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Friday, July 17, 2009

Organizational Culture

Meaning of Organizational Culture
  • It is one of the concepts in the domain of organization and management.
  • It may be defined as the collection of shared values, beliefs, norms and assumptions of an organization.
  • Normally, the founders' vision and values, the industry and business environment, the national culture and the senior leaders' behavior shape up the culture of an organization.
  • Organizational values guide the selection of organizational goals.
  • Organization culture guides the behavior or actions of its members in specific situations and also, in terms of their mutual interactions and interaction with those outside the organization like stakeholders etc.

Dominant Cultures and Subcultures

  • In organizations normally there exists a dominant culture. It is generally accepted and followed by the majority of the persons in the organization.
  • However, in addition to this dominant culture, there may exist some subcultures. You may find within an organization, the groups of people with marginally or distinctly different or additional value structure.
  • Sometimes, the subcultures get imported within the organization due to induction of certain professional groups along with their peculiarities e.g. information technology specialists or due to recruitment of people in considerable numbers from an outside organization with its own dominant culture. Mergers of two organizations with different cultures may also give rise to such a situation.
  • People with such subcultures may or may not reject the dominant culture. They may reject it when the two cultures are significantly different and are conflicting in nature.
  • Many organizations have systems to facilitate new members of the organization to adapt to its culture. If they do not adapt well, they may stay, fight the system and get isolated or even leave in search for an organization where their value structure will fit better with the organization’s values. On the other hand, some people despite their differences choose to adapt well.

Strong and Weak Organizational Culture

  • When all the members of an organization fully aligned with the culture of the organization, we will call it a strong organizational culture. Fewer controls are needed in this situation.
  • However, for whatsoever reasons (one reason may be the existence of subcultures but there may be other reasons also), when there is less degree of alignment with the culture of the organization, it shows a weak culture. More controls are needed in this situation.

Organizations with Strong Culture Should Take Care of “Group Think”

  • Due to a very cohesive culture arising out of same dominant values, beliefs and thinking, motivation to seek unanimity among the members in a group may override their motivation to realistically appraise alternatives of action. This phenomenon is called group think. An individual in such a group gets conditioned to think as per the other members of the group and he may even feel good about it.
  • In this state even if members have different ideas, they may not confront or challenge organizational mindsets and thinking patterns for fear of being labeled as poor team workers or anti-organizational people. This may stall creativity and innovation in the organization.
  • Therefore, organizations with strong culture should take care of group think.

Methods of Communication of Organizational Culture

Organization use combination of following methods to communicate its culture and values:

  • Vision statement
  • Mission statement
  • Statement of value structure
  • Various policy guidelines (human resources, safety, environment etc)
  • Quality policy
  • Slogans
  • Messages from chairman of the board or CEO or other seniors
  • Stories circulating from old times and regarding organization’s culture
  • Advertisements and promotion of products and company
  • Symbolic elements like: protocols, greetings, status symbols, manner of space usage, types of cafeteria, types of parking lots etc

Some Flavors of Organizational Cultures

Organizations use combinations of following elements or similar elements for their cultural emphasis:

  • Stick to ethics culture
  • Open culture
  • Closed culture
  • Formal organization
  • Informal organization
  • Grapevine encouraged
  • Family business
  • Grandeur
  • Austerity
  • Boundaryless organization
  • Participative or democratic organization
  • Feudal organization
  • Hierarchy important
  • Military discipline
  • Entrepreneurial culture
  • Innovation encouraged
  • Risk taking encouraged
  • Customer focused
  • Employee or people focused
  • Humanistic, helpful
  • Affiliative
  • Respect and dignity seeking
  • Service oriented
  • Technology dominated
  • Product dominated
  • Share market oriented
  • Process or systems oriented
  • Result oriented
  • Speed important
  • Rapid growth important
  • Stability preferred
  • Ahead of others important
  • Competitive
  • Ranking in industry important
  • Quality or excellence important
  • Centralized decisions, dependency
  • Decentralized decisions
  • Long term view
  • Short term view
  • Attention to even minute details
  • Perfectionist
  • Management by walking around
  • Longer working hours
  • Stick to working hours
  • Male dominated
  • Female dominated
  • Team culture
  • Individualism encouraged
  • Political
  • Blaming culture
  • Pass the buck culture, avoidance
  • Achievement culture
  • Self-actualization culture

Hofstede Model of Culture Dimensions

As per the model developed by Geert H Hofstede, there are four dimensions to any culture as given below:

1. Power distance: High power distance means high tolerance to unequal power distribution and members of an organization grant unlimited power to an individual or very few individuals. In high power distance cultures, people with more power tend to be autocratic and paternalistic. Subordinates fear them. Low power distance means low tolerance to unequal power distribution. In low power distance cultures, leaders or bosses use more participative processes and subordinates do not hesitate to challenge the higher-ups.

2. Individualism-collectivism: Valuing one's own freedom and interests and taking care of one's family constitute individualism. In this culture, people are driven by the individual rewards and personal challenges. Collectivism refers to loyalty to the group to whom the individual thinks the belongs. In this culture, people derive satisfaction and pride by merging their identity and achievements with their group.

3. Uncertainty avoidance: In strong uncertainty avoidance culture, the uncertainties are seen as threats. In such cultures, there is a tendency among people and organizations to avoid the uncertainties by installing many mechanisms, rules, procedures etc. In weak uncertainty avoidance, people feel less threatened by the unknown. In this culture there are less rules and regulations.

4. Masculinity-femininity: Masculinity refers to materialistic things like assertiveness, money etc. In this culture people tend to seek higher advancements in career, more rewards and more accomplishments. Femininity refers to putting more weight on relationships, cooperation, security, long term standing in the organization etc.

When Cultural Changes May Take Place in Organizations?

  • When the leadership changes.
  • When mergers take place.
  • When organization suffers financial setbacks.
  • In family organizations, when younger generation takes over the reins of the organization.
  • Induction of strong willed and competent newcomers from outside into the organization

For More Guidance, Assistance, Training and Consultation


Also refer: (Prodcons Group), (Training Programs by Prodcons Group), (Productivity Consultants)

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