Topic 9

Organisational culture
o What is Culture? o Components of Culture o Managing Organisational Culture o Summary

TOPIC 9: O r g a n i s a t i o n a l

culture

103

Learning objectives On completion of this topic. explain the link between ‘external environment’ and ‘culture’. discuss and comment on different levels and elements of culture. !" !" !" !" 104 B E H A V I O U R A L A S P E C T S O F M A N A G E M E N T . you should be able to: !" outline the diversity of definitions for culture. and state the benefits of having a unified culture. identify strategies and reasons for managing organisational culture and the constraints involved.

Daft defines culture as ‘‘the set of key values. and norms shared by members of an organisation’’. What is culture? Unfortunately.Introduction There has been increasing interest in the notion of organisational culture since the early 1980's. The study of organisational culture is relatively new and there is still a considerable range of opinion about its nature and relevance. Whilst this is a definition of culture much of the literature is more specific and prefers to use the term ‘organisational culture’. Not only are managers in organisations interested in its effects but they are also interested in maintaining or changing cultures to increase the performance of an organisation. from which the concept derives. One scholarly study in the field of anthropology. beliefs. understandings. With the ever-growing pressures for high performance in organisations (in increasingly competitive external environments) organisational culture has been recognised as a factor which can influence organisational success. there isn't one unanimously accepted definition. TOPIC 9: O r g a n i s a t i o n a l culture 105 . Culture has been interpreted in many ways. has listed 164 definitions. or to cope with major change. Organisational culture can be defined as: ‘‘the dominant values espoused by an organisation’’.

These definitions are very similar to those identified by Schein in his book ‘‘Organisational culture and leadership’’: !" !" !" !" !" !" observed behavioural regularities. To some extent the variation occurs because of the variety of disciplines which influences analysis (e. A variety of definitions emerge though all can be accepted as representativeaspects of organisational culture. ‘‘the way things are done around here’’. These definitions uncover a central theme. This seems a satisfactory definition but Schein and others indicate that this may be an unsatisfactory approach.‘‘the philosophy that guides an organisation's policy toward employees and customers’’. organisational culture refers to a system of shared meaning. anthropology) and also the depth at which culture is deemed to he embedded into the organisation (whether culture is seen as a deep or shallow phenomenon). that is. Schein defines organisational culture as: ‘‘the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organisation that operate 106 B E H A V I O U R A L A S P E C T S O F M A N A G E M E N T . philosophy that guides an organisation. norms that evolve in working groups. and feeling or climate that is conveyed in an organisation. sociology. and ‘‘the basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organisation’’. rules of the game for getting along in the organisation.g. dominant values espoused.

As researchers have shown they occur at three levels . which are commonly given for organisational culture.unconsciously and that define in a basic 'taken-for-granted' fashion an organisation's view of' itself and its environment. Even though another writer in this field Robbins proposes that culture implies the existence of certain dimensions or characteristics that are closely associated and interdependent. Components of culture Much has already been said of the elements of culture. Values are overt statements of what the organisation finds important or unimportant. he does not probe to the deeper level of the underlying assumptions. The other two levels are values and artefacts. that is. Schein states that it is the ‘taken-forgranted assumptions’ which should be used to analyse the culture and that culture should be viewed as a property of an independently defined social unit. values and 107 TOPIC 9: O r g a n i s a t i o n a l culture .artefacts. They may simply be managerial desires which are not truly reflected in the organisation's culture. These may or may not reflect the true underlying culture. espoused managerial values. Artefacts are manifestations of the culture (behaviour and physical features) which express culture in a much more visible manner. Schein accepts that culture also exists at other levels. In addition to defining culture in terms of assumptions and beliefs. These correspond more closely to the ‘shared meanings’ type definitions.’’ The essence of this definition is the unconsciously accepted or underlying assumptions which exist in an organisation.

Management will then try to change its culture to make it more conducive to the achievement of organisational goals. rituals. its processes. structure. Some of these manifestations are stories. size of the organisation. age of the organisation. it will affect most of the aspects of an organisation: !" !" !" !" its strategy. its structure. the lowest level in Schein's typology indicating the most deeply embedded and significant cultural element.assumptions. Managing organisational culture A point of clarification on the issue of managing culture is that it is often referred to as changing the culture. leadership turnover. Some of the conditions or situational factors that are necessary for. Cultural change is expected to match the challenges set by the external environment 108 B E H A V I O U R A L A S P E C T S O F M A N A G E M E N T . or will facilitate. cultural change are: !" !" !" !" !" !" !" a dramatic crisis. and its daily routines. life-cycle stage. and the process by which management carries it out. As the concept of organisational culture is structurally complex. or absence of subcultures. its rewards and control systems. and procedures level. strength of the organisation. An organisation tends to be motivated to undergo a cultural change when it perceives some form of crisis and will typically start at the strategy. material symbols and language.

selection and promotion by. but may fail to enhance the organisation's strategy if it is incompatible. and • the types of information generated. A culture can be very strong. buildings. in the achievement of organisational goals. then management might espouse and reinforce new values relating to rewards. Similarly. Another key factor in determining whether organisational culture needs to be changed or maintained will be how much the culture supports.and to aid in integrating the internal environment of the organisation to meet those challenges. or measure or control. ceremonies etc. The following factors can be assessed and controlled in order to try to manage or reinforce a culture: • what managers pay attention to. The general consensus in the literature seems to accept that change is possible although there is considerable diversity in opinion TOPIC 9: O r g a n i s a t i o n a l culture 109 . • managerial role modelling. • organisational systems and procedures. If an organisation was under pressure to be innovative and needs to create a competitive advantage. • criteria for rewards. a weak culture may inhibit the achievement of the organisation’s goals. • organisational myths. • reactions to organisational crises. • design of physical spaces. Managers may pay considerable attention to new ideas which they previously ignored. • criteria for selection and promotion.. It is a matter of determining whether the culture existing in the organisation is a positive or negative influence on the organisation’s success. rewarding and promoting creativity. • organisational design and structure. Staff new to the organisation will be socialised into the existing culture of the organisation. for example. rather than impedes.

Summary This topic provides an introduction to organisational culture. that is. The success ultimately depends on how deeply embedded the culture becomes. It attempts to provide useful definitions of ‘culture’ and ‘organisational culture’ and then discusses how the culture of an organisation is linked to assumptions and belief and values and artefacts. change the factors and you should be able to change the culture. Robbins intimates that management’s actions can alter those factors that created the current culture. If the culture is widespread throughout the organisation it may actually enhance the chances for change because of the relative uniformity of culture within the organisation. Certainly. Finally it provides some basic information about how to implement a culture change within an organisation. changing values and manifestations of the culture are surface actions which may or may not result in a new culture. However. if we accept Schein's definition of culture as the takenfor-granted assumptions and beliefs of members of the organisational culture or subculture.about how easy it is to bring about. since cultures are learned. cultures may be easier or more difficult to change. To some extent this will depend on the persuasiveness of the culture and also on its depth. then changing culture must be seen as a slow evolution whereby espoused values are adopted and eventually become unconscious influences on people within the organisation. This suggests that symbolic management. 110 B E H A V I O U R A L A S P E C T S O F M A N A G E M E N T .

Is it a ‘good’ place to work? Why? Write down a list of key words that describe the culture of your organisation/ business. Activity 4 When a customer walks in the door of your organisation/ business. or influence. the culture of the organisation? Justify your answer. what do you think the work environment tells him or her about the culture of the organisation? TOPIC 9: O r g a n i s a t i o n a l culture 111 . Activity 2 How does the culture of the organisation affect: • your job performance? • your job satisfaction? Activity 3 Look up the mission statement or goal statements of your organisation. Activity 1 This topic discusses the idea of the ‘culture’ of an organisation.Learning activities To consolidate your understanding of this topic you should complete these activities. How would you describe the ‘culture’ of your business or organisation? Hint: This activity is more about the ‘feeling’ of the workplace as you perceive it. Do these have an affect on.