Organizational culture or organizational tradition is an essential concept because it has a widespread influence, so on the behaviours and actions of employees. And it represents a powerful force on an organization’s strategies, structures, and systems, the way it responds to change ultimately, how well the organization performs.
So according to Edgar Schenin (1992), culture exists at three of different levels.
Organizational culture – Artifacts
these are the things that we can see, hear and observe. This is mostly the view of the organization that the public experience. The included items are,
- Dress codes
- Patterns of behaviour
- Physical symbols
- Office layout
Organizational culture – Espoused values
these can identify from stories and the opinions of those within the organization. And include items are,
- How people justify what they do.
Organizational culture – Assumptions
These beliefs are so profoundly included in a culture that members are no longer consciously aware of them. So there are,
- Beliefs on environmental issues.
- How people should be treated.
As you go through the levels, the elements become less visible. So at the third level, those within the organization may not even be aware of their beliefs; they have become so fundamentally part of their way of being.
And for organization, understanding this helps them to anticipate problems with their culture and allows them to see how difficult it may be to change, changing level one items, such as dress codes or office layouts, is relatively easy, but changing values and beliefs can be very difficult. This may also lead to differences between the levels, for example, what the organization says and does may be different from how the outside world perceives it. The public may view individual acts as superficial and often do not believe that the underlying beliefs of the organization have changed.
Why is culture influential?
Culture is that invisible bond and ties the people of a community together. And it refers to the pattern of human activity. Because the importance of culture lies in its close association with the way of living of the people. And the different cultures of the world have brought in diversity in the ways of life of the people inhabiting different parts of the world.
Organizational culture is related to the development of one’s attitude. And the cultural values of an individual have a profound impact on his or her attitude towards life. They shape an individual’s thinking and influence his or her mindset.
- This gives an individual a unique identity itself
- And community gives its people a character of their own
- Also, culture shapes the personality of a community.
Advantages of having an influential culture
An organization’s culture has a significant bearing on the way. It relates to its stakeholders (especially customers and staff), the development of its strategy and its structure. An influential culture will:
- facilitate excellent communication and coordination within the organization.
- provide a framework of social identity and a sense of belonging.
- reduce differences among the members of the organization.
- strengthen dominant values and attitudes.
- regulate behaviour and norms among members of the organization.
- minimize some of the perceptual differences among people within the organization.
- reflect the philosophy and values of the organization’s founder or dominant group.
- affect the organization’s strategy and ability to respond to change.
Disadvantages of having an influential culture
An influential culture that does not have positive attributes about stakeholders, And change is a hindrance to effectiveness. Other disadvantages of an influential culture are:
- Strong cultures are difficult to change beliefs which underpin culture can be deep-rooted
- These may have a blinkered view which could affect the organization’s ability or desire to learn new skills.
- May stress inappropriate values. A strong and positive culture can enhance the performance of the organization. But an influential culture which is negative can have the opposite effect,
- Where two strong cultures come into contact, e.g. in a merger, then conflicts can arise.
- A healthy perception may not be attuned to the environment. e.g., an influential, innovative culture is only appropriate in a dynamic, shifting environment
5 Influences on culture
The structure and culture of an organization will develop over time and will be determined by a complex set of variables, including:
Size – Largeness of the organization in terms of turnover, actual size and number of employees.
Technology – How technologically advanced is the organization either in terms of its product or its productive processes?
Diversity – Diversity of product range, geographical spread and cultural make-up of its stakeholders.
Age – Oldness of the business and the managers of the company. Whether strategic level decision-makers have experienced to draw upon or not
History – What worked in the past? Whether the decision-makers have past successes or not to draw upon. Also, the willingness to learn from their mistakes.
Ownership – is the organization owned by a sole trader? A small number of institutional shareholders or a large number of small shareholders should be concerned.
When analyzing an organization, look for clues given as to the culture of the organization using these main areas, although there are many other influences, including the leadership style adopted.
Other influences on culture
As well as the main influences on culture listed above, there are other more subtle influences:
- The degree of individual initiative – is about encouragement or decisions about referred upwards.
- The degree of risk tolerance – This is about managers may be only allowed to follow low-risk strategies.
- Clarity of direction – is there a clear focus; are these clear objectives and performance expectations?
- The degree of integration between groups – This is about different units encouraged to work together, management aloof or approachable and communication clear to lower-level staff or not.
- The reward system – are individuals rewarded for succeeding, i.e. are rewards based on performance criteria?
- Conflict tolerance – Encouragement of employees to air grievances.
- Communication patterns – Identification of between formal hierarchies and informal networks.
- Formalization of clothing and office layout – rules are strict or not?
- The kind of people employed – are they graduates, young, old, etc.?
The cultural web framework
According to Johnson and Scholes, the social web is identifying several elements that can use to describe or influence organizational culture within the time. This model can be used to analyze the current organizational culture and to identify changes that could be made to improve it. The Paradigm: Organization’s purpose, mission and values. The following six elements influence the paradigm.
Stories and Myths: The past events and people talked about inside and outside the company. Who and what the company chooses to immortalize conveys a message about what is valued within the organization?
Rituals and Routines: Day to day behaviour and actions of people which signal acceptable behaviour. This determines what is expected to happen in given situations, and what is valued by management This could include routines such as an executive Vising the factory floor lo speak to employees each week, or rituals, such as buying a cake when it’s your birthday
Symbols: These include organizational logos and designs and formal or informal dress codes. This also extends to symbols of power such as parking spaces, or comer offices.
Organizational Structures: Reporting lines, hierarchies, and the way that workflows through the business This includes both the formal structure defined by the organization chart and the simple lines of power and influence which show whose contributions are most important.
Control Systems: The processes to monitor what is going on here and there. These include internal control systems. performance measurement and reward structures.
Power Structures: Who is the decision-maker, how widely spread power is, and what is power based? The real power in the company may involve one or two critical senior executives, a whole group of executives, or even a department. The key is that these people have the most significant influence on decisions, operations, and strategic direction.
The McKinsey 7-S Model
McKinsey, a US management consultancy, produced a framework for understanding organizations (the McKinsey 7-S framework). This model highlights the ‘hard’ and ‘soft aspects of organizations which can influence the culture. Similar to the cultural web framework, it also recognizes the inter-relationships between the elements. In the cultural web, you saw that all the aspects overlapped, in the 7-S model, lines are drawn between each of the elements to show that each element will have an impact on every other element. If one element is changed, then changes in all the other elements will have to be considered.
When public sector monopolies in the UK, such as British Telecom and the utility companies were privatized, the resulting shift to profit orientation created a dramatic change in their cultures and management attitudes. This also necessitated the recruitment of new management. The change of strategy required a new culture and structure.
- We can identify as the hard elements such as strategy, structure and systems
- As per the theorem, the soft elements are shared values, skills, style and staff.
The hard elements are more visible from outside the organization, while the soft elements are usually only completely understood from within the organization. Need more about organizational culture? Click here
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