred established norm of chapter five of the Department of Defence, Implementation Plan for the Defence Forces 1996, I would be inclined to suggest that when organisational congruence is achieved much of what Cummings and Worley (1993), suggest will be the norm in the organisation. In terms of initial and advanced training in the Air Corps, I recognise the three-stage process described by McCormick and Ilgen (1985), in chapter five of this study. The totality of my research shows this to be the case in the Air Corps. This process covers anticipatory socialisation, joining the organisation and becoming an insider. The research I have undertaken supports the view of Cummings and Worley (1993), narrative of how aging and experience influence employees careers and they outline four career stages which most employees go through. This is the establishment stage, advancement stage, maintenance stage and withdrawal stage. This model would be useful for determining career success in the ‘new organisation’ of the Air Corps. The model could not be reliably used presently as not all Enlisted Personnel have the same career opportunity. My analysis shows the Air Corps to be an unsophisticated organisation in terms of personnel structures. Only simple technical approaches to employee development exist. Most concern is centred on basic skills training, with little or no focus on employee needs for individual development through monitored progress.
2 Gunnigle P. and Flood P. – Personnel Management in Ireland. P. 172.
The fore-going discussion is positively traceable to the research question that Enlisted Personnel of the Air Corps require a proactive career structure.
Further research should be conducted to determine precisely what type of structure is required, taking into consideration the bureaucratic nature and ongoing organisational development of the organisation.
Attitudes to Work
This section of the study shows some interesting trends beginning to emerge.
Despite the lack of a career structure discussed in the previous section, the majority of personnel surveyed enjoy working in the Air Corps. This finding is strengthened by respondents willing to accept extra responsibility to acquire promotion. Generally, work is not boring in the Air Corps. Stress at work is not a factor in this study. Frustration at work is a major element of employee disillusionment with the organisation. The majority of subjects under study believe that the organisation gives them job security. Personnel are confident to discuss work problems with NCO’s and Commissioned Officers. Enlisted Personnel of the Air Corps feel clustered in the sense that they have little or no influence in the decision-making process attached to their jobs. The open-ended question for this section reveals a variety of reasons why personnel dislike working in the Air Corps. The majority of dislikes indicate the requirement for personnel management and a change of management style.
The above analysis reveals that problems exist in the processing of work in the Air Corps. I completely support the views of Martin (1977), in chapter three of this study. He puts forward the idea that organisations must cultivate human resources to the maximum, and where possible the organisation must engage in manpower planning and development and training. His views are supported by the research data return from my social survey.
The findings discussed are supportive of the need for professional personnel management in the Air Corps. I am satisfied that the conclusions reached support the hypothesis of the research question that personnel management is required in the Air Corps.
The majority of respondents would like to see changes in the formal system of communication in the organisation. Respondents to the survey indicated very strongly that the active ‘grapevine’ could be used more constructively. The flow of communication is mostly downward, and it is treated with suspicion by organisational members. Personnel who responded to the survey would like to see more verbal communication taking place between Commissioned Officers and Enlisted Ranks. Respondents believe upward communication is watered down as it goes through the organisation. The vast majority of respondents consider effective communication to be the key to alleviating survivor anxiety during organisational restructuring of the Air Corps. The open-ended question gives a variety of reasons for improving communication in the Air Corps.
This section of the analytical analysis indicates that serious interpersonal misalignment exists between Commissioned Officers and Enlisted Personnel including a social distance gulf between the groups.
The evidence emanating from my research supports the views expressed by Hersey and Blanchard (1988), in chapter one of this study. The authors discuss two types of communication, the star and the circle. Considering the military emphasis placed on the role tasking of the Air Corps, only the star autocratic communication system would work well in the organisation with some suitable modifications to make it more organic. The organic management style, which I prefer, put forward by Hersey and Blanchard (1988), allows for more lateral, upward and downward communication as indicated in chapter two of this study.
Confirmation is emerging from my research that the process of communication could be developed in a organic structured organisation to suit the needs of all organisational members.
I am satisfied that the findings I have discovered are traceable to the research question that the current process of communication is misaligned to the needs and wants of organisational members. In order to achieve equilibrium and taking into consideration the totality of organisational development a movement to organic management must be considered by senior officers of the Air Corps.
Trust and Motivation
A slim majority believe that there is trust between Commissioned Officers and Enlisted Ranks. Trust between subordinates and NCOs in high in the organisation. Total trust and confidence exists between Airpersons and NCO’s. The level of co-operation between Commissioned Officers and Senior NCO’s is very poor. On the other hand, the level of co-operation between NCO’s and airpersons is very high. Commissioned Officers do not seek ideas from subordinates. The majority of respondents believe that responsibility for achieving organisational goals in the Air Corps is mostly felt at the top of the organisation. People who returned data believe that Enlisted Ranks are undervalued by Commissioned Officers of the organisation. Motivation in the Air Corps is high. This can be contrasted with a positive trend emerging in terms of commitment, loyalty and motivation. The open-ended question for this section reveals many different ways of how trust and motivation can be improved in the organisation.
I agree with the views put forward by Hersey and Blanchard (1988), in chapter one of this study and my research is in agreement with the authors. The authors support the need for high trust and motivation during organisational restructuring. Results stemming from my research support the views of the authors.
Gunnigle and Flood (1992), in chapter one of the study maintain, trust and motivation can be increased by changing from traditional management, to a more people focussed style such as human resource management. The data from my study confirms this positive approach.
I am satisfied that the impact of the data in this section of my research relates to the research question.
It was disturbing to discover from the data returned, employees are not fully involved in decisions relating to their work. The poor level of decision making by Enlisted Personnel at work in the Air Corps is fuelling demotivation in the organisation and frustration. To overcome some of the demotivation and frustration the respondents would like to see the input of senior NCOs in planning major change and developing new operating policies and procedures in the organisation. Senior NCOs are not consulted before policy decisions are made and the respondents agree that in general policy decisions are made at the top of the organisation without consultation. From an Enlisted Persons perspective, it is only wishful thinking to believe that one can influence what happens in the Air Corps. This question sums up the negative impact of the fore going analysis. Respondents to the survey feel aggrieved that their complaints are not speedily resolved by management. The open-ended question at the end of the section reveals and confirms the extent of the negative impact and misalignment of the personnel function of Enlisted Personnel employed in the Air Corps.
To introduce a quasi-state of equilibrium between the personnel role and the technological function of the Air Corps, I agree with the views of Robbins (1991), in chapter four of my research. He acknowledges that it is essential to push authority downward in an organisation. This allows people closest and most knowledgeable about an issue to make decisions regarding that issue. A process of decentralization gives lower-level employees more control over their work. My analysis shows that if this was implemented in the Air Corps it would go a long way to introduce balance in the organisation. Hersey and Blanchard (1988), in chapter one, discuss the importance of ascertaining the level of decision making in a organisation before any change initiatives commence. The research I have undertaken indicates the importance of employees being involved in the decision-making process at work and it confirms the contribution made by the various authors mentioned in this section of the study.
I am satisfied that the findings revealed in this section of my analytical analysis confirms the need for congruence to be introduced between people and taskings. A demand exists in the Air Corps for professionalism and innovative sophistication when dealing with organisational team members. My findings are traceable to the hypothesis of the research question.
Commissioned Officers across the Air Corps have a poor interest in the welfare of their subordinates. The strength of feeling is further amplified by respondents indicating that they are not inclined to discuss any aspects of their family life with Commissioned Officers. However, the same situation exists, that personnel are not inclined to discuss aspects of their family life with NCO’s (superiors). Enlisted Personnel are not inclined to discuss personal problems with Commissioned Officers of the Air Corps. On the other hand respondents would be more inclined to discuss a problem with an NCO of the Air Corps. The data emerging is giving rise to the social distance gulf which exists between Commissioned Officers and Enlisted Personnel. Generally, Enlisted Personnel of the Air Corps would discuss a problem with a member of the Personnel Support Services. The majority of respondents believe service in the Air Corps makes a heavy demand on family life. The open ended question reveals changes respondents would like to see in occurring with the welfare function in the organisation.
I have demonstrated my research and findings can be sharply contrasted with the views of Hersey and Blanchard (1988), in chapter one of this study. The authors place much reliance on examining the motivational factors in organisations before the onset of major organisational restructuring.
I am convinced, that my research in this section of the study is traceable to the hypothesis of the research question.
My research indicates that the Air Corps is not managed by competent managers. Enlisted Personnel of the Air Corps believe that rigid adherence to disciplinary procedures in not indicative of good military management. The vast majority of personnel surveyed are convinced crisis management is evident in the Air Corps. The open-ended question gives a variety of reasons to indicate that management processes are in a poor condition in the Air Corps. Data from my study shows respondents indicating that the Air Corps should move from the traditional model of management to human resource management. Many respondents from the survey sample would like to see the establishment of a Personnel Management Section for all Air Corps personnel. This new section should be managed by professionally qualified personnel. A large number of the survey sample would like to see the development of a manpower policy to determine the personnel strategic strategy for organisational members. Personnel agree that a job description should be preferred for each job tasking in the organisation. My research shows, equality of opportunity is not operating satisfactorily in the organisation, across the genders and between Commissioned Officers and Enlisted Ranks. NCO’s should be more participative in the day to day management of the Air Corps.
The analysis I have undertaken shows the requirement for a manpower policy and this necessity was discussed in chapter four of the study. I have cited various reports which go back as far 1990, where management know this demand exists in the organisation. In chapter three of the study, I have dealt with personnel management issues and many of the functional aspects of personnel management are discussed. The demands of personnel management as envisaged by Martin (1981), would be of benefit to such a section being established in the Air Corps. Monks (1992/93), knowledge of the traditional/administrative personnel function can be found to be alive and well in the Air Corps. This aspect, I have discussed in chapter three of the study. Monks account of the innovative/sophisticated personnel management function, would suit the Air Corps should the organisation develop its management processes towards the organic model of management. In chapter one of my empirical research, I have described the concepts put forward by the following authors, Dupuy, Margiotta, Johnson and Bongard (1993); Thomson (1988) and Drucker (1954). All of the authors have one thing in common, they agree when management processes break down, the net result is often ‘crisis leadership / management’. My research in this section of the study confirms the above.
The findings in this section of the investigation show current military management used in the Air Corps is not aligned with the organisational development of the organisation. The evidence I have discussed which is empirical in nature is traceable to the hypothesis in the research question.
How the Air Corps would make the transition successfully from the traditional model of management to human resource model should be the subject of a separate study perhaps at PhD. level.
This section of my research reveals that Air Corps culture divides into two remote distinct groups Commissioned Officers and Enlisted Ranks. For the majority of people who responded to the survey the development of culture is important to them. Many people identify with the changing of the uniform colour from green to blue in terms of culture. The need to have organisational culture formally taught on all career courses emerges strongly from the data. Organisational members of the Air Corps believe that a culture audit, should be carried out every two to three years. This is necessary, to ensure that culture is never allowed to go into extinction and that the values and norms etc, are fully representative of all regardless of rank. The open ended question indicates what pleases or displeases respondents about existing culture in the Air Corps.
In chapter two of my research, I have discussed the merits of representative culture and the data emerging from the survey supports my conclusions of the section, military cultural apartheidism is alive and well in the Air Corps. The negative culture impact from an Enlisted Persons perspective of the existing culture can be found in the realms of authoritarianism discussed by Bass (1981), Watson (1969), Zaltman and Duncan (1977), in chapter two. My research vindicates the views of the authors in the totality of the study.
The research as presented is supportive of the hypothesis contained in the research question.
Respondents to the survey believe the Air Corps is strangled by bureaucracy. The levels of bureaucracy are inhibiting work performance in the organisation, Organisational members believe that bureaucracy is often used in the Air Corps to escape from the decision-making process. The open-ended question in this section reveals from the respondent’s perspective how the organisation can become less bureaucratic. In my presentation of the research the Air Corps would probably be more successful, if it established a clear set of task related rules and procedures. A vast majority of people within the target sample agree that the Air Corps should become less bureaucratic and develop a more organic approach to the business of the organisation.
My empirical research, shows clearly the level of bureaucracy and its consequences for the Air Corps. The findings I have discovered, would fit into the Machine Bureaucracy model expounded by Robbins (1991), in chapter two of the study. This system of management is consumed with power and control being maintained at top management levels. The system supports the disempowerment of people. In essence this is one of the major difficulties with the current management process. I also support the views of Hersey and Blanchard (1988), in chapter one of the research. My analysis confirms their view that by examining how leadership skills have developed in organisations, may assist in eroding bureaucracy from organisations.
The research shows respondents agreeing, it is best to give the real reason for wanting a task to be completed rather than giving reasons which might carry more weight. It was not surprising to find that the power levels in the Air Corps are totally controlled by the Officer Corps. Enlisted Personnel feel excluded from having any sense of power at work. The majority of respondents shows that NCOs should be empowered to be more involved in the decision-making process. It was disturbing to discover from the data that Air Corps officers have a tendency to wield power to get Enlisted Ranks to perform work related tasks. Interesting data emerged that most Enlisted Personnel of the Air Corps to be kind and considerate. On the other hand, Commissioned Officers of the Air Corps are not kind and considerate. The conclusion of my research shows Enlisted Personnel of the Air Corps should be sufficiently empowered to assist in implementing change in the organisation. Senior NCOs should become involved with organisational policy formulation. It was most disturbing to find that Commissioned Officers generally use organisational power to create new positions for themselves, and forget about the promotional needs of Enlisted Personnel, especially during expansions of the Air Corps. The open-ended question at the end of this section reveals from a respondent’s perspective how organisational power is used in the Air Corps.
My research and the findings discussed in this section dealing with power levels in the Air Corps are in agreement with Bass (1991), in chapter one of this study, who supports the view that power can be equated with leadership. This power relationship is the key central element in the survival of the machine constituted bureaucratic organisation. This central analysis has been adequately examined in the previous section dealing with bureaucracy in the Air Corps.
I am confident that my research and findings discussed in this section of the study are traceable through the study to the hypothesis contained in the research question.
During the course of my research and analysis of the attitudinal survey, I have discovered that jobs are not well designed in the Air Corps. Many of the respondents think incorrectly that they have job descriptions. After a thorough investigation I am satisfied that no job descriptions exist for any job in the Air Corps. Despite the fact that jobs are not well designed, respondents believe that they provide them with much variety and are significant. Career needs and wants are not matched by tasks assigned by superiors in the Air Corps. The open-ended question gives respondents views of how employment could be improved in terms of job design.
The need for effective job design in the Air Corps and its relationship to my study has already been discussed in this analysis under the following headings, attitudes to work, organisational communication, trust and motivation, decision making, welfare, management, bureaucracy and power.
The findings discussed in this section are of the study are relative to the hypothesis of the research question.
During the course of my study I discovered, the current structure of the Air Corps is not appropriate to the business of the organisation. Research I have conducted shows, Air Corps officers successfully manage their taskings but they fail to manage the people successfully. Some units of the organisation are over-staffed and some are under-staffed. Many respondents consider the Air Corps not to be a dynamic progressive organisation to be employed in. My investigation shows that change is required to align the technology with the personnel function. Problems exist in the following areas job definition, operating procedures, span of control, decision-making and communications process. This should be considered together with the following sections of the social survey already discussed power, bureaucracy, management, decision making trust and motivation, organisational communication, attitudes to work and career potential. My research shows that people within the target sample range do not support the changes for the Defence Forces recommended in the Department of Defence, Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan, Phase 1, February 1996. The 10-year plan to introduce planned change is too long. Organisational change should be introduced over a much shorter period of 2 to 4 years. I have discovered that the negative impact of change will be resistance and this will become the norm in the organisation. This is largely due to insufficient consultation between Commissioned Officers and Enlisted Personnel of the Air Corps during the diagnosis stage of the change process. Respondents are not in favour of Air Corps personnel who have been professionally trained in organisational development to be involved in implementing the process of change in the organisation.
The open-ended question at the end of this section reveals a variety of reasons expressed by respondents about Enlisted Personnel of the Air Corps being prepared for the impending organisational change process.
The research I have been pursuing shows that the Air Corps is an open system. This agrees with the views of French, Bell, and Zawacki (1989), in chapter one of this study. The relevancy of the Nadler and Tushman (1980), Congruence Model of Organisational Behaviour and its application to the Air Corps has been explained throughout this study. The evidence from my social survey agrees with the view of Cummings and Worley (1993), in chapter one, that reliable planning is totally dependent on factual accurate diagnosis, supported by a plan put forward by management in agreement with the workforce. It is essential the strategy is supported by organisational members. My research indicates that pressure for change has been building up in the Air Corps for a considerable period of time. Sometimes it takes a crisis, to bring the problem to the fore an experience encountered in bureaucratic organisations. This view would be supported by Evans, Dos and Laurent (1989), in chapter one of the study. During the phasing in of organisational re alignment the danger exists for organised resistance to change to develop. The study shows that this may be the case in the Air Corps. My analysis would be supported by Watson (1969), Zaltman and Duncan (1977), in chapter one. Evidence from the research material suggests that in uncertainty, organisational members are not interested in the process of change. The view I am expounding would be supported by Kanter (1984), in chapter one of the study. Data which I have been extracting from the social survey in this section is in agreement with the views of Cummings and Worley (1993) in chapter one. The authors maintain that in over organised, mechanistic, bureaucratic organisations such as the Air Corps various functions become too rigid for increased task performance. Some examples would be static leadership styles, poor job design, over formalised organisational structure and rigid policies and procedures. In this type of organisation which I am describing the communication link between management and employees is often suppressed. This view is supported by Kolb et-al. (1984), in chapter four and my research vindicates the theory of the authors.
The Action Research Model discussed by Cummings and Worley (1993), in chapter one of this research and French and Bell (1978), view of the process is explained in the study and supported by evidence emanating from the social survey. I believe from my analysis and explanations given during the course of my empirical research the Defence Forces knowingly or unknowingly have used this model to commence building a new organisation, for serving and future generations of Irish Defence Force personnel.
After a sufficient period of time has lapsed, say ten years, I suggest a study be commenced to evaluate the success or failure of organisational change in the Irish Air Corps or the National Air Service of Ireland as it may be called by then. Such a study should be the nucleus for a PhD. thesis.
The needs of Enlisted Personnel can be served, by implementing the following recommendations.
- Change the current style of management to HRM.
- Reform Air Corps culture making it inclusive of the values and norms of Enlisted Personnel.
- Establish Personnel Management Section.
- Management training is required for all Air Corps personnel appropriate to rank.
- A Manpower Policy is required for Enlisted Personnel
- Prepare job descriptions/person specifications for every job in the Air Corps.
- Empower all Enlisted Ranks according to rank level.
- Initiate a proactive Career Structure for Enlisted Ranks.
- Commission more NCO’s as officers.
- Realign Commissioned Officers and NCO’s, thus eliminating the social distance gulf.
- Improve the communication process among all ranks of the Air Corps.
- Make honesty, transparency and accountability the values and norms for the next millennium in the Air Corps.
- Introduce NCO pilots thus maximising the human potential within the organisation.
The congruence between the technological function and the personnel development of the Air Corps should be achieved within a reasonable time frame of say two to three years.