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Can Culture Be Managed?

Osborne & Plastrik (1997) suggest that changing the culture of an organization is not a science as the culture is very extensive and complicated and does not have structures from cognitive and behavioral science which can be utilized for implementing the changes. Cultures are based on unconscious mental contexts held by the group at varying levels of bonding. Within every culture there are established assumptions which tend to become unconscious (Carter n. d. ). Whatever we believe with absolute certainty is generally taken for granted. We lose sight of the fact that alternatives to our stable presuppositions can even be entertained.

Organizational change is generally difficult to achieve as it is the accepted style of doing things and those inside the organization regard the change-over with discomposure, nervousness, and suspicion. This is especially true in mergers and acquisitions where one needs to integrate two different cultures into one culture. In 2000, Time Warner and American Online (AOL) announced their merger. These companies have drastically different organizational cultures, one being a media organization and the other being an information technology organization.

The two cultures clashed as the Time Warner employees thought that the AOL employees were aggressive while the AOL employees thought that

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the Time Warner people were pretty inactive. Another point where two merging cultures can clash is the perception of being a “winner” or a “loser”, the winner is, of course, the bigger company. To overcome this situation, people from both organizations have to let go of this belief as it posses a hindrance in the path of an effective and efficient workplace. It also makes the employees from the smaller organization feel unsecured from their fellow workers.

Very often, two cultures clash because people from different organization view things differently. They blame their counterpart for failure and consider them as incompetent (Peter 2007). Irrespective of all the hurdles, I strongly believe that it is possible to understand, manage and also change the culture of an organization, at-least a significant part if not completely. Also, it is a tangible concept of an organization. These changes are essential to build a new culture supporting the new mission, aims, and plans and routine that will increase the chances of success. Cultural change is neither easy nor foolproof.

It can take time and it takes effort and vigilance. A great deal of patience and long-term support is needed (Zatz 1994). Schein in 1992 (cited in Bolman & Deal 2003) defined culture as “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that a group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and integration, 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 hose problems”. On the other hand, Deal and Kennedy’s definition (1982, cited in cited in Bolman & Deal 2003) says that culture is “the way we do things here”.

Paul Bate (1994 p20) believes that culture is a strategy or a way of dealing with the problems to make life easier. It is a mean of finding a way to resolve the differences and help people work together. It is the outcome of the processes taking place wherever humans try to achieve a collective understanding of their world by making it meaningful (Linstead, Fulop & Lilley 2004). This definition can lead us to describe organizational culture as a system of shared meaning held by the members of an organization that distinguishes them from members of other organization.

It can be taken as the bridging gap between “the need to adapt the organization to the changing environment” and “the need to integrate members of the organization internally”, or “the need for periodic changes” and “the need to preserve key continuities” (Linstead 2004). The organizational culture is the outcome of the processes going on in an organization. The organizational culture grows within the organization and emphasizes the creativity of its members. It is a complex phenomenon related to shared values and meanings in an organization and is also related to common ways of dealing with various commonly experienced problems.

The organizational culture emphasizes importance of meanings, communication and learning and how others perceive us (Linstead et al. 2004). Another important fact is that every culture has its own heroes, symbols and rituals (The Journal of Psychology, 135(5), 501-517). These are the tangible aspects of the culture. However, to view them one has to first understand the culture of that organization. Once the vision is developed, the observer can observe these tangible aspects easily and distinguish them from the similar aspects of other organizations.

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