9.1 Definition of Organization Culture


Culture is shared meaning, understanding  and  sense making  .

The   shared   beliefs,   values   and   expectations   held   by   individual   also   constitute organization culture.


  Organization   culture   can   therefore   said   to be   the   essential   collection   of shared values   which   provide   both   explicit   and implicit   sign   post   to preferred  behavior  in the  organizations.

9.2 Importance of culture in an organisation

  1. It creates distinction between one organization and others.
  2. It conveys a sense of identity for organizations members.

iii. It  facilities  the  generation  of  commitment  to  something  larger  than one’s individual  interest.

  1. It enhances the stability of social system.

9.3 Characteristics of Organization Culture  

  1. Innovation and risk taking The degree to which  employees  are  encouraged  to be  innovative  and  take  risk.
  2. Attention to  detail The  degree  to which  employees  are  expected  to  exhibit  precision  ,analysis and  attention   to detail .

iii. Outcome  orientation  The degree  to which  management  focuses  on  result  or  outcomes  rather  than  on the techniques  and  processes  used  to achieve  those  outcomes.

  1. People orientation The  degree  to which  management  decisions  take  into  consideration  the effect  of outcomes  on  people  within  organization.
  2. Team orientation The degree to which work activities are organized around teams rather than individuals.
  3. Aggressiveness The degree to which people are aggressive and competitive rather than easy going

vii. Stability  The  degree  to which  organizational  activities  emphasize  maintaining  the  status  quo in contrast to growth.

viii. Norms  Standard to behavior   exist including guidelines on how much work to do .

  1. Dominant values These   are   those   values   that   the   organizations   advocates   and   expects  from the participants  in an  organization  e.g.  High quality, low absenteeism and high efficiency.
  2. Rules These are strict guidelines related to getting along in the organization.

9.4 Creating an Ethical Organization Culture

1. Be a visible role model

Employees  will  look  to top  management  behavior  as  bench  mark  for  defining appropriate  behavior.

2. Communicate   ethical expectations

Ethnical ambiguities can be minimized by   creating and disseminating an organizational code of ethics. It  should state  the  organization’s  primary  values  and  ethical  rules that  employees  are expected  to  follow.

3. Provide ethical training

Set up   seminars   ,workshops   and   ethical training   programs   .Use   the training sessions   to   reinforce   the   organization’s   primary   values, rules   and   standard   of conduct  .

4.  Visibility rewards to ethical acts and punish unethical ones

Performance  appraisals  of managers  should  include a  point  by point  evaluation  of how   his   or   her   decisions   measure   up   against   the organization   code   of   ethics .People who act ethically should be visibly rewarded for their behavior and unethical  acts  should be  punished .

5. Provide protective mechanisms

The  organization  needs  to provide  formal  mechanisms  so that  employees  can discuss ethical dilemmas  and  report  unethical  behaviour  without  fear  of   reprimand.

Creating a Culture

A  culture  is  created basically by  a  founder  or  top-level  manager  who  forms  a  core group  that  shares  a  common vision .

Stage I

i. Recruitment of like minded individuals  These people will be attracted instinctively to the founder’s visions and aims.

ii. The development  of groups  norms  These are likely to be strongly influenced by founders in the formative stages

iii.     Statement  of  espoused  values  The founders  or  initiators  will  have  the greatest  influence  on these  values  in the early stages  , subsequently, the   organizations  leadership  must  demonstrate  to other stakeholders  that  what  is saying  truly  believes  and not  accordingly .

iv. Production  of  mission  statement  These  provides  visible  evidence  of espoused  values  and  norms  and  the  platform for  the  organization’s  relationships  with  various  stakeholders.

Stage 2

These  comprise  of habit  and  tradition  building  activities,  aimed  at embedding  the culture  in the  day   to day  activities  of  the  organizations  by  means  of  procedural and  ritualistic  measures such as:

i. The  introduction  of appropriate  communication  systems  and  decision  making to assist  integration

ii. The   installation   of   organizational   procedures   and   rules   which   promotes integration  by setting  standards  for members  to follow.

iii.     Promotion  of  organization  symbols  Battle  flags  national  emblems  demonstrates  the  unity  of  the  organization which  come  to  embody  a  certain  reputation  e.g.  Red Cross.

iv. Development of key rituals, helps  to establish  the organizations  ethos’s  i.e.-  the part  of  culture  to do with  organization  climate. v. The  production  of  policy  statements  on the  key  issues  .These  lay  the  basis for  relations with  stakeholders.

9.4 Types of Organisational Culture

Handy describes four main types of organisational cultures: power culture; role culture; task culture; and person culture.

  • Power Culture

Power culture depends on a central power source with rays of influence from the central figure throughout the organisation. A power culture is frequently found in small entrepreneurial organisations and relies on trust, empathy and personal communications for its effectiveness. Control is exercised from the centre by the selection of key individuals. There are few rules and procedures, and little bureaucracy. It is a political organisation with decisions taken largely on the balance of influence.

  • Role Culture

Role culture is often stereotyped as a bureaucracy and works by logic and rationality. Role culture rests on the strength of strong organisational ‘pillars’ – the functions of specialists in, for example, finance, purchasing and production. The work of, and interaction between, the pillars is controlled by procedures and rules, and co-ordinated by the pediment of a small band of senior managers. Role or job description is often more important than the individual and position power is the main source of power.

  • Task Culture

Task culture is job-oriented or project-oriented. In terms of structure the task culture can be likened to a net, some strands of which are stronger than others, and with much of the power and influence at the interstices. An example is the matrix organisation. Task culture seeks to bring together the right resources and people, and utilises the unifying power of the group. Influence is widely spread and based more on expert power than on position or personal power.


  • Person Culture

Person culture is where the individual is the central focus and any structure exists to serve the individuals within it. When a group of people decide that it is in their own interests to band together to do their own thing and share office space, equipment or clerical assistance then the resulting organisation would have a person culture. Examples are groups of barristers, architects, doctors or consultants. Although it is found in only a few organisations many individuals have a preference for person culture, for example university professors and specialists. Management hierarchies and control mechanisms are possible only by mutual consent. Individuals have almost complete autonomy and any influence over them is likely to be on the basis of personal power.

9.5 The Components of Culture

  • Values

Values are beliefs in what is best or good for the organization and what should or ought to happen. The ‘value set’ of an organization may only be recognized at top level, or it may be shared throughout the business, in which case it could be described as ‘value-driven’.

The stronger the values the more they will influence behaviour. This does not depend upon their having been articulated. Implicit values that are deeply embedded in the culture of an organization and are reinforced by the behaviour of management can be highly influential, while espoused values that are idealistic and are not reflected in managerial behaviour may have little or no effect. When values are acted on they are called ‘values in use’. Some of the most typical areas in which values can be expressed, implicitly or explicitly, are: performance; competence; competitiveness; innovation; quality; customer service; teamwork; care and consideration for people.

Values are translated into reality (enacted) through norms and artefacts. They may also be expressed through the media of language (organizational jargon), rituals, stories and myths.

  • Norms

Norms are the unwritten rules of behaviour, the ‘rules of the game’ that provide informalguidelines on how to behave. Norms tell people what they are supposed to be doing, saying,believing, and even wearing. They are never expressed in writing if they were, they would be policies or procedures. They are passed on by word of mouth or behaviour and can be enforced by the reactions of people if they are violated. They can exert very powerful pressure on behaviour because of these reactions; we control others by the way we react to them.

Norms refer to such aspects of behaviour as:

  • how managers treat the members of their teams (management style) and how the latter relate to their managers;
  • the prevailing work ethic, eg ‘work hard, play hard’, ‘come in early, stay late’, ‘if you cannot finish your work during business hours you are obviously inefficient’, ‘look busy at all times’, ‘look relaxed at all times’;
  • Status; how much importance is attached to it; the existence or lack of obvious status symbols.
  • Artefacts

Artefacts are the visible and tangible aspects of an organization that people hear, see or feel and which contributes to their understanding of the organization’s culture. Artefacts can include such things as the working environment, the tone and language used in e-mails, letters or memoranda, the manner in which people address each other at meetings, in e-mails or over the telephone, the welcome (or lack of welcome) given to visitors and the way in which telephonists deal with outside calls. Artefacts can be very revealing.

  • Management Style

Management style is the approach managers use to deal with people. It is also called ‘leadership style. There are many styles of leadership, and leaders can be classified in extremes as follows: Autocratic, Democratic, Laissez-faire, Bureaucratic, and Expert Leadership.

Most managers adopt an approach somewhere between the extremes. Some will vary it according to the situation or their feelings at the time, others will stick to the same style whatever happens. A good case can be made for using an appropriate style according to the situation, but it is undesirable to be inconsistent in the style used in similar situations. Every manager has his or her own style but this will be influenced by the organizational culture, which may produce a prevailing management style that represents the behavioural norm for managers that is generally expected and adopted.

9.6 Influences on the Development of Culture

The culture and structure of an organisation develop over time and in response to a complex set of factors. We can, however, identify a number of key influences that are likely to play an important role in the development of any corporate culture. These include: history; primary function and technology; goals and objectives; size; location; management and staffing; and the environment.

  • History: The reason, and manner in which, the organisation was originally formed, its age, and the philosophy and values of its owners and first senior managers will affect culture. A key event in the organisation’s history such as a merger or major reorganisation, or a new generation of top management, may bring about a change in culture. Corporate history can be an effective induction tool to assist a growth programme, and to help integrate acquisitions and new employees by infusion with the organisation’s culture and identity.
  • Primary function and technology: The nature of the organisation’s ‘business’ and its primary function have an important influence on its culture. This includes the range and quality of products and services provided the importance of reputation and the type of customers. The primary function of the organisation will determine the nature of the technological processes and methods of undertaking work, which in turn also affect structure and culture.
  • Goals and objectives: Although a business organisation may pursue profitability, this is not by itself very clear or a sufficient criterion for its effective management. For example, to what extent is emphasis placed on long-term survival or growth and development? How much attention is given to avoiding risks and uncertainties? Or how much concern is shown for broader social responsibilities? The organisation must give attention to objectives in all key areas of its operations. The combination of objectives and resultant strategies will influence culture, and may itself be influenced by changes in culture.
  • Size: Usually larger organisations have more formalized structures and cultures. Increased size is likely to result in separate departments and possibly split-site operations. This may cause difficulties in communication and inter-departmental rivalries with the need for effective co-ordination. A rapid expansion, or decline, in size and rate of growth, and resultant changes in staffing will influence structure and culture.
  • Location: Geographical location and the physical characteristics can have a major influence on culture – for example, whether an organisation is located in a quiet rural location or a busy city centre. This can influence the types of customers and the staff employed. It can also affect the nature of services provided, the sense of ‘boundary’ and distinctive identity, and opportunities for development.
  • Management and staffing: Top executives can have considerable influence on the nature of corporate culture.However, all members of staff help to shape the dominant culture of an organisation, irrespective of what senior management feel it should be. Culture is also determined by the nature of staff employed and the extent to which they accept management philosophy and policies or pay only ‘lip service’. Another important influence is the match between corporate culture and employees’ perception of the psychological contract.
  • The environment: In order to be effective, the organisation must be responsive to external environmental influences. For example, if the organisation operates within a dynamic environment it requires a structure and culture that are sensitive and readily adaptable to change. An organic structure is more likely to respond effectively to new opportunities and challenges, and risks and limitations presented by the external environment.
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