Question 15) “Organization Culture is impossible to define and even harder to manage”. Critically evaluate this assertion.

Definition: Organizational culture is the personality of the organization. Culture is comprised of the assumptions, values, norms and tangible signs (artifacts) of organization members and their behaviors. Culture is one of those terms that are difficult to express distinctly, but everyone knows it when they sense it. Three basic attributes of the concept Culture is symbolic A symbol ‘stands for’ something more than itself. The symbol can be many things- a sign, an event, an object, even a person – but the essentials point is that a symbol is invested with meaning by us, and expresses forms of understanding derived from our past collective experiences. More profound symbolic manipulations relate to things like architecture and clothing. Eg: Separate rooms, different floor of building with different grades, differential access to parking, company cars, etc. In a Japan motor industry, senior management wearing identical boiler suits. It seems to say that ‘we’ are all working for a common cause, each playing our own parts within it, but all parts are equally valued. There are the stories designed to impact upon how people feel about the organization. Eg: The supermarket boss whose childhood was spent selling cheap eggs from his school bag – symbolizing his lifelong commitment to good values groceries. Stories are used to manage uncertainty and enable collective action to take place. Culture is unifying Culture refers to processes that bind the organization together. The idea of corporate culture reinforces the unifying strengths of central goals and creates a sense of common responsibility or purpose. The unifying force of beliefs and values held in common lies at the heart of rationality. Culture is holistic Culture refers to the essence, the reality of an organization-what is it like to work there, how people deal with each other, what behaviors are expected. One important way in which the holistic character of the organization is expressed is through rules. The unspoken, taken-for-granted rules that regulate social conduct.

Managing Culture? Cultures are hardly planned or predictable; they are the natural products of social interaction, and evolve and emerge over time, the residue of countless events and actions. ‘Strong culture can be developed, which would enhance employee commitment and through that organizational performance. Organizations have culture but that these are spontaneous, unmanaged, just the way things are. It means something the organization is rather than something it has. People in organizations do things, they work together in a certain way: that’s the culture, it is natural, spontaneous. In the an interesting paper, Ogbonna and Wilkinson (1988) look at supermarket staff. The staff were encouraged to embrace a corporate culture of ‘customer service’, which require them smiling at customers and being friendly so as to make them feel valued. Staff conform superficially to its demand. They ‘smiles but did not mean it’ and did so because they were aware that cameras and mystery shoppers were checking on them. Staff are doing what is expected of them by the ‘culture’, then culture management has succeeded. But of course a moment’s thought shows that this is not true. Culture management requires that staff ‘really’ believe in the values. Corporate culturalism is not a simple fad; it is ‘endorsed by a sufficient number of leading management gurus, corporate executives and state officials to ensure more than passing influence upon management theory and practices’

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