Conversations often refer to different organisations having different cultures. For the average person – “culture” may mean that they perceive the organisation they are involved with to be
pushy, harsh and authoritarian
very political with traps and pitfalls for people to fall into if they are not nimble and able to wheeler-deal and hold their own in a brawl
rule and ritual bound
cold and separated
brisk, dynamic, opportunitic
exploitative, all take and no give
caring and genuinely interested in people as people
People classify what they see as the characteristics of organisations. We construe and organisation culture. It is socially defined and experienced. The experience of the things we feel are displayed by the “culture and its practices” affect how we behave and respond to the organisations we work in.
Culture Control and EngineeringManagers seek to “change” the culture of the organisation. What they therefore try to do is shape the way that people behave, feel, contribute, interact, perform as employees of the organisation. This is usually called leadership! They initiate the debates, set the imperatives and priorities. If the managers want to pursue quality improvement then meetings will be held, training will be done, banners will be waved – new imperatives are brought in to the business to be integrated by way of activities, expectations, values and sanctions into the culture of the business. This is business – the business must succeed in co-ordinated, highly charged ways.
New policies, methods and roles are introduced to shape behaviours, encourage, promote and require – to push certain expectations of performance in the business and thus to control.
Spoken of in other ways, culture in organisational terms is broadly the social/behavioural manifestation and experiencing of a whole range of issues such as :
the way work is organised and experienced
how authority exercised and distributed
how people are and feel rewarded, organised and controlled
the values and work orientation of staff
the degree of formalisation, standardisation and control through systems there is/should be
the value placed on planning, analysis, logic, fairness etc
how much initiative, risk-taking, scope for individuality and expression is given
rules and expectations about such things as informality in interpersonal relations, dress, personal eccentricity etc
emphasiss given to rules, procedures, specifications of performance and results, team or individual working
Organisational Culture and Working LifeWe are born into a culture, we take up employment in a culture. We might therefore argue that the culture of an organisation affects the type of people employed, their career aspirations, their educational backgrounds, their status in society. The culture of the organisation may embrace them. It may reject them.
VisibilityOrganisational culture may be visible
in the type of buildings, offices, shops of the organisation.
in the image projected in publicity and public relations in general. Think for example of the differences between a local authority, a computer manufacturer, and a merchant bank.
An organisation’s culture may be imperceptable, taken for granted, assumed, a status quo that we live and participate in but do not question. Elements of the culture may be questioned where individual or group expectations do not correspond to the behaviours associated with the prevailing values of those who uphold “the culture”.
An organisation may display elements of several “cultures” which may contradict each other, which may compete. We can even consider the characteristics of an anti-organisational or countervailing culture.
Classifying/Modelling Organisation CultureTo understand organisation cultures we can begin by describing types of organisation such as democractic, laissez-faire, participative etc. Such descriptions in a sense become representative “models” of organisations (abstrations). The model defines our assessment of elements, relationships, determinants and likely effects. Our model may enable us to predict events so that we act to steer our own behaviour and the behvaiour of others.
Defining “models or frameworks” helps us to understand what the phenomena is, discuss it with others and identify what we might do to translate the model or parts of it into reality.
Various models indicative of organisation culture have been suggested. Important ones include
autocratic, benevolent autocractic, consusltative and participative systems of organsiation
Burns and Stalker
mechanistic and organismic organisations
Simple Structure, Machine Bureaucracy, Divisionalized, Professional Bureaucracy, the Adhocracy
power, role, task and personal cultures of organisations
Pedler et al
the Learning Organisation
A Few References
Handy C, Understanding Organisations, Penguin
Mintzberg H, The Structuring of Organisations, Addision Wesley
Reddin W, Managerial Effectiveness, McGraw Hill
Likert R, The Professional Manager, Wiley
Mintzberg H, Lampel J, Quinn J, Ghoshal S, 2003, The Strategy Process Concepts, Contexts and Cases, Prentice Hall, I988.
Buchanan D and Huczynski A, Organisational Behaviour, Prentice Hall
© 2003 Developed and maintained by Chris Jarvis(© Chris Jarvis) Last updated on: 09/06/2005 18:05:35
This article online at http://www.bola.biz/culture/culture.html