Searching for an essay?

Browse the database of more than 4500 essays donated by our community members!

Organizational Culture

INTRODUCTION: Culture, as Eldridge and Crombie (1974, cited in Burnes, 1996, p.112) stated, refers ‘to the unique configuration of norms, values, beliefs, ways of behaving and so on, that characterize the manner in which groups and individuals combine to get things done. Every organization has its own unique culture even though it may not have tried to change, manage or manipulate it. Rather it will have been probably changed, managed or manipulated, based on the values of the top management or core people who build and/or direct that organization. Over time individuals (particularly the organization’s leaders) attempt to change, manage or manipulate the culture of their organizations to fit their own preferences or changing marketplace conditions.

Then this culture influences the decision-making processes, it affects styles of management and what everyone determines as success. When an organization is created, it becomes its own world and its culture becomes the foundation on which the organization will exist in the world. In the past decade, more and more companies have attempted to make significant changes in the way that they manage their businesses. In a world where rapid change has become the norm, a variety of forces have driven organizations to undertake the task of changing their culture (Heifetz & Hagberg, 2003).

Writing service




[Rated 96/100]

Prices start at $12
Min. deadline 6 hours
Writers: ESL
Refund: Yes

Payment methods: VISA, MasterCard, American Express


[Rated 94/100]

Prices start at $11
Min. deadline 3 hours
Writers: ESL, ENL
Refund: Yes

Payment methods: VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover


[Rated 91/100]

Prices start at $12
Min. deadline 3 hours
Writers: ESL, ENL
Refund: Yes

Payment methods: VISA, MasterCard, JCB, Discover

Definition of Organizational Culture: There is no single definition for organizational culture. A variety of perspectives ranging from disciplines such as anthropology and sociology. Some of the definitions are listed below:

  • Organizational culture is a series of understandings about action that is organized and finds expression in language whose nuances are special to the group (Becker and Geer 1960, cited in Michelson, 1996, p.16 ).
  • Organizational culture is a series of understandings and meanings shared by peoples that are relevant to a special group which are passed on to new members, and are tacit among members (Louis 1980, cited in Michelson, 1996, p.16).
  • Organizational culture is a system of knowledge and standards for believing, evaluating and understanding etc that serve environmental backgrounds (Allaire and Firsirotu 1984, cited in Michelson, 1996, p.16).

Basic assumptions and beliefs have a deeper level that is: learned responses to internal integration’s problems and survival’s problems in group’s external environment; are shared by members of an organization; that operate unaware; and that define in a basic “taken-for-granted” mode in an organization’s view of itself and its environment (Schein 1988, cited in Michelson, 1996, p.16 ).

CHANGING ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE: All the organizations’ culture isn’t static: because the internal and external factors influence culture change, so culture will change. According to Burnes(1991, cited in Burnes, 1996, p.115): assumed that culture is locked into personal values, beliefs and norms of an organization because these conceptions’ change is difficult. This type of organic culture will be slow if there isn’t a major shock to the organization. It’s a big problem whether organizational culture can be changed or not. In the following, this problem will be discussed: analyzing whether culture can be changed, and if it does, in what way.

Culture can be Changed: Many people take a more considered view while sharing the belief that culture can be changed. Schein(1985, cited in Burnes, 1996, p.117) who is one of the more influential, believed that before any attempt is made to change an organization’s culture, it is first necessary to understand the nature of its existing culture and how this is sustained. He argued that it can be achieved by:

  • For new members, analyzing the process of employment and induction;
  • Analyzing responses to critical events are often translated into the unwritten history of an organization. But rules of behaviour are still very strong.
  • Beliefs, values and assumptions of guardians and promoters of an organization’s culture are analyzed;
  • Paying especial attention to puzzling characteristics which have been observed.

Schein’s approach is to treat culture as an adaptive and tangible learning process and emphasizes the way in which an organization communicates its culture to new members. For a variety of reasons, organizations may find that their existing culture is unsuitable or even harmful to their competitive needs. In such a situation, many organizations have decided to change their culture. After a survey carried out in 1988 by Dobson (1988, cited in Burnes, 1996, p.116), Dobson states that these organizations sought to change culture by shaping the beliefs, values and attitudes of employees. Dobson identified a four-step approach to culture change based on these companies’ actions:

  • Step 1 To change the composition of the workforce, an organization can change policies of recruitment, selection and redundancy so that prospects of promotion and employment are dependent on those controlling and displaying the beliefs and values that the organization wishes to promote.
  • Step 2 Organization may reorganize the workforce in order to make employees and managers who display the required traits occupy positions of influence.
  • Step 3 Organization can effectively communicate the new values by using a variety of methods such as one-to-one interviews, briefing groups, quality circles, house journals, etc.
  • Step 4 Organization can change systems and procedures that related to rewards and evaluations.
See also  Enron Scandal Explanation, Analysis, and History

Many peoples advocating culture change adopt a similar approach. Some of these underestimate the difficulty involved in changing culture. For example, Egan(1994, cited in Burnes, 1996, p.117) took just four pages to show how organizations could quickly, and with apparent ease, identify and change their cultures. Gordon et al.(1985, cited in Burnes, 1996, p.117) conclude that: “this type of generic approach to culture has been criticized as being too simplistic, and putting forward recommendations which are far too general to be of use to individual organizations”. Schwartz and Davis (1981, cited in Burnes, 1996, p.118) suggest that: it should compare the strategic significance(importance to the organization’s future) of the change with the cultural resistance when an organization is considering any form of change. They term this the ‘cultural risk’ approach.

They argue it is possible for an organization to decide with a degree of certainty whether to ignore the culture, manage around it, attempt to change the culture to fit the strategy or change the strategy to fit the culture. Though Schein (1984&1985, cited in Burnes,1996, p.118) believes that culture can be changed, he also argues that there is a negative side to creating a strong and cohesive organizational culture. Shared values make organizations resistant to certain types of change or strategic options regardless of their merit. Although many peoples believe in the advisability of culture change and strong cultures in some situations, and some question this, there are also people who believe that culture can not be changed or managed at all. Meek (1982, cited in Burnes,1996, p.119) commented that: “culture as a whole can not be manipulated, turned on or off, although it needs to be recognized that some [organizations] are in a better position than others to intentionally influence aspects of it… culture should be regarded as something an organization ‘is’, not something it ‘has’: it is not an independent variable nor can it be created, discovered or destroyed by the whims of management”.

Filby and Willmott(1988, cited in Burnes, 1996,p.119) also questioned the notion that management has the capacity to control culture. They point out that this ignores the way in which an individual’s values and beliefs are conditioned by the experience of exposure to the media, social activities, and previous occupational activities. A further factor against the feasibility of managing/changing culture is the ethical dimension. Van Maanen and Kunda(1989, cited in Burnes,1996, p.120) argued that: managers attempt to control what employees feel and what they say or do behind the interest in culture. Their argument is: culture is a mechanism for training emotion that is a method of guiding the way people are expected to feel. It can be conceived that they attempt to change the culture. Cooper (1998) conclude three views relevant to whether culture can be changed :

  1. Root Metaphor: If peoples believe that culture is a root metaphor, they believe that there are no instant means about changing a culture which will be developed and which is passed on from generation to generation of the workforce. Cultural change will happen only through the hundreds of forces acting between all the actors, but slowly. It cannot be pre-determined.
  2. External and independent variable: If peoples believe that culture is an external and independent variable, they believe that there is little one can do to change a culture in the face of external social behaviours, values and beliefs that employees bring into the workplace.
  3. Internal variable: If peoples believe that culture is an internal variable, they believe that the culture can be directed and changed. However some focus on the more visible symbols and artifacts, many on people’s behavioural patterns, and others on people’s underlying behaviour norms, values, and beliefs.
See also  Economic Impact Of A Sports Facility

How to Change Culture: There are many ‘solutions’ to changing culture, some prescriptive (directive) others more philosophical (enabling) (Cooper,1998). The need for a change in culture is invariably precipitated by some significant, even critical, external environmental change. Management Directed: Culture change through the actions and behaviour of leaders rather than a process they prescribe a set of actions to create an environment. Peters and Austin (1985, cited in Cooper,1998) equates business and leadership with “show business” and thus the need to create the right atmosphere. So they advocate “shaping values, symbolizing attention” even to the point of saying “it is the opposite of ‘professional management “.

Drama can be just for impact and creating stories that get told time and time again, such as when the founder of Mcdonald’s ordered all manager’s chair backs to be sawn off so they would be more inclined to get out and meet the customer. Consensus building based on sharing: developing high trust between individuals; allow time for people to change; setting the direction but allow the employees to work out the details, more direct intervention, provide the training to develop the new skills needed. Within the atomized organization, managers will be both the bearers of culture as well as its promoters.

Management Enabled: According to Schein(1985, cited in Cooper,1998): an organization needs leadership to help the group learn new assumptions and unlearn some of its cultural assumptions when culture becomes dysfunctional. Leaders encourage groups to undergo group cues. The aim is to surface the unconscious assumptions and values of the group as a prelude to changing them to meet the needs of a new environment. Schein had process models:

  • “General Evolutionary Process [this is a change from within a group that is natural and inevitable and passes through predictable stages].
  • Adaptation, Learning, or Specific Evolutionary Process [here the environment causes responses by which the group learns and adapts].
  • Revolutionary Process [in this power is a key variable].
  • Managed Process [here there is a focus on what can and cannot be changed]”.

Schein proposes that leaders are responsible for which model to adopt and for ensuring the group knows and agrees which model it is using. Burnes (1996) concludes: If organizational culture lacks clear guidelines, managers must make themselves choose based on their own circumstances and perceived options as to whether to attempt to change their organization’s culture. If an organization lacks strong or suitable cultures which bind their members together in a common purpose and legitimate and guide decision-making, managers may find it difficult either to agree among themselves or to gain agreement from others in the organization.

MANAGING ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE. Cultures are hardly planned or predictable; they are the natural products of social interaction and develop and emerge over time. Someone believes that cultures can be shaped to suit strategic ends. Even if cultures can be managed is this necessarily a good thing? This is the tendency for culture to be promoted as a device for increasing organizational effectiveness. Culture spans the range of management thinking. Organizational culture has been one of the most enduring buzzwords of popular management. Why? Perhaps most importantly culture penetrates to the essence of an organization – it almost analogous with the concept of personality in relation to the individual and this acute sense of what an organization is – its mission, core values – seems to have become a necessary asset of the modern company. There is the contentious question of whether or not organizational culture can be managed or not. While there may be no definitive answer to the question.

According to Bate (1994, cited in Willcoxson & Millett, 2000, p.97): there exist two basic approaches to culture and strategy: conforming (maintaining order and continuity) and transforming (changing and breaking existing patterns). The effectiveness of the chosen approach to organizational culture and strategy at any given time is dependent on contextual factors that relate to both the internal and the external environment. Thus, context determines a culture needs to be maintained or changed, but the strategies adopted are very much determined by the perspective subscribed to by the manager or change agent. In dealing with the management of organizational culture, it is first necessary to identify as fully as possible the attributes of the existing or new target culture – the myths, symbols, rituals, values and assumptions that underpin the culture. Allen et al.(1985, cited in Willcoxson & Millett, 2000, p.97) concluded that: action can be instigated in any of several key points of leverage:

  • Recruitment, selection and replacement -organization ensure that appointments strengthen the existing cultures or support a culture change, that can affect culture management. Organization can change the culture by using removal and replacement;
  • socialization -which is especially critical in fragmented organizational cultures. An existing or new culture can be provided by induction and subsequent development and training for acculturation and for improved interpersonal communication and teamwork;
  • performance management/reward systems -an organization can highlight and encourage desired behaviours that may (or may not) in turn lead to changed values through using performance management/reward systems.
  • leadership and modelling – executives, managers, supervisors can reinforce or assist in the overturning of existing myths, symbols, behaviour and values, and demonstrates the universality and integrity of vision, mission or value statements;
  • participation – it is essential that participation of all organization members in cultural reconstruction or maintenance activities and associated input, decision making and development activities if the long-term change is to be achieved in values, not just behaviours.
  • interpersonal communication – an existing organizational culture can be supported much by satisfying interpersonal relationships. Satisfying interpersonal relationships integrate members into a culture; effective teamwork supports either change or development in and communication of culture;
  • structures, policies, procedures and allocation of resources – need to be congruent with organizational strategy and culture and objectives.
See also  "The Broken Heart" Essay

The above constitutes a number of many strategies and leverage points that can be used in organizations to manage an organization in terms of its overall culture. The management of culture is based on an understanding of the tacit and explicit aspects that make up the existing culture. MANIPULATING ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE: Culture determines what a group pays attention to and monitors in the external environment and how it responds to this environment. Thus, as Bate (1994, cited in Willcoxson & Millett, 2000 ) notes, for those who take an anthropological stance, organizational culture and organizational strategy are inextricably linked and dependent on each other. Culture is not a separable aspect of an organization, it is not readily manipulated, and it is not created or maintained primarily by leaders.

For the peoples who called “scientific rationalists”, organizational culture is one aspect of the component parts of an organization, an aspect that can be measured, manipulated and changed as organizational variables such as skills, strategy, structure, systems, style and staff. Organizational culture is primarily a set of values and beliefs articulated by leaders to guide the organization, translated by managers and employees into appropriate behaviours and reinforced through rewards and sanctions. ‘Scientific rationalist’ peoples thus tend to talk about culture as if it is a definable thing – the culture of the organization; the organization has a service culture – and their strategies for change focus on ‘modular, design-and-build activity’ often related to structures, procedures and rewards.

CONCLUSIONS: Organizational cultures are created or changed by people. In part, an organization’s culture is also created and changed by the organization’s leadership. Leaders at the executive level are the principal source for the generation and re-infusion of an organization’s ideology. What constitutes organizational culture and its perceived role in organizational are argued, resting on perceptions of culture either as a historically-based, change-resistant, deep social system which underpins all organizational strategy and action or as just one aspect of the total organizational system, manipulable through surface structures such as rewards.

The model adopted will determine which of the key points of leverage are deemed most likely to achieve the desired outcome of cultural maintenance or change. The perspective adopted will determine the focus of cultural change, development or maintenance activities. There are no definitive answers to questions about whether culture can be changed, managed and manipulated or not. There are different views about this question. The view of yours based on your knowledge, experience about organizational culture. Although there is no definitive answer to the question, you can conclude an answer which fits your view through analyzing this paper.

Cite this page

Choose cite format:
Organizational Culture. (2021, Jun 15). Retrieved October 5, 2022, from