Organizational Culture: Understanding, Managing, and Assessing
Organizational culture is a vital factor in shaping the behavior and performance of organizations. This paper explores the various aspects of organizational culture, including its definition, characteristics, development, diversity, and components. It delves into different classification models for culture, available instruments for assessing it, and strategies for supporting or changing culture. The importance of employee involvement in culture-related initiatives is also emphasized. By the end, readers will have a comprehensive understanding of how organizational culture affects organizations and how it can be managed and assessed.
Organizational culture plays a pivotal role in today’s workplaces. It influences how employees behave, interact, and make decisions within organizations. Understanding, managing, and assessing organizational culture is crucial for fostering a productive and cohesive work environment. This paper aims to provide insights into the complex world of organizational culture, outlining its core elements and discussing its implications for organizational success.
2. Defining Organizational Culture:
Organizational culture refers to the unspoken framework of values, norms, beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions that guide behavior within an organization. Unlike explicit rules or procedures, culture operates beneath the surface, affecting the way things get done. Eldridge and Crombie, Deal and Kennedy, Schein, and Furnham and Gunter offer distinct yet complementary definitions of organizational culture.
3. Characteristics of Organizational Culture:
Organizational culture exhibits specific characteristics. It is multi-dimensional, meaning it comprises numerous components at various levels. It is relatively stable over short periods and takes time to establish. Significantly, it fosters a sense of belonging and mutual understanding among organizational members.
4. How Organizational Culture Develops:
Culture emerges through a variety of mechanisms. Leaders in the organization, especially those who have shaped it historically, serve as role models and influence cultural values. Critical incidents or key events within the organization can also shape cultural norms. Additionally, the need to maintain effective working relationships among members contributes to culture development. External environmental factors influence culture and are either dynamic or unchanging. This learning process occurs through the trauma model, as members adapt to external pressures, or the positive reinforcement model, where successful approaches become embedded.
5. Diversity of Culture:
While organizational culture often characterizes an entire organization, it’s crucial to recognize that there can be cultural variations within different parts of an organization. For instance, the culture of an outward-looking marketing department may differ substantially from that of an internally-focused manufacturing function. Despite these differences, some common organizational values or norms may exist.
6. Components of Organizational Culture:
Organizational culture consists of several components, including values, norms, artifacts, and management style. Values represent the organization’s beliefs about what is important and shape behavior, even when not explicitly defined. Norms are unwritten rules that guide behavior and are often enforced by the reactions of peers. Artifacts are the visible and tangible aspects of culture, like working environments and communication styles. Management style, as defined by leadership approaches, can also influence and be influenced by the organization’s culture.
7. Classifying Organizational Culture:
Classifying organizational culture can help analyze and understand its dynamics. Several models exist for categorizing cultures. Harrison’s organization ideologies, Handy’s culture typology, and Schein’s culture model are a few notable examples. Each of these models offers a unique perspective on the cultural dimensions and dynamics within organizations.
8. Measuring Organizational Culture:
Assessing organizational culture is a challenging task due to its subjective and often implicit nature. Various instruments and questionnaires have been developed to measure culture. Some of the widely used tools include the Organizational Ideology Questionnaire, the Organizational Culture Inventory, and questionnaires that measure dimensions of organizational climate. These instruments offer a structured approach to assess and understand an organization’s culture.
9. Supporting and Changing Culture:
Organizations may choose to support and reinforce their existing culture or initiate change efforts if the culture is deemed inappropriate. Culture can be underpinned by aligning actions and behaviors with existing values. Leadership plays a significant role in reinforcing culture by focusing on what leaders pay attention to, reacting to critical incidents and crises, role modeling, reward and status allocation criteria, and criteria for recruitment and promotion.
10. Importance of Employee Involvement:
Involving employees in the analysis and potential changes related to organizational culture is essential. This engagement generates commitment and ownership among employees, making them more likely to embrace cultural changes. Through group exercises and participation in culture-related initiatives, employees can contribute to the development and enhancement of organizational culture.
Organizational culture is a powerful force that influences how organizations function and perform. Understanding, managing, and assessing culture is essential for aligning an organization’s values with its objectives and ensuring a cohesive and productive work environment. The complexity of culture and its impact on behavior and performance necessitates ongoing research and practical applications. By embracing and adapting to the ever-evolving landscape of organizational culture, organizations can thrive and remain competitive in the modern business world. References:
SOURCE REVIEW 394 Organizational Behaviour Appropriate cultures It is not possible to say that one culture is better than another, only that a culture is to a greater or lesser extent appropriate in the sense of being relevant to the needs and circumstances of the organization and helping rather than hindering its performance. However, embedded cultures exert considerable infl uence on organizational behaviour and therefore performance. If there is an appropriate and effective culture it would therefore be desirable to take steps to support or reinforce it. If the culture is inappropriate, attempts should be made to determine what needs to be changed and to develop and implement plans for change. Furnham and Gunter (1993) considered that a culture will be more effective if ‘it is consistent in its components and shared amongst organizational members, and it makes the organization unique, thus differentiating it from other organizations’. Supporting and changing cultures While it may not be possible to defi ne an ideal structure or to prescribe how it can be developed, it can at least be stated with confi dence that embedded cultures exert considerable infl uence on organizational behaviour and therefore performance. If there is an appropriate and effective culture it would be desirable to take steps to support or reinforce it. If the culture is inappropriate attempts should be made to determine what needs to be changed and to develop and implement plans for change. 4. Resource – the perception of time demands with respect to task competition and performance standards. 5. Support – the perception of the degree to which superiors tolerate members’ behaviour, including willingness to let members learn from their mistakes without fear of reprisal. 6. Recognition – the perception that members’ contributions to the organization are acknowledged. 7. Fairness – the perception that organizational policies are non-arbitrary or capricious. 8. Innovation – the perception that change and creativity are encouraged, including risk taking in new areas where the member has little or no prior experience. Organizational Culture 395 Culture analysis In either case, the fi rst step is to analyse the existing culture. This can be done through questionnaires, surveys and discussions in focus groups or workshops. It is often helpful to involve people in analysing the outcome of surveys, getting them to produce a diagnosis of the cultural issues facing the organization and to participate in the development and implementation of plans and programmes to deal with any issues. This could form part of an organizational development programme, as described in Chapter 24. Groups can analyse the culture through the use of measurement instruments. Extra dimensions can be established by the use of group exercises such as ‘rules of the club’ (participants brainstorm the ‘rules’ or norms that govern behaviour) or ‘shield’ (participants design a shield, often quartered, which illustrates major cultural features of the organization). Joint exercises like this can lead to discussions on appropriate values that are much more likely to be ‘owned’ by people if they have helped to create them rather than having them imposed from above. While involvement is highly desirable, there will be situations when management has to carry out the analysis and determine the actions required without the initial participation of employees. But the latter should be kept informed and brought into discussion on developments as soon as possible. Culture support and reinforcement Culture support and reinforcement programmes aim to preserve and underpin what is good and functional about the present culture. Schein (1985) has suggested that the most powerful primary mechanisms for culture embedding and reinforcement are: • what leaders pay attention to, measure and control; • leaders’ reactions to critical incidents and crises; • deliberate role modelling, teaching and coaching by leaders; • criteria for allocation of rewards and status; • criteria for recruitment, selection, promotion and commitment. Culture can also be underpinned by reaffi rming and operationalizing existing values through actions designed, for example, to implement total quality and customer care programmes, to provide fi nancial and non-fi nancial rewards for expected behaviour, to improve productivity, to promote and reward good teamwork or to develop a learning organization (see Chapter 40). Additionally, the value set of the organization can be used as headings for reviewing individual and team performance – emphasizing that people are expected to uphold the values, . • If there is an appropriate and effective culture, it would be desirable to take steps to support or reinforce it. • If the culture is inappropriate, attempts should be made to determine what needs to be changed and to develop and implement plans for change. Organizational Culture 399 References Cooke, R and Lafferty, J (1989) Organizational Culture Inventory, Human Synergistic, Plymouth, MI Deal, T and Kennedy, A (1982) Corporate Cultures, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA Denison, D R (1996) What is the difference between organizational culture and organizational climate? 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