Culture permeates all aspects of any society. It acts as the basic fabric that binds people together. Culture dictates tastes in music, clothes, and even the political and philosophical views of a group of people. Culture is not only shared, but it is deep and stable. However, culture does not exist simply as a societal phenomenon. Organizations, both large and small, adhere to a culture. Organizational culture determines how an organization operates and how its members frame events both inside and outside the organization. This paper explores the basic concepts of organizational culture.
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It describes hat organizational culture is, its importance, how it is formed, various types of organizational cultures that exist and the role of leaders in influencing the organization culture. Organizational Culture A plethora of definitions exist for organizational culture. Various scholars define culture as how an organization goes about meeting its goals and missions, how an organization solves problems, or as a deeply rooted value that shapes the behavior of the individuals within the group. In reality organizational culture is all of these things.
In its entirety organizational culture consists of an organization’s hared values, symbols, behaviors, and assumptions. From an organizational perspective, the collective values and beliefs of the individual members of that organization represent a phenomenon called, “organizational culture”. It constitutes a pattern of basic assumptions held by the people in the organization that it uses to address its problem of adaptation and integration (Scheme and Edgar, 1990)/ Examine and Burnham (Examine, Antenna and Adrian Burnham, 1996) identified a number of factors related to organizational culture.
Four of these factors can be seen as a type of organizational culture. Following is a concussion of these factors. Openness to change/innovation culture types group the following concepts together: humanistic orientation, affiliation, achievement, self-actualization, task support, task innovation, and hands-on management (further defined as: managers should not just plan, but participate (Examine et al. , 1996). An organization scoring high on this factor might be considered “friendly,” and “open to change. Task-oriented organizational culture types group the following concept together: being the best, innovation, attention to detail, quality orientation, profit orientation, and shared philosophy (Examine t al. , 1996). The authors compare this to the “Samisen” philosophy espoused by successful Japanese companies that stress caution, incremental improvement. An organization scoring high in this factor might be considered “task-oriented” versus “people-oriented. Bureaucratic organizational culture types group the following concepts together: approval conventionality, dependence, avoidance, and [Lack of] personal freedom (Examine et al. , 1996). The authors describe this culture as formal, with centralized decision Cloaking. An organization scoring high on this factor might be considered “conservative” or “prudent”. Competition/Confrontation organizational culture types group the following concepts together: oppositional orientation, power, competition, and perfectionism (Examine et al. 1996). The authors describe this culture as one where perfection is the goal, and where individuals might tend to react negatively towards the ideas of others and/or resist new ideas. An organization scoring high on this factor might be considered a “perfectionist” organization, put negatively; one might call this organization a “dog-eat-dos” organization. In any organization three levels exist. The first level is the individual. At this level the main thrust is to motivate the employee so that she will meet the wishes of her employer.
The second level consists of the group where management focuses on relationships among employees and the formation of a group identity. The third level is the organization itself and the goal at this level is to create a smooth and efficiently running organization. In order for the goals of the third level to be met, the goals of the first two levels must be achieved first. If a worker is not properly motivated to carry out her tasks, or if a department is having trouble working together, then the organization as a whole will suffer. Meeting the goals of the first two levels has become increasingly harder.
In today’s world of globalization, intense competition, and instant communication, change is constant, and the “IBM Man,” a company lifer who began and ended his career with the same company, is a phenomenon of the past. Workers now scan the job market for the jobs that will put them in the best position to succeed both financially and professionally. With workers changing jobs so often, worker loyalty to an organization is vanishing (Sagging, 2001). This makes organizational culture so important. Culture creates sustainability for an organization and acts s the most powerful force for cohesion.
Organizations require stability in order to survive. Organizational culture can provide that stability by allowing people to communicate with each other, coordinate efforts, and define members from non-members (Sagging, 2001). Leadership plays an important role in shaping up a healthy organization culture. The Influence of Leadership on Organizational Culture Scheme (1992) in particular described in details the significant roles of leadership in the creation and management of organizational culture throughout organizational growth; early life, midlife and maturity and decline.
During the formation of organizations, leaders or founders have a major impact on how the early members of the organization define and solve their “external adaptation and internal integration problems”. Since founders or leaders are usually entrepreneurs who have a high level of self-confidence and determination, they usually impose strong assumptions to their invented organizations. When their assumptions survive and successful in the business environment, the assumptions will be perceived as correct and eventually will be internalized as part of the organizational culture.
Furthermore, founders or leaders tend to elect other organizational members that have the similar assumptions and therefore strengthen the foundation of the organizational culture. Organizational members who have conflicting views on organizational culture tend to leave and thus creating a more homogeneous climate for those who remains. Scheme (1992) proposed two types of mechanisms used by the leaders/founders to integrate their assumptions in the organizational culture.
The culture-embedding mechanisms are as follows: Primary Embedding Mechanisms Secondary Articulation and Reinforcement Mechanisms What leaders pay attention to, measure and control on regular basis How leaders react to critical incidents and organizational crises Observed criteria by which leaders allocate scarce resources Deliberate role modeling, teaching, and coaching Observed criteria by which leaders allocate rewards and status Observed criteria by which leaders recruit, select, promote, retire, and ex- communicate organizational members.
Organizational design and structure Organizational systems and procedures Organizational rites and rituals. Design of physical space, facades, and buildings Stories, legends, and myths about people and events Formal statements of organizational philosophy, values and creed. Adapted from Scheme (1992) In organizations, the secondary mechanisms are sometimes labeled as organizational climate and they are a reflection and manifestation of cultural assumptions derived from the leaders, especially at the initial formation of the organizations.
These secondary mechanisms can become a powerful reinforcement of the primary mechanisms used by the leaders. The principles of using the secondary mechanisms are that they must be consistent with the primary mechanisms and leaders need to set an example. The dynamics of midlife, maturity and declining organizations in term of the influence of leaders re quite different from the early stage of organization formation.
For example, in the midlife organizations, the culture determines the leadership as founders has been replaced with newer generations of Coos. The new breed of leaders needs to understand the organizational culture and decide which cultural assumptions that needs to be changed. In short, they become the cultural change agents. They can promote changes through systematic promotion of desired subculture, use planned organizational development projects, create parallel learning structure or unfreezing and change through technological seduction (Scheme, 992).
When the organizations enter into the maturity and decline phase, which may indicate that the existing organizational culture becomes outdated, the leaders need to start the change process at a more pervasive level. At this juncture, leaders with transformational leadership style are often desirable (Scheme, 1992). Conclusion Organizational culture consists of an organization’s shared values, symbols, behaviors, and assumptions. It allows its members to frame events in a similar fashion and provides the stability an organization needs to survive in an ever changing world. No one perfect culture exists.
In order for one of the four cultures (Open, Task-Oriented, Bureaucratic and Competitive) to be the “right” culture for an organization, it must be functional and allow the organization to meet its mission and goals. It is very important that an organization periodically reviews its culture to make sure it still allows the organization to succeed in its competitive environment. One can never truly understand an organization until one understands the culture of that organization. Leadership plays a key role to integrate organizations by adapting various mechanisms in influencing the organizational culture.