Compound Phenomenon of Organizational Culture





Compound Phenomenon of Organizational Culture


Organizational culture has been explored at deeper lengths by different writers. This does not however mean that it is an easy subject to explore. Organizational culture is a compound thing to understand. Many writers have sought to give a clearer picture of organizational culture by studying the available literature from different studies and conducting their own scientific research in different organizations. Most of the writers often repeat the fundamental concepts of organizational culture as values, assumptions, behavior and habits, although they sometimes use different words. In their definition of culture, Clegg et al. (2008) have emphasized the concept of shared meanings through language symbols and artifacts. Clegg et al. (2008) notes that organizational culture includes deep, basic assumptions and beliefs and the shared values that define the members that belong to a particular organization, their common ways of making decisions, and the way they present themselves and their organizations to other people. They have reiterated the difficulty of managing the culture of an organization, noting that there is no singular organization culture. Many writers will attest to this difficulty and they agree that organizational culture is a compound phenomenon, and one that will continue to be explored in different ways.


Clegg et al. (2008) asserts that culture is not usually something visible on the surface but it is hidden and often unconscious. Lok and Crawford (2004) note that organizational culture affects people’s thoughts, emotions and decision making at the work place. People will sometimes make decisions at the work place, which they would not normally do elsewhere. Clegg et al. note that one can easily observe artifacts but they are not a full representation of an organization’s culture. Understanding artifacts is difficult because of the different meanings that can be associated with them (Schein, 2010)). Espoused values are non-visible, and they comprise the norms and beliefs set by the employees. Organizational culture determines the personal and professional goals that people set, and it determines how they are going to achieve these goals (Lok & Crawford, 2004). Basic assumptions are harder to detect and harder to change. They influence the organizations norms and beliefs in different ways. Clegg et al. use the three levels of organizational culture as proposed by Schein in a convincing way. They have convincing and relevant illustrations of how the three levels of organizational culture are used by different groups. Students and other people interested in learning about organizational culture will find this useful since it is easy to understand.

Clegg at al. note that a strong culture includes having all the organizational members share a beliefs and commitments. They note that those who believe in the strong culture believe that when such a culture is implemented, the employees will have good morale and productivity will increase. This is true in some organizations. Managers see organizational culture as a way of ensuring that the organization remains productive and efficient. Other managers are of the opinion that the culture of their organization offers a competitive edge. Seong (2011) asserts that successful firms usually have well defined shared norms and values. He contends that a strong organizational culture is a way of improving performance and making employees feel good about their accomplishment. Having a firm believe on the role of organizational culture makes the management neglects some of the most important issues. When the employees are neglected, they will in turn develop their own culture, which may not benefit the company. Clegg et al. have noted how employees at Disney were stressed out due to overworking. The employees used to smile despite the fact that they were stressed. They in turn found ways of dealing with stubborn customers.

Ashkanasy et al. (2010) note that organizational culture is a system of shared symbols and meanings and it does not encompass the wholeness of a group’s lifestyle. This is important because often time, management thinks that it can control the employees by using the organizations culture. Clegg et al. note that managers use culture and control as a way of influencing their employees. The organizational culture at Disney was service with a smile and this is what the employees practiced. It is not enough that management should try to enforce a certain culture on the employees. Employees have their own beliefs and values and they will sometimes not compromise for the organizational culture. Certain cultures can only be realized when employees decide that they want to incorporate the said culture and they encourage each other to do so. When this happens, problems such as conflicts and uncertainty that are experienced in the work place reduce. Employees feel more motivated and they exercise more co-ordination and control in their work (Witte & Muijen, 2000).

The Excellence Model and the Six-Sigma

Clegg et al. highly criticize the excellence model as talked about by Peters and Waterman, in their classic book, In Search of Excellence-Lessons from America’s Best Run Companies. They are justified to do so since the companies that were studied by then have since failed. However, what Clegg et al. have failed to mention is that excellence models are not perfect. In deed, none of the identified and commonly used models of management can claim to have perfect results. All models and theories have limitations. There are many elements, which contribute to the success of the organization. Management models should act as guides and management should feel free to change their content based on the relevant strengths and weaknesses in their company. The fact that the book sold millions of copies showed that managers in different organizations identified some strength in the book. Some of these managers took the excellence model as proposed by Peters and Waterman, and they were able to add other lists of best practices as they saw fit (Park & Dahlgaard, n. d.).

Clegg at al. criticizes the six-sigma movement, noting that managers use it as a way of controlling employees. What they fail to mention is that the 5s of the sigma movement are important to organizations. The flexibility of the six sigma allows companies and organizations to implement other programs such as DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) 5s program, roughly translated as sort, set in order, standardize, shine and sustain, allows the organization to focus on measures that improve efficiency and to offer the best services to their customers. It focuses on eliminating defects in all the processes, increase performance, decrease performance variation, and measuring quality. The six sigma approaches lead to increased employee morale, increased profits and a better business environment (Kumar et al., 2008). It is an important tool for management, especially since it helps in project management. It is focused on satisfying customers and human resources. Some notable companies such as General Electric and Motorola have used the program and this has ensured their growth (Kumar et al., 2008).

The Four Cultural Dimensions

The authors criticize Hofstede’s study on the four dimensions, arguing that it is impossible for a country to exhibit a homogenous culture. Hofstede came up with the four dimensions of power distance, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty avoidance and individualism/collectivism. In his study, he explained how different countries measured in these four dimensions. Hofsted’s study is important for leaders in a global market. The study identifies the countries that rank highest in different dimensions. This prepares the global leader, and it makes it easy for the leader to understand his or her colleagues at the work place. For instance, people from highly individualistic countries such as United States will be able to understand why people from collective countries choose to work they way they do. While the person may value their privacy and may be more oriented towards achieving results, understanding the four dimensions will enable the person to have a different perspective of things. People in every culture are different and although they may share similar characteristics, it would not be prudent to put classify them in one category. While the United States and Britain may rank high among the cultures that are most individualistic, some people in the same culture would rank high in collectivism. Managers and other global leaders have continued to use Hofstede’s study, which have been revised over time. Researchers have come up with other cross-cultural studies and have tried to improve on some of the limitations of Hofstede’s cultural studies (Shi & Wang, 2011).

Understanding Culture in Organizations

Organizational culture gives employees a sense of identity in the work place. By observing the prevailing culture in the organization, employees are able to know how they are expected to behave. Culture influences people’s thoughts and feelings (Visagie & Linde, 2011). The organizational culture can determine how new employees will fit in the organization. Either they can feel welcomed and thus more comfortable, or they can feel intimidated, which can affect them negatively. Culture can work on the extreme ends for the organization. On one hand, culture can contribute to the organizations growth when it increases productivity by providing a suitable environment for people to work in. on the other hand, it can create barriers such as lack of commitment, which can prevent the organizations from realizing its objectives (Armstrong & Institute of Personnel and Development, 1999).


Different people in the organization help in determining the organizational culture. They help shape the norms and the values of the organization. Leaders are important in determining the organizations culture. Visionary leaders, who have managed to steer the organization in a positive direction act as role models to the employees. The employees respect them and they emulate them. On the other hand, a leader who does not show any interest or one who does not steer the company in the right direction will portray a negative image to the employees. They will take the same attitude in their work and if not rectified, this will form the dominant culture in the organization. Culture can be determined by the willingness of the employees to work together in harmony. Employees and the management of the organization who see the need to uphold an amicable working relationship will work towards achieving that and this will in turn determine that organizations culture (Armstrong & Institute of Personnel and Development, 1999).

Management practitioners and leaders know the importance of organizational culture. An organization can have different prevailing culture within different departments. Some of the commonly identified types of organizational culture are role culture, task culture and people oriented cultures. When organizations have maintained a prevailing culture for a long time, it is hard for it to change that culture (Armstrong & Institute of Personnel and Development, 1999). However, it is possible to initiate and manage organizational change. This is enabled by the prevailing organizational environment, the people in the organization and the methods used to initiate the change. It is easier to introduce change when people are involved in the process. Having an enabling environment that supports change is also important. Leaders are important in change management. Leaders and management support the change in organizational culture through sharing of information and resources and organizational learning (Conceição & Altman, 2011).

Different management writers and gurus have noted the importance of having a strong organizational culture so that the organizations can be successful. However, there are many factors, which determine the success of an organization. No management model can claim to have perfect results. Although some management models are stronger than others are, they all have their weaknesses. Managers should take the model, which they feel will work best for their organizations and they should be willing to adjust it to suit the organization.















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