For more than a decade, J. Grunig and his team of researchers studied this very question as part of a nearly half-million-dollar grant from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). Grunig’s project is called the Excellence Study, and the results are known as the excellence theory. We will review those findings here in order to help you learn how to make your public relations efforts the most effective they can be and to help your organization or clients achieve excellence.
What is organizational effectiveness? We can say that organizational effectiveness is helping any type of organization be the most efficient at what it seeks to do and the most effective it can be in accomplishing its goals and mission. Organizational effectiveness can be defined in two primary ways:
The strategic constituencies perspectiveThe viewpoint that organizational effectiveness is based on at least the partial satisfaction of the publics who have influence or power over the organization. holds that organizational effectiveness means that constituencies who have influence or power over the organization are at least partially satisfied with that organization. Those constituencies, such as consumers or regulatory agencies, have the power to decide whether the organization thrives or fails. When those constituencies are satisfied, an organization thrives. In this sense, organizational effectiveness means maintaining strategic relationships with constituencies that help an organization achieve its goals, such as profit, education, or continued existence.
In the goal attainment perspectiveThe setting of clear and measurable goals by an organization, such as rankings or sales numbers. When the stated goals are fulfilled, the organization is considered effective., an organization sets clear goals that are measurable, such as rankings, market-share figures, or sales numbers. The organization knows that it has accomplished its goals when the actual figures match its stated goals. In this way, the organization is seen as effective when its stated goals are fulfilled.
An ineffective organization is termed one with “competing values” in which “the organization is unclear about its own emphases” or criteria for success.Robbins (1990), p. 77. This type of organization might change goals over time, have inconsistent or unclear goals, and therefore it flounders and fails to achieve effectiveness.
Organizational effectiveness involves the entire organization, not just the communication function. However, the management of communication is an important part of helping the organization as a whole achieve greater organizational effectiveness. Plus, the concepts of effective or excellent public relations can also be used to optimize the organization, structure, and management of the public relations function itself.
Grunig’s Excellence Study identified numerous variables that contribute to organizational effectiveness. After many years of study, Grunig and the Excellence Study’s of researchers distilled the most important variables for public relations in making contributions to overall organizational effectiveness. These variables were distilled through both quantitative and qualitative research. The variables that emerged from the data did not vary across cultures or national boundaries, or by size of organization, or industry, therefore they were termed generic principles of excellenceVariables related to overall organizational effectiveness that do not vary across cultures or national boundaries, or by organization size or industry type.. The Excellence Study team identified 10 generic principles of excellent public relations:
Diversity embodied in all rolesVercic, Grunig, and Grunig (1996), pp. 37–40.
And the team later added the last principle
These principles can be used to design the public relations function in an organization to structure its inner action with management and the rest of the organization, and to staff the public relations department in a way that predisposes it toward effectiveness. The more of these factors that are present in a public relations function, the more excellent that function should be. Another important consideration is that the chief executive officer (CEO) must be aware of the contributions that public relations and communication in general can make toward the effectiveness of the overall organization. He or she is probably aware of how reputation can impact the bottom line of the organization, and that reputation can be enhanced and protected by the public relations function.
Here is a brief review of why each of the 10 generic principles of public relations is important to organizational effectiveness:
How organizations measure excellence depends on the industry, the size of the organization, its goals, and whether those goals are measured through the satisfaction of strategic constituencies or through the goal attainment approach. However, the excellence study has shown that these generic principles of excellence apply to any type of organization, size of pursuit, any industry, and across cultures.