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Organizational Culture

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Submitted By brynasmith
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Introduction
This paper examines the growing phenomenon of organizational culture. What is it? Why is it important? How has it changed and why? How can an organization establish or change their culture? I hope to answer all of these questions and leave people with a better understanding of the concept and what factors create a strong organizational culture in today’s workforce.
What is Organizational Culture? Organizational culture is not a new concept. It has been in existence since the emergence of the business world. However, it is only relatively recently that it has been identified, and executives have taken notice and made it a priority. The culture of an organization can be compared to the personality of a human being (Chegini, 2010). Culture is the essence of what an organization represents, who they are, what they stand for, what they believe in, and what is important to them. One of the better, and simpler, definitions of organizational culture I found is “the shared values and assumptions that guide behavior in an organization” (Çakar, 2010). The fundamentals of corporate culture can include a company’s values, employee expectations, customs, factual or mythical organizational history, language, climate, etc. In some cases, organizational culture is designed and employees are encouraged and expected to achieve it. On the other hand, culture may also develop over time from the attitudes and mentalities of employees. An organizational vision and mission statement may also set the tone for a developing culture (Agin, 2010). No matter the method, there are many ingredients in creating the perfect culture “recipe,” many of which will be addressed later. Many may ask why organizational culture is important and how it benefits the workplace. As Gareth Morgan states, “We choose and operate in environmental domains according to how we construct conceptions of who we are and what we are trying to do…And we act in relation to those domains through the definitions we impose on them…The beliefs and ideas that organizations hold about who they are, what they are trying to do, and what their environment is like have a much greater tendency to realize themselves than is usually believed.” (Morgan, 1997) Organizational culture is essential for successful organizational change. It gives employees a sense of identity, empowerment and unity. These effects have been shown to maximize employee potential and value, greatly influence innovative capabilities, as well as provide a substantial competitive advantage (Çakar, 2010). A strong organizational culture also tends to develop better relationships among employees and between managers and subordinates (Kotter, 1992). Organizational culture has even been said to foster learning and competence building, working as glue between people and the organization they work for (Freiling, 2010). These benefits, combined with a strong and established corporate vision and clear-cut mission statement, can be extremely valuable tools in the arsenal of employee support and productivity. In the words of Edgar Schein, “The bottom line for leaders is that if they do not become conscious of the cultures in which they are embedded, those cultures will manage them” (Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership, 1993)
Cultural History
America’s economic boon, post World War II, opened the door for the concept of organizational culture (Eisenberg, 2001). Industry excelled, resources were plentiful, and unemployment plummeted. Companies grew and spread overseas and thus, a world economy was born, and with it, the need to endeavor into cross-cultural communication and commerce. Although then a more traditional sense of the word, culture became a business concept and paved the way for a more internally-focused version to become what we now know as organizational culture. However, that theory remained relatively disregarded until the 1980s, when numerous publications began to surface. The history of this topic weaves its way through a variety of fields, such as sociology, anthropology, psychology, system theory, economics, etc., all of which make the concept harder to define. Recently, the trend has emphasized trying to explain why companies are not performing as well as competitors, especially those in other countries, societies and cultures. (Eige, 2002)
Cultural Theory
As one of the more prominent and influential writers regarding this topic, Edgar H. Schein was one of the first to not only dissect the theory but define it, which he did as “…a pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems…that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems”, (Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership, 1993). In other words, groups eventually face two challenges: integrating individuals into the group and adapting to the external environment. As groups find solutions to these problems, shared assumptions and beliefs are created, which we call culture (Organizational Culture, 1997-2005). He identified three layers of organizational culture: the upper, and most visible, layer of artifacts, the middle layer of espoused values, and the deepest and most critical layer, basic assumptions (Freiling, 2010). (See Appendix A, Table 1) To summarize, artifacts are what you see, values are what you think and feel, and assumptions are the deeply-rooted beliefs of an organization. Using his model, culture enables and revolves around process because it is while solving process problems that culture is developed. These processes then become the basic assumptions…which Schein considers the essence of the organizational entity.
In contrast, Eisenberg and Goodall, Jr. (2001) divide organizational culture into five theories: comparative management, corporate culture, organizational symbolism, critical and postmodern perspectives, and organizational cognition. Comparative management interprets organizational culture as rigid and inflexible, not moldable from within but created and influenced only by the outside societal customs around them. However, corporate culture is just the opposite, interpreting organizational culture as something that the business entity controls in order to increase productivity, with no societal influence (Eige, 2002). These two views are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and two of the others fall somewhere in between along the organizational culture theory continuum. Organizational symbolism claims that culture is an indirect result of language and communicative interactions, verbal or non-verbal, and the critical and postmodern perspective indicates culture is a representation of a constant struggle for control. The last theory, organizational cognition, utilizes the same definition of Schein’s original interpretation of basic assumptions.
A.K. Khademian (2002) suggests there are six strategies for understanding and managing culture: 1. Identify the commitments that form the existing culture; 2. Identify the connections between the roots of culture and commitments; 3. Think about what needs to change and articulate that change; 4. Understand the management of cultural roots as an inward, outward and shared responsibility; 5. Relentlessly practice and demonstrate the desired changes in culture; and 6. Capitalize on incremental change and institutionalize it (Austin, 2008). These strategies range from the unobtrusive to the interactive.
These are just a few of the theories that have developed over the years. Regardless of what theory one subscribes to, it is apparent the issue of organizational culture has come to the attention of today’s corporations. Although substantial literature exists, all with authors of varying viewpoints and backgrounds, it continues to be limited by the focus on information rather than testing of theory (Eige, 2002). This leaves open the assumption that there is still much to learn and expand upon our knowledge base in this area.
Establishing Organizational Culture When setting out to establish or change the culture of an organization, one must remember that culture development is created by leaders one conversation and action at a time (WorkPlace Rx, 2010). Culture is rooted in the history of an organization, which makes culture change a difficult, time consuming, and resource investing process (Organizational Culture: Change Process, 1997-2005). However, it is important to begin in the right way, with everyone’s participation. When all employees are involved in the development of an idea, buy-in and commitment to its implementation become much easier. Regular two-way communication and feedback from all levels allows administration to capture data and gain insight into a change process, which might otherwise go unnoticed. The simple idea of leaders and followers, with no questions asked, is an old bureaucratic way of thinking and does not inspire employees (Agin, 2010). An employer must take the responsibility of discovering the core values and beliefs of the organization, and respecting the differences amongst the various subcultures within. This task might be more difficult than one might think, due to the fact that there are often both conscious and subconscious beliefs within an organization. These all must be identified and addressed in order for a company to truly establish a realistic goal. The process then needs to be ongoing to ensure that their desired beliefs and values continue to be demonstrated. There are many factors to remember when attempting to create a successful organizational culture. One huge consideration is the organization’s vision and mission statement. These have a profound effect on the workplace. Both the vision and the mission statements should be created with input from employees at all levels. They should establish clear goals and objectives company-wide. They should motivate, inspire and foster innovation and creativity, not ambiguity or uncertainty. Finally, they should be communicated throughout the organization on a regular basis and enforced by demonstrated actions of employees, including management. A new concept, specifically geared toward changing organizations, is that of an “Aspiration Statement.” This statement might be very similar to a mission statement, except that it focuses on the goal of generating cultural change. It includes the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors the organization desires to see achieved. These aspiration statements can affect how training occurs and even be tied into employee evaluations, in order to encourage support. This type of creative thinking is what helps to support successful change. One of the most important aspects of organizational culture to employees is engagement. Today’s workforce wants to do meaningful work. They want to be challenged and acknowledged for having good ideas or making positive differences in the organization. A big part of this is communication; people want to be listened to, have a say in the goings-on and feel comfortable interacting across hierarchical levels. Open two-way communication, amongst all levels, is imperative in any successful organization.
Another big factor it today’s world is technology. There is no doubt that we are amidst a technological revolution, with technology constantly changing, evolving and developing, all having profound effects on the business community (Florea, 2010). Technology allows organizations the ability to integrate systems, streamline processes, centralize production, increase quality, lower costs and make business more efficient. Although it is important to incorporate technological aspects into your corporate culture and strategy, there is also an inherent danger that many organizations fall victim to…too much technology. Technology offers organizations the option of less direct contact with customers, vendors, suppliers, etc. Some might interpret that as a dehumanization of the industry. Becoming overly advanced technologically also might lead the organization to surpass the ability of their target market to understand, leaving their customers confused, frustrated and despondent. Diversity is another important concept in developing a strong organizational culture. A diverse workforce can provide a plethora of new and creative ideas, which a group of too like-minded individuals might not think of. Diversity also tends to foster tolerance, acceptance and understanding of other genders, ethnicities, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. Diversity is also important within an organization, when the same diversity is reflected outside the organization. “Cultural continuity” (Çakar, 2010) with societal and national cultures in which they work, should be considered when an organization is attempting to develop or change the corporate culture.
The Generational Gap One of the largest factors that might hinder the development of a harmonious organizational culture is the generational gap that has occurred in throughout the country. According to “Generations at Work,” there are four distinct generations it today’s workforce, Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, Generation X and Generation Y (Zemke, 2000). The following is a depiction of each one of these groups, how they differ in relating to organizational culture, and what we can do to bridge the gap. First, we have the Traditionalist employees, which were born from 1909-1945. These individuals are heavily influenced by the military, World War I and II, the Depression and the Stock Market Crash, and they are often referred to as the “Silent Generation.” Although they are only a small part of today’s workforce (approximately 5%), they are 75% the country’s financial assets. These employees tend to be extremely loyal, often staying with the same company throughout their entire career, in order to achieve their ultimate career goal of “building a legacy”. They are also practical, dedicated, and patient. Traditionalists consider chain of command a priority, which means they usually have no problem playing by the rules or conforming to authority, and they do not question the status quo. Their work ethic is very strong, but also tends to be defined by the clock, working hard just during the day “when they are supposed to.” Traditionalists tend to have the mentality that it is not necessary to like everyone they work with, as long as they have a job. They also do not seek applause or obvious and attention-getting acknowledgements, but prefer individual and personal one-on-one time. (Zemke, 2000) Next, we have the Baby Boomers, who were born from 1945-1964. This group is the most influential group today, as it is approximately 50% of the workforce. These individuals were strongly influenced by people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Nixon, and John F. Kennedy. They tend to be idealistic and optimistic, however extremely competitive. In contrast to the Traditionalist focus on chain of command, theirs is more a “change of command.” They also have a very strong work ethic, with the ultimate goal of building a phenomenal career. However, they believe the key is visibility at work, which lends the tendency for them to become workaholics. Also in contrast with the Traditionalist view, is that Baby Boomers feel it is important to get along and fit in with their co-workers and believe in team building efforts throughout the workplace. These individuals often place high value on the receipt of positive feedback, and are excellent at providing it, however seldom receive it themselves, due to mostly Traditionalist supervisors. Nonetheless, one of the few strong connections between these two generations is that both tend not to question or challenge authority, which allows a certain level of mutual respect between the two groups. (Zemke, 2000) The first of the two younger generations is that of Generation X, born between the years of 1964 and 1980. These individuals have been affected by economic and political uncertainty and the “latchkey kid” mentality. This group has become increasingly influential in recent years, now reaching approximately 40% of the workforce population. These individuals are known skeptics with a “prove it to me” attitude. They value time away from work more than generations prior and strive for a proper work/life balance. They prefer to live by the motto “work to live,” in contrast with the Traditionalist generation that might say they “live to work.” Generations Xers tend to have an individualistic approach, valuing self-command. They are loyal but usually only to immediate leadership and not the organization as a whole, as their ultimate career goal is to create a portable career that can move with them. This group does tend to align with the Traditionalists in the fact that they value mentors and role models over workplace relationships. Overall, this generation craves intellectual stimulation, opportunities to learn and train, and positive feedback and reinforcement. They appreciate open honest communication and are not afraid to speak up, even if it challenges authority. (Zemke, 2000) Last, but not least, we have Generation Y, born after 1980 and often referred to as “Nexters.” Although hopeful and optimistic, this generation of individuals tends to be more realistic than those of the past. They are technologically-savvy multi-taskers, however, with rampant technology has come short attention spans and the need for instant gratification and constant validation. Many even accuse this generation of often having an entitlement mentality. They are very group-oriented, shifting focus from commanding to collaborative. Another major shift is the decline of career advancement as a priority, with the desire to build a parallel career rather than a legacy. Generation Y tends to consider lifestyle more important than climbing the corporate ladder. Overall, this generation desires open and constant communication and reinforcement, advocates technology and values diversity. Although, like Generation X, they might choose to speak up and challenge authority, they tend to be more polite and respectful. There are also individuals known as “Cuspers” who fall on the cusp between two of the aforementioned generations. Usually these individuals identify with one generation over the other but can sometimes identify with both. Cuspers are extremely beneficial in the workplace. They can be very influential because of their ability to see things from multiple perspectives, and they often make excellent negotiators or mentors. As you can see, these are very different people all working under the same roof. With workplace diversity growing exponentially, most organizations have a little bit of everything. An organization that is not prepared for this could experience major failures in communication, which in turn, could impact many aspects of the organization, such as turnover rates, costs, morale, grievances/complaints, and perceptions of fairness and equity amongst employees. As you can see, the ability to bridge this generational gap can give any organization a competitive advantage. With open cross-generational communication, workforces can be united, strategies can be improved, and job satisfaction can be increased. (Lancaster, 2002)
It is apparent that these generations are extremely different in a variety of ways. Table 2 in Appendix A summarizes these differences (Schmidt, 2009). So how does an organization create a culture that can accommodate to all generations? There are a few factors to remember when trying to create a culture in a multi-generational organization. First, be patient. Individuals work, understand, communicate and change at their own speed. Trying to rush it will only make things worse. Second, be open, honest and considerate in all communications, it is something all employees can respect. Third, set clear and understandable objectives so that everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goals. The rest involves getting to know your employees, and understanding how they work. It is not wise to assume all employees fall into their designated generational category. Tasks must be delegated appropriately, and utilizing a variety of communication styles, motivational tools and rewards systems allows all employees to work in the way they are most comfortable. Although the generation gap is only one obstacle in the road to a thriving organizational culture being established, it is an extremely important one. Organizations that realize this, and prepare for it, are far more likely to be successful.
Summary
Organizational culture is a complex issue, but an important one to consider in today’s world. We have explored what culture is comprised of, its significance, and what organizations can do to affect it. One recurring theme throughout the discussion of organizational culture is communication. It is absolutely imperative to have open and honest communication, for any organization to function, let alone be successful. Whether trying to develop the culture of a new enterprise, or change the culture of a long-existing business icon, and no matter which philosophical theory one follows, the key is communication. Being open and honest with employees about goals, objectives, and intent of the organization, as well as allowing feedback from all levels (and listening to that feedback) will assist any corporation along the road to a successful transition.
References
Agin, E. a. (2010). DEVELOPING AN INNOVATIVE CULTURE. American Society for Training & Development , pp. 52-55.
Austin, M. J. (2008). Impact of Organizational Change on Organizational Culture. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work , 321-358.
Çakar, N. &. (2010). Comparing Innovation Capability of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Examining the Effects of Organizational Culture and Empowerment. Journal of Small Business Management , 325-359.
Chegini, M. G. (2010). The Relationship between Organizational Culture and Staff Productivity Public Organizations. Journal of Social Sciences , 127-129.
Eige, S. S. (2002). Exploring Organizational Culture. Undergraduate Journal of Psychology , 33-42.
Eisenberg, E. &. (2001). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint 3rd ed.,. Boston.
Florea, N. (2010). New Forms of Human Resources Development: e-Learning in Education. Petroleum - Gas University of Ploiesti Bulletin , pp. 249-257.
Freiling, J. &. (2010). Organizational Culture as the Glue between People and Organization. Zeitschrift für Personalforschung , 152-172.
Gulev, R. E. (2009). Are National and Organizational Cultures Isomorphic? International Research Journal , 259-279.
Kotter, J. a. (1992). Corporate Culture and Performance. New York Free Press .
Lancaster, L. a. (2002). When Generations Collide. HarperBusiness.
Morgan, G. (1997). Images of Organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Organizational Culture. (1997-2005). Retrieved August 2010, from Symphony Orchestra Institute: http://www.soi.org/
Organizational Culture: Change Process. (1997-2005). Retrieved August 2010, from Symphony Orchestra Institute: http://www.soi.org
Rosca, I. &. (2010). The Tandem Culture - Organizational Bureaucracy in Public Sector. Theoretical & Applied Economics , pp. 7-16.
Rowlinson, M. &. (1999). Organizational Culture and Business History. University of Nottingham Business School .
Schein, E. H. (1990). Organizational Culture. American Psychologist , 109-119.
Schein, E. H. (1993). Organizational Culture and Leadership. Jossey Bass Wiley.
Schein, E. H. (1983). The Role of the Founder in Creating Organizational Culture. Organizational Dynamics , 13-28.
Schmidt, M. (2009). Communicating to the Four Generations. Business Solutions.
Tomita, V. S. (2010). THE EFFECT OF ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE ON QUALITY MANAGEMENT PRACTICES. Economics, Management & Financial Markets , pp. 304-309.
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Organizational Culture

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...Running Head: A practical approach to culture Nadya Munnings-Pratt Barry University (Nassau Cohort) HRD 645 Module 3 July 23th 2015 Introduction Organizational culture encompasses values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization. Culture includes the organization's vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits (Christiansen, B. and Koeman, J., 2015). In a practical approach, culture is something an organization “has” and is seen as a variable that can be managed by its leaders. This paper will explore my place of employment; Doctors Hospital and some of the elements of its culture. A practical approach to culture Doctors Hospital employs over 500 and we recently underwent a culture shift. Funds were invested in a foreign consultancy company that came in and worked to revamp our culture. According to Schein (1992), culture is the most difficult organizational attribute to change. His organizational model illuminates culture from the standpoint of the observer, described at three levels: artifacts, espoused values and basic underlying assumptions. At the first level of Schein's model is organizational attributes that can be seen, felt and heard by the inexperienced observer known as artifacts. From the moment you walk into Doctors Hospital you will notice a very large dated painting of the founders of the hospital. There are multiple desks in the foyer to greet......

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Organizational Culture

...Organizational Culture is the set of shared values and beliefs that underlie a company’s identity. It is basically the set of shared, taken-for-granted implicit assumptions that a group holds and that determines how it perceives, thinks about, and reacts to its various environments. The organizational culture being followed at any organization is a picture of how and what their leaders are doing. The leadership style determines the type of organizational culture. Under different leadership styles we have got different organizational cultures. Fashion Inc fostered an open culture and by large it has succeeded in doing so. All employees were well integrated into the system and each individual and his/her thoughts were considered important. It promoted a rational approach to work where there are proper guidelines and procedures. Any problem with the employee be it work related or personal was listened to and the boss tried their best to give solution to the problem. Top management encouraged a supportive culture to provide a satisfying work environment for employees so they can deliver their best. Employees were delegated through their work and the boss worked with the employees side by side. Managers often fail to appreciate how profoundly the organizational climate can influence financial results. It can account for a nearly third of financial performance. Organizational climate in turn is, influenced by leadership style- by the way managers motivate direct reports,......

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