How does an organisations culture develop and what can managers do to influence it?

Topics: Organizational culture, Culture, Organizational studies Pages: 13 (3488 words) Published: January 27, 2004
1.Executive summary

In this paper I look at how organisations develop 'culture' and how this culture can be created, manipulated and changed my management. I also look at what other factors can change and affect a companies' culture. The paper will take the following format. A definition of culture and the problems associated with its definition. I then look at how organisationl culture develops, with an explanation of the levels of cultural analysis, a look at the various different types of culture, and the role of the leader/manager in creating the organisations culture. How culture can be changed and the skills and actions needed by management to successfully implement a cultural change. I then finish with a conclusion.

2.Defining organisational culture

What is organisational culture? This it has been found, is not an easy question to answer. The concept of culture has its roots in anthropology, the study of human affairs. In this context, culture has been used to designate two different things. A tribe or a social group is studied as a 'culture' that produces and may have cultural artefacts. The second use of the term refers to aspects within a given culture, such as customs, rituals, knowledge and so on. (Sackman, S, 1991). In the context of organisational culture it is largely the second approach that is studied. Although people may not be aware consciously of culture, it still has a persuasive influence over their behaviour and actions. (Mullins, L, 2002). This statement explains that although we may not have the knowledge that we belong to a certain cultural group it will still have an impact on our behaviour and in an organisational sense, our working lives.

The culture concept began to affect organisational thinking in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Although is it evident in ideas from a number of earlier writers, for example Bernard (1938) and Jacques (1952). If we look at a number of different of organisations it is clear to see that 'things are done differently'. This idea applies to all organisations, even in similar companies that are operating in the same industry. Tesco provides much the same service as Sainsburys, but on close inspection we would be able to see the differences in which the two companies operate.

It is more difficult however to describe how things are 'done differently', or why the company 'feels' different. A major problem with the concept of culture is the degree to which individuals, organisations or entire communities display characteristics which are consistent within it. (Martin, J, 2001). Do all British people display characteristics that are consistent with British culture? It is clear that although there are many similarities in the behaviour of people within a defined culture, that individual differences provide some variety. The same must also be assumed in the context of organisational culture.

Another problem with finding a definition for organisational culture is the sheer number of definitions that already exist. Kroeber and Kluckhorn list more than 250 definitions of culture, that include components such as ideas, concepts, ideologies values, attitudes, goals, norms, learned behaviours, symbols, rites, rituals, customs, myths, habits or artefacts such as tools and other material representations. (Sackman, S, 1991). This inevitably leads to confusion amongst researchers as to a universal definition of organisational culture.

The term 'the way we do things around here' (Deal and Kennedy, 1988) is often accepted as an operational definition of organisational culture. However this offers little in terms of the content of culture.

Kilman et al. (1985) suggests 'culture is the reflects the ideologies, shared philosophies, values beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, expectations, and norms of an organisation'

3.Levels of culture

Now we have looked at a definition of organisational culture we should look deeper into what develops and makes up an...

References: Martin, J, (2001), Organizational Behaviour, 2nd edn, Thomson Learning
Mullins, L, (2002), Management and Organisational Behaviour, 2nd edn, Financial Times, Prentice Hall
Schein, E, (1992), Organizational Culture and Leadership, 2nd edn, Jossey-Bass Inc.
Cummings, T and Worley, C, (1993), Organization Development and Change, 5th edn , West Publishing Company
Sackman, S, (1991), Cultural knowledge in Organizations Exploring the Collective Mind, Sage Publications
Frost, P et al. (1991), Reframing Organizational Culture, Sage Publications
Sinclair, A, (1993), Approaches to organisational culture and ethics, Journal of Business Ethics, Dordrecht: Jan 1993. Vol. 12, Iss. 1; pg. 63, 11 pgs
Wilson, A (2001), Understanding organisational culture and the implications for corporatemarketing, European Journal of Marketing, Bradford, Vol. 35, Iss. 3/4; pg. 353
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