Laura Ashley: Organizational Structure


The global retailer and successful designer, Laura Ashley, needs changes and improvements in its structure and culture. The new proposals will affect task performance in at least three ways. First, they energize performance by motivating employees of the retail and marketing department to improve relations and structure in line with the demands of the goals and organizational strategies. It is not simple physiological arousal that produces high performance.

The report will concentrate on such aspects as nature of work, people, informal organization, and formal organization. In order to introduce change, managers should take into account four main aspects of the organizational architecture and organizational drivers of change. These drivers are the environmental drivers, strategy drivers, the relationship between strategy and organizational design, and the dilemma of organizational design (Nadler and Tushman 1999).

It is expected that greater effort should produce greater performance, and more effort is needed to attain hard goals than easy goals. More effort typically gets better results than less effort, given that ability is adequate. Second, new strategies motivate individuals to persist in their actions over time. The strategic goals will keep employees working for longer periods of time than vague or unclear goals. Challenging goals inspire the individual to be tenacious, to refuse to settle for less than could be achieved. Individuals who set easy goals stop working sooner than those with hard goals. While this result may seem trivial, it does illustrate the fact that challenging goals keep people motivated longer than less challenging goals, even when all individuals are working at the same pace.

It is proposed to analyze and evaluate the performance of the department and recommend new relations with customers. A new customer-centered approach will be introduced. The ability has stronger effects among high-goal individuals than among low-goal individuals. When strategies are low and employees are committed to them, the output is limited to levels below what is probable. Challenging goals lead to high performance only if the individual is committed to them. New structure and architecture can be viewed as one’s attachment to or determination to reach a goal, regardless of where the goal originated. It is inclusive of the term acceptance.

Culture and positive moral climate is a significant predictor of goal commitment–that is, the individual’s belief that exerting effort will produce a certain level of performance and that performance will lead to valued outcomes.

Thus, it is important to note that given a goal commitment, the department employees will continue working at the task until the goal is reached. Employees of the department will work longer and more tenaciously for a harder goal than for an easier one, but there can be a trade-off. Changes in organizational structure and architecture will have a positive impact on the climate and performance of employees. Also, it is supposed that a new customer-centered approach will help to increase sales and will improve profit maximization.


At Laura Ashley, organizational behavior includes people behavior, management processes, organizational context and processes, and the influence of the external environment. The term “behavior” is used to explain “a selective, interdisciplinary approach to the study of human behavior” (Mullins, 1993, p.2-3). In Laura Ashley, culture is a part of business activity that is social as opposed to genetically transmitted. It comprises ideas through which the department managers perceive and understand the global business environments, the culture they use to communicate with subordinates, and internal relations which enable them to become socialized and satisfy their needs.

Structure and Architecture

The New Business Environment

This section will analyze and give recommendations for approach and understanding of the new business environment (Huczynski and Buchanan 2007). It is possible to say that new changes will be influenced by old principles of work and will need a new set of principles for further change. In this case, individual integrity is the real foundation on which organizational ethics is built. Integrity includes values, goals, and actions of all people in an organization, but its demonstration is particularly important for an organization’s managers. A manager’s actions are the pivotal link between his or her personal beliefs and organizational aims (Bloisi et al 2007).

The New Strategic Imperatives

This section will concentrate on new strategies and proposed initiatives for improved structure and architecture. Focusing on the small things is one way to build teams in organizations, but teams can also be built around big problems (Huczynski and Buchanan 2007). Those problems can be addressed by task forces that work on organization-wide issues. The task force investigates major issues, develops alternatives, looks at the advantages and disadvantages of each, and provides an action plan. Issues may include the organizational vision or the strategic plan itself. In organizations with effective teamwork, management retains authority for defining the vision. However, work teams plan, set priorities, organize, coordinate with others, and take corrective action (Hughes 2006).

Organizational Challenges

The main challenges for Laura Ashley will be independent thinking and decision-making. Managers solve problems, schedule and assign work, and even handle personnel issues such as absenteeism and discipline. All these duties were previously prerogatives of management. Consequently, the team must now hold the responsibility and authority to implement solutions if it is to be effective (Huczynski and Buchanan 2007).

An inspiring vision is needed at all levels of the organization from the executive suite to the mailroom. A correctly delivered vision serves that purpose and conveys the need for change. That need is usually larger than the organization itself and is something that the individual can accept. Every organization has a purpose outside itself that the individual person can commit to and goes to the very survival of the organization (Hughes 2006).

Relations between Culture and Structure

This section will analyze managerial integrity and the impact of new structure and culture on internal relations. Values such as honesty, fairness, and respect for the individual are prerequisites for achieving both integrity and effectiveness. The consistency between behavior and belief, in tune with organizational goals and values, permits the manager to deal with the realities of a particular goal and the means to accomplish it (Huczynski and Buchanan 2007).

The analysis of proposals developed for Laura Ashley allows us to say that real dilemmas will occur in practical problems where values clash with pressures for tangible and immediate performance. Tangible performance represents values that are readily quantifiable and measurable. They include such objectives as setting goals for growth, productivity, profit, career development, or promotion, all of which may involve career aspirations (Bloisi et al 2007).

Individual behavior and Performance

This section will advise managers on how to improve performance and work with employees. The nature of the employee’s thoughts will also be relevant after goals have been formulated. The staff of the department is expected to take action in accordance with each chosen strategy. They should focus on what is to be achieved, the means needed to achieve it, and the reasons for, or benefits of, such action. Intrinsic motivation is not inherent in the task but rather exists inside the person (Huczynski and Buchanan 2007).

Though, the working environment tends to be governed just as strongly by imposed standards and external rewards (such as pay, recognition, and promotion) as it is by things that are done because they are personally rewarding. This is not to deny that one should enjoy work and achieve personal reward, but in real work settings, such motivation rarely operates in isolation from other types of external motivators (Hughes 2006).

Organization Management and Leadership

Leadership function can be easily compromised at the expense of the more intangible ethical standards. The more tangible measures also carry with them the potential to destroy the shared values on which managerial integrity is based. The pressure to perform naturally leads to a conflict between means and ends. Managers face the critical responsibility of choosing the right goal to ensure that what people are striving for is the ethical choice. Furthermore, because of the propensity of people to do what they are told (and their natural inclination to accept goals as legitimate because they come from an authority figure or from the organization itself), it is crucial that managers do not ask people to employ unethical means to accomplish an otherwise noble goal. Both the means and the ends are valid subjects for ethical questioning (Huczynski and Buchanan 2007).


This section will sum up the main findings and recommendations given to the Laura Ashley management team. Every mender of staff should feel as a part of its team accepting views and traditions of the publishing industry. It is important to distinguish between intent and manner of implementation, because only actions has an influence on organizational performance and its successful planning. Intent has no influence on actions, training and participation, changes and efficiency of employees being a speculative assumption.

Their sole common attribute is their knowledge and professional skills to make sure the goal is clearly defined and high-performance expectations are set. How aims and expectations are established is a matter of style, but setting them is a matter of performance and positive results. In order to improve leadership skills, an individual should take into account situational variables and consequences of decisions.



Laura Ashley is a UK designer and manufacturer of cloths. Today, Laura Ashley is a global retailer with vertical integration and centralized management. Global retailers address consumer groups who, independent of their home country, have similar lifestyles and expectations. Technology has fostered increasingly interlinked customer cultures and lifestyles. Ashley now owns 540 stores in 28 countries. More than 50% of its sales are generated. The proposed changes in organizational structure will touch structure of the retail and marketing department and new climate created in this department.

Structure and Architecture

Following Nadler and Tushman (1999), organization design is influenced by nature of work, people, informal organization and formal organization. In order to introduce change, managers should take into account four main aspects of the organizational architecture and organizational drivers of change. These drivers are: the environmental drivers, strategy drivers, the relationship between strategy and organizational design and the dilemma of organizational design.

The main opportunity for change is that retail and marketing department follows formal structure in relations with customers bit establishes informal communication and interaction patterns in relations inside the organization. Informal communication has a great influence on management decisions and their implementations. At its most visible it represents those arte-facts and goods that most readily distinguish one culture from another, such as architecture, food, ceremonies and language. At a deeper level it comprises their notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, their norms, and their notions about what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’, their values (Bloisi et al 2007).

The New Business Environment

In order to meet new environmental setting, Laura Ashley should introduce a functional structure. The department means leaving systems which are able to adapt changes of rapidly changing environment. The structure of Laura Ashley and its retail and marketing department is a flexible system which reacts on changes and adapts itself to them. The function of brains means ability to think which helps to be creative and flexible. To work successfully, the department needs critical thinking and analyzing the problems exist. Organizations as cultures imply development and acceptance of values and norms, traditions and ideology. The department will create its own unique code of norm and traditions followed by all members of this organization (Hughes 2006).

In Laura Ashley, new a customer-centered culture will determine the ways of performance and interaction between employees, communication and climate, morale and satisfaction. New proposals and changes proposed for Laura Ashley will change its culture and will be influenced by this culture. Shared values and visions, relationships and climate will influence implementation and perceptions of the proposed actions. The opposed change will require new understanding of work relations and new vision of the corporate goals and aims. “Now, new technology makes it easier, faster, and cheaper to identify and serve targeted micromarkets in ways that were physically impossible or prohibitively expensive in the past” (Nadler and Tushman 1999, p. 49).

The New Strategic Imperatives

For Laura Ashley, strategies that consider organizational values in their development will become an extension of organizational values. The values that give an organization credibility also will give credibility to the individual. They will be a source of self-fulfillment and personal integrity. While organizational values relate to employees, profit, customers, stakeholders, community, and the like, individual goals will relate to fairness, honesty, trust, respect, quality, and cooperation. These are precisely the values that are inherent in the organizational values statement. Alone, however, these values are far too general and open to interpretation.

It is easy to forget the particular and complicated nature of human moral experience. Thinking about and discussing the ethical implications of a goal is more practical and valuable than using a list of values or ethical models. Acting on the ethical implications is even more valuable. Ethical action is the relentless effort to make values a part of the goal-setting equation. Where the managers go wrong, however, is in expecting more from these values than they can deliver (Bloisi et al 2007).

The principle of “go-to-market” flexibility demands a customer-centered approach adopted by the department. Managerial integrity stands at the center of shared values and the goal-setting process. Managers become known for their ability to bring out the best in people by challenging them with high performance goals. They are also known for their trustworthiness. People can depend upon them to be fair and honest in setting goals at a level that will challenge them but not at such a high level that the goals are unattainable. Trustworthiness is an important component of integrity. Otherwise, there will be no followers. Trust conveys that managers mean what they say. It is a belief in an old- fashioned concept called integrity (Crowther and Green 2004).

Organizational Challenges

For Laura Ashley, the main challenge will deal with independence in decision-making and customer relations. “The challenge involves an inherent balancing act: minimizing linkages in order to maximize the focus of independent business units while, at the same time, capitalizing on potential sources of leverage to create value from the joint ownership and management of multiple businesses” (Nadler and Tushman 1999, p. 54).

The proposals will change structure of work and interpersonal relationships. The demand for high quality and service excellence will influence morale and satisfaction of employees. It can lead to resistance to change and opposition movement (Crowther and Green 2004). A common mistake is to conceive employees and their relations as fixed entities. To the contrary, they should be constantly forming around a specific task or goal, fixing things, celebrating their accomplishments, disbanding, and then forming again with different people appropriate to take on another problem with new goals (Nadler and Tushman 1999).

The answer to that question is problematic. In the process of fixing the small things, teams tend to become insular and can forget why they exist. In focusing on their particular goal, they forget not only the ultimate customer, but also those teams around them. Worse yet, teams can become competitive, combative, and even destructive to the organization. Goal displacement occurs when activities that are originally intended to help improve organizational goals become ends in themselves (Bloisi et al 2007).

Relations between Culture and Structure

For retail and marketing department at Laura Ashley, organizational structure has an impact on culture and relations. Laura Ashley has a bureaucratic structure based on formal relations and communication. In contrast, functional structure of the department leads to information and more close communication between employees. The retail and marketing department structure is based on superior-subordinate relations between students and teachers, teachers and management staff, teachers and board of directors which help to direct staff (Nadler and Tushman 1999). This metaphor means that the department as a structure has “mythical past places constraints”.

It adopts the structural pattern, norms, the form of organization used by other departments. Flux and transformation means that organizations should be flexible to changes and be able to transform their structure accordingly to them. For the retail and marketing, this is a very important aspect because economic and social changes require that the organization be able to transform its structure and functions accordingly to their norms (Bratton et al 2007).

Individual behavior and performance

In Laura Ashley, individual behavior and perforce is a part of leadership and management. Most of employees pay attention to the big picture of business but neglect small details. Also, transformational leadership is based on change while most of the employees resist and fear of constant change. Thus, the ability to focus on goals and the issues surrounding them is the primary concern. If team members respect each other’s competence, most personality problems will work themselves out. Furthermore, the more time a team spends on interpersonal relationships, the less effective it becomes (Bratton et al 2007).

There is an inverse correlation between the time spent on “people problems” and team effectiveness. Effective and successful teams focus on issues pertaining to the team goal. Both relate to how the leader manages the team and both bring focus on the task to be done; however, they are different in very specific ways. Combining individual strengths means influencing rather than directing. Influencing requires a different skill than managing in a hierarchical structure, where direction is more common (Nadler and Tushman 1999). One of the most potent ways in which the leader can exert influence is by example.

At Laura Ashley leaders and managers can introduce training and learning courses in order o ensure high professionalism of workers. This strategy will help managers to create positive culture and organizational environment. This method emphasizes their ability to make decisions and solve marketing problems in a way that enhances the objectives of the whole corporation. The manager is a specialist in managing markets and marketing resources; production, finance, and personnel executives are his corporate counterparts (Bloisi et al 2007).

At the retail and marketing department, the strategy is to introduce conflict management techniques aimed to prevent and foreshadow conflict situations. Effective leadership includes the following precepts:

  1. acceptance of change as a constant;
  2. recognition of the centrality of consumer wants and needs;
  3. adoption of a systems approach to marketing issues;
  4. recognition and application of meaningful concepts from other disciplines, and the acceptance of theoretical constructs and findings as helpful in managing marketing effort; and
  5. recognition of the relationship between marketing and other aspects of management (Bratton et al 2007).

All these changes, from the harsh competitive realities of the marketplace to the complexity of new organizational forms, pose demands on corporations to transform themselves frequently, rapidly, and effectively. These trends have made obsolete many of the traditional sources of competitive advantage, leaving organizational design and management as one of the few available sources of significant, sustained competitive advantage.

It is one thing to argue that organizations need to reinvent themselves and develop new, more effective approaches to organizing, and quite another to accomplish it. Large-scale organizational transformation is, at best, a developing art that has yet to produce any clear formulas for success, but more and more attention is being turned to executives as the principle agents of change and adaptation. It is increasingly common to assume that leadership plays the crucial role in an organization’s successful adaptation to a changing world (Hughes 2006).

Organization management and Leadership

The industry depends upon effective leaders who establish clear goals for the entire organization. At Laura Ashley, proclaiming decision-making and problem-solving skills that have made them so successful, managers readily take responsibility for other people’s problems and give them back ready-made solutions. Indeed, top managers gain authority in the first place because they take responsibility and solve problems with such aplomb.

Managers rarely receive promotions for providing the leadership required to do adaptive work. Management gains commitment to performance through contractual arrangements, leadership through empowerment. As the corporate world has become better aware of these essential distinctions, more and more resources have gone into training and educating about leadership competencies (Bratton et al 2007).

Laura Ashley can be seen as an organization that paying record compensation to attract the best and brightest executive talent to lead them safely through today’s turbulent business environment. Many boards and executive recruiters assume that there exists an elite corps of individuals who possess leadership skills that have almost universal application.


With the realization that organizations once considered paragons of management effectiveness were faltering in the face of dramatic competitive challenges, many began to suspect that the two roles involved different skill sets. It was conceivable that a company could be well managed but poorly led. In good times, a well-managed company might enjoy great success. Adopting a marketing (diversity-based) approach, it again seems unfruitful to argue that research should be structured to yield analytic knowledge or that research should be structured so as to produce intuitive knowledge.


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Bratton J, Callinan M, Forshaw C & Sawchuk P. 2007. Work and Organizational Behavior Basingstoke Palgrave Macmillan.

Crowther D & Green M. 2004. Organizational Theory London: CIPD.

Hughes M. 2006. Change Management – A Critical Perspective London; CIPD.

Huczynski A & Buchanan D. 2007. Organizational Behavior, 6th ed. Harlow: Prentice Hall

Nadler, D. A.., & Tushman, M. L. 1999, ‘The organization of the future: Strategic imperatives and core competencies for the 21st century’, Organizational Dynamics, 28 (1), pp. 45–60.

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