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The company as family: Perceived strengths of Duncan Aviation

Jeannine Falter, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In contemporary American society, the boundaries between public and private life are blurring. Both work and non-work domains are now expected to provide psychological and emotional support. These heightened expectations of the workplace emphasize the increasing need for business organizations to have positive and supportive work environments. ^ To identify how positive organizational culture is created and sustained, a qualitative case study of Duncan Aviation, Inc., the largest privately-held business-aircraft service company in North America was conducted. The study considers mutually interacting situated practices, organizational structure, communication and leadership styles that lie at the core of organization analysis. The study connects with the historical, social and organizational dynamics to identify how to strengthen, change, and influence culture. ^ A systemic, quantum worldview is used as the orienting theoretical framework—recognizing dynamic, self-organizing, interdependent, and interconnected processes—where the role of the observer is crucial. In contrast, Duncan Aviation thrives in an industry that values and relies heavily on a mechanistic, classic worldview of fundamental building blocks and linear cause and effect. ^ The researcher/author, a 19-year employee of the company, interviewed a cross-section of employees. Cultural characteristics, values and attitudes, and the family atmosphere experienced by Duncan Aviation's employees are identified and described. Factors that influence and contribute to this culture include the founder, the company's 44-year history, the aviation industry, the general business world, the employees, training programs, and company leaders. ^ Findings reveal that the characteristics of Duncan Aviation are closely related to those found in strong families, indicating that a company can function as a family for its members. The work culture promotes cohesion, flexibility, and open communication—characteristics found in strong families—and enhance personal well-being. The focus on caring about people makes the boundaries and differences between work organizations and families more diffused and less important than the people involved and their relationships. ^ Five other contemporary companies known for their positive cultures are reviewed. Their similarities with Duncan Aviation support the premise that companies can create environments that serve and function as supportive families. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Behavioral|Psychology, Industrial|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|Sociology, Industrial and Labor Relations

Recommended Citation

Falter, Jeannine, "The company as family: Perceived strengths of Duncan Aviation" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9997008.