Organisational culture refers to a concept describing beliefs, experiences and attitudes of an organisation. It is also described as a set of norms and values among groups and people in an organisation. Organisational culture influences the organisation’s interaction within itself and other stakeholders outside it. Organisation values refer to the type of goals the members of the organisation ought to pursue and their attitudes and behaviour towards achieving these goals.
An organisation can adopt various types of cultures including communal, networked, mercenary and fragmented cultures. A communal culture is task-driven but can help in giving the employees a sense of belonging. This culture is usually led by charismatic and inspirational leaders. The greatest disadvantage of this culture is that the employees remain quiet since the leader exerts too much influence. A networked culture is where the employees are treated as family and friends. They show love for one another and have very close contacts, helping each other and sharing information.
The biggest problem with this culture is that the employees are too good and kind to each other that they do not criticize and point out poor performance, creating a breeding ground for more mistakes. A mercenary culture puts its focus on
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The organization consists of individualists who are first committed to themselves and their roles, resulting in lack of cooperation among the employees. An organisation is said to have a strong culture when its employees respond to stimuli because they are aligned the values of the organisation. This kind of culture helps organisations run effectively and efficiently. On the other hand, an organisation is said to have a weak culture when the employees show little or no alignment to the values of the organisation and controlling must be done through bureaucracy and extensive processes.
Experts argue that it is much easier to change a weak culture than it is to change a strong one. Change of organisational culture and its effects A strong organisational culture is hard to come by. It is very true that when human resource practitioners talk about organisational culture, they actually wish to change it to the strong category. This is especially the case when the organisation’s culture is a weak one. This is because a strong culture will enable an organisation in achieving its intended aims and objectives (Phegan, 2000).
Whenever there is a strong culture in an organisation, the employees perform their duties and responsibilities because they think it is the right thing to do. However, there is a risk of developing a phenomenon known as group think. This is a mode of thinking where people perform only when they are involved in a cohesive group and the employees’ struggle for unanimity overrides any motivation to realistically go for independent actions (Sumantra et al, 1998). This kind of culture discourages innovation because even if the employees have their own independent thoughts, they cannot bring them out for fear of challenging organisational thinking.
This is very common where there is a central charismatic leader in the organisation, where the employees strongly believe in the organisation’s values and where they want to avoid conflict (Black, 2003). Group think is a very common phenomenon happening everyday in organisations and defiant members are perceived as negative elements in the group out to bring conflict. Innovative organisations need employees who can stand out and challenge negative group think and the status quo (Black, 2003).
Many people spend more hours each week at work than at home with their families. In order to develop a feeling of fulfilment, the time spent at work must be valuable. The work performed must be engaging, meaningful and enjoyable. When people are engaged at the work place, they develop a feeling of safety on the job, are more productive and are delightful to customers (Worley, 2005). This is the main reason why organisational culture matter a great deal. The organisation should seriously think about the working environment and the working relationships.
When an organisation strives to create and develop an organisational culture, it shows its commitment to its employees and actually acknowledges them as the most important asset in the organisation (Worley, 2005). A strong culture attracts talent into the organisation. An organisational culture is among the things employees look at when assessing the organisation they wish to work for. The days when organisations could actually choose their employees from a large and eager pool are long gone. The talent market has become very competitive and those available have to asses the culture of the organisation.
They are not just interested in salaries and benefits but also an enjoyable environment that encourages success (Eikenberry, 2006). A strong organisational culture also retains talent. Employees are not likely to stay if they are not enjoying their working environment yet there are many other options. The organisational culture is a key determinant of whether the employees stay or leave (Frost, 1985). A strong organisational culture keeps people engaged. All workers have a desire to be engaged in their work. According to a recent survey, about 22 million workers in the US show very high levels of negativity and are not engaged.
This costs the US economy approximately 300 billion dollars each year. Form this we can see that an organisational culture can help in engaging people, thereby creating greater productivity that leads to higher profitability (Worley, 2005). A strong organisational culture creates momentum and energy. Organizations should build vibrant organisational cultures valuing people and allowing them to freely express themselves for them to create real energy in the organization (Eikenberry, 2006). A strong organisational culture helps in changing the way the employees view work.
Many people view the word work negatively. When an attractive organisational culture is created, people view about working will greatly change and become a joy instead, leading to better results for both the employees and the company (Eikenberry, 2006). A strong organisational culture helps in creating even greater synergy by bringing people together. When employees are given the opportunity to know each other better, they become strongly connected to one another, leading to new ideas and better productivity. In short, synergy will be created, which is a great leverage for the organization (O’Donovan, 2006).
A strong organisational structure goes a long way making all the employees achieve more success. This is a very good reason for every organisation to focus on creating and building an attractive organisational culture. All these benefits will only come if talent, time and a strong organisational culture is created. Creation of a strong organisational structure is a good venture for the employees, who are the most valuable asset in an organisation, and makes a good business sense as well. Any time spent investing in building a strong organisational culture is time wisely spent, considering the benefits of such a venture (Eikenberry, 2006).
Without change in organisational culture, for instance, initiatives such as teamwork, acquisitions and mergers, downsizing and TQM cannot achieve their desired objectives. The biggest challenge encountered in trying to change an organisation’s culture is that it is a vague and amorphous characteristic of the organization, making it very hard to know what targets to set and where to start (Hofstede, 1980). Limitations and challenges Changing of an organisational culture is a difficult goal to achieve because culture is usually unrecognised and also because it is very difficult to modify already set patterns.
It is common to see employees who are ready to risk anything including their jobs rather than conform to new work procedures. The managers even try explaining to them how this change would be good for them, but they just do not get it. There is a high likelihood that the resistance is because of trying to challenge their deep rooted values and beliefs (Schein, 2005). Among the societies, people conform to a set of values and beliefs, knowingly or unknowingly, and this is what maintains this societies. For instance, nobody ever needs to be told how wrong it is to steal or hurt someone; they just know it is wrong.
Organisations also create a set of beliefs and values about how their employees should live and behave. The employees associate these values and beliefs with the success of the company and actually do not need to be reminded of them or even how to conform to them (Kotter, 1992). The organisation benefits a lot when its culture remains relevant since its managers do not have so much to do in terms of controlling and directing their employees and can then focus on other important functions of the organisation. However, a culture can cease to function when the organisation’s environment changes (Schein, 2005).
Employees in a dysfunctional environment will still insist on using the old and irrelevant strategies and deny their being obsolete. They will blame external causes for their failure instead of violating the old culture. If this is left to continue, it could lead to the death of the organisation instead of adapting (Johnson, 1988). Changing an organisational culture does not involve the counselling and education approach. Instead, a new system of beliefs and values needs to be created to allow the organisation to perform.
Numerous organisations undergo re-designing and restructuring, assuming that this is all they need to achieve a great change. If the organisation has a dysfunctional culture and it is not checked, it could lead to a spring back phenomenon, where the employees continue acting as before disregarding their new roles and reporting lines. However, upon successful change of organisational culture, the managers are relieved of struggling to reform employee practices. This goes a long way in saving valuable resources in the organisation (Phegan, 2000).
Even though most publicised cases of success in cultural change attribute it to the Chief Executive, line managers are also very important in leading change. Research strongly indicates that the employees actually learn more from their line managers than they do from their senior executives. Also, various cultures can exist among business units within the same organisation, due to the different in values and attitudes of the managers of the units. Line managers more often than not influence the culture of their units (Martin, 2001). Employees will emulate their behaviour whether it is functional or otherwise (Schein, 2005).
Further research has shown that the culture change is still possible even if the chief executive does not display the characteristics of a transformational leader. As a matter of fact, the vision statement of most organisations does not necessarily originate from the chief executive alone, but a team of managers who are just as committed to its achievement (Handy, 1985). A charismatic chief executive who walks the talk makes culture change easy, but when the CEO does not act in consistence with the organisation’s vision, the mangers in the organisation can actually take over the leadership role.
Line managers should realize that the strategies used to change an entire organisation can also achieve the same effect within his organisational unit (Stoykov, 1995). Most organisations form a dominating organisational culture with time, which can be can be assessed basing on competing values. The particular cultures form due to certain priorities, assumptions, values and beliefs dominating when the organisation faces its challenges and adjusts to change (Kennedy, A et al 1982). The dominant culture assists the organisation to remain stable and also adapt to the ever changing environment.
Whereas organisational cultures usually change predictably with time, organisations are forced to change them due to market opportunities, acquisitions and mergers, or jolts in the environment (Kotter, 1992). Culture develops over a long period of time and grows to become part of the ways of thinking and feeling for the organisation. The way the organisation handles promotion and selection of employees influences whether the culture survives or perishes. The top management chooses managers who have the ability to maintain culture (Worley, 2005).
Sometimes, changing an organisation’s culture can result in dramatic crisis and could even cause a high turnover in leadership. Many argue that it is not healthy for a small and young organisation (Black, 2003). Conclusion Human resources practitioners often talk about the organisational culture with a view to changing a weak one to a strong culture. A strong culture has proved very more effective than a weak one, even though a strong one has its various drawbacks. Managers experience a difficult time when trying a change an organisational culture, mainly due to the nature of mankind to resist change.
In most cases, the culture is usually so deep rooted among the employees that trying to change it may actually cause a crisis. Even after successfully changing it, it may be very difficult to maintain. An organisation stands to benefit a lot by changing to the right culture among its employees. These benefits far outweigh the disadvantages and therefore organisations should adopt strong cultures. References Black, R (2003) Organisational Culture-Creating the Influence Needed for Strategic Success, London
Worley, C (2005) Organization Development and Change, Thomson South-Western, USA Kotter, J (1992) Corporate Culture and Performance, Free Press O’Donovan, G (2006) The Corporate Culture Handbook: How to Plan, Implement and Measure a Successful Culture Change Programme, The Liffey Press Phegan, B (2000) Developing Your Company Culture, A Handbook for Leaders and Managers, Context Press Stoykov, L (1995) Corporate culture and communication, Stopanstvo, Sofia Eikenberry, K (2006, March 19) Seven Reasons Organizational Culture Matters, retrieved from www.
ezinearticles. com, on December 10, 2008 Sumantra G et al (1998) Social Capital, Intellectual Capital, and the Organizational Advantage, The Academy of Management Review Hofstede, G (1980) Culture’s Consequences-International Differences in Work Related Values, Sage Publications, Beverly Hills Kennedy, A et al (1982) Corporate Cultures-The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth Handy, C (1985) Understanding Organizations, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth Schein, E (2005) Organizational Culture and Leadership, Jossey-Bass