New relationships and the content and style

The non-Muslim staff often felt respected when meeting Muslim students, officers and lecturers, greetings could go on for 5-10 minutes. O’Neill’s (1994, p.107) four independent elements of organisational activities are related to TSI in the following way. Purpose – Those official educational purposes of the organisation laid down by the mission statement have not been realised in practice, students are coming back once training is complete with a very academic background from universities, but little practical ability to operate and maintain the various equipment of the armed forces. These students return to join the ranks and share similar roles with the current officers in TSI.

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Many lecturers hoped to see a change in TSI over the years as this educated cohort begin replacing their relatively poorly trained officers and start making effective decisions to improve the structure of TSI, hoping job security becomes related to ability rather than relationships with senior officers. Symbolism – western staff are well respected, but at the same time through management structures and styles, ceremonies and rituals, they are implicitly reminded they are not part of the whole process at TSI. Some staff regard themselves as specialist experts given a unique status, other staff feel that they are ignored and just regarded as the hired help.

Networks – People meet and greet each other very well, this seems to be the custom from Islamic teachings, working together is a little harder to achieve possibly due to the lack of reward (apart from financial), with many players attempting to keep their positional authority, keeping contacts in higher positions of authority impressed with their abilities. Officers in turn take more and more advice from these players, influencing superiors to get certain jobs done depending on personal agendas.

Communication seems to be restricted, maybe not only to prevent awareness in talented subordinates, but also maybe to highlight incompetence when it only exists due to a lack of information. Arabic culture is seen to avoid conflict, and if told by a trusted colleague of the incompetence of a member of staff, he will listen, but rarely confront the member of staff to get to the truth. Staff feel uncomfortable with this, as they rarely know what is being said about them, or for what reason, and then are often guessing why their contract for employment has not been renewed.

Integration – Different groups of people are rarely brought together, this only seems to emphasize the sub-cultures that exist in TSI, all foreign lecturers felt (statement 57) that there should be more team building exercises / social interactions between military officers and academic staff. Part of this I suspect is to network with relatively higher ranking officers, and part of this is to genuinely eradicate the small amount of suspicion that exists between lecturers themselves at the same time bringing officers together with staff creating a shared understanding of negotiated norms and meanings as said by Nias et al. (1989, p.39).


The current management style noticed at the Technical Studies Institute seems to be similar in nature to Bush (1995, p.147) formal or bureaucratic theory of educational management. There is definitely a hierarchical authority structure with the commander at the top making decisions and policies, and being answerable to military headquarters / government. There are many rules and regulations in place, innovation and initiative are perceived to be discouraged or at best not rewarded. There is a division of labour based on expertise, and the professional lecturers with their expert knowledge often come into conflict with the positional authority of UAE national officers, who don’t hold the same level of expertise when it came to management or educational issues.

As one would expect in a military establishment, the management style is more formal / bureaucratic in nature, in order to understand why there were so many weaknesses in the management structure, our first port of call must be the commander. Unfortunately, examples of an inspiring, innovative visionary leader were not noticed by the lecturers. The organisational culture according to deal O’Neil (1994, p.105) is enacted in several ways, the main features at TSI were.

The shared values and beliefs in written form could be seen in the mission statement, which surprisingly was not widely known by lecturers.  Heroes in the workplace were those that primarily made good relationships with officers colleagues and students.  Rituals and ceremonies were noticed but didn’t really involve the foreign staff, the main event was that of the graduation parade that happened once a year. Crests, motifs and uniforms were ideas originating from the British Army. On the surface parallels could be drawn between the two Armies, but the underlying culture was Islamic at the TSI.  Communication of information was on a need to know basis, discouraging insight and innovation. This in itself encouraged lecturers to work individually. Successful practice became a very personal goal, rather than institutionally enforced.

An informal network of cultural players were very visible by lecturers who often would get frustrated with their existence, these players (officers, western academic advisors and section supervisors) were keeping hold of their positional authority as well as they could, to the detriment of efficient and effective running of the institution. They could never be seen to have innovative and dynamic subordinates, for fear of losing their own role, position or more importantly respect and influence in front of their own supervisors.

Recommendations for further study – this has turned out to be a large topic, and TSI could be a great centre of education. To improve the institution as a whole it would be nice to turn this into a case study, presenting findings from this investigation to the commander and then try to implement structural changes especially related to communication, eradicating unnecessary chains of command and introducing staff development for both lecturers and officers. It would be interesting to see whether TSI could carry out the seemingly impossible task of keeping the good points of its current culture, at the same time adopt a more effective and efficient style of management, even with its long established ‘Arab’ way of doing things.

Hopkins (1996, p.37) states how changing the structure of the organisation could have an impact on the culture: Significant structural changes, especially ones that bring teachers into working more closely together, will affect how teachers talk to one another and define their professional relationships. It is through the new relationships and the content and style of talk arising from structural changes that the culture begins to shift.