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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Organisational Culture

Concept of Organisational culture ? Types of organisational culture ? how the organisational culture developed ?


The simplest definition of culture is ‘the way we do things round here' (Deal and Kennedy, 1982). It is a combination of values and beliefs, norms of behaviour that are acceptable or otherwise, written policies, pressures, and expectations coming down from the top, formal and informal systems, processes and procedures, and networks.
The culture of an organisation is a product of history, a variety of external and internal influences, and priorities and values of key people in it. Culture is reflected in the artifacts - rituals, design of space, furniture and ways of dealing with various phenomenon.
Smircich (1983) defines organisational culture as a fairly stable set of taken-for--granted assumptions, shared beliefs, meanings, and values that bring forth a new way of understanding of organisational life. According to Denison (1984), organisational culture refers to the set of values, beliefs, and behaviour patterns that form the core identity of an organisation.

Key Terms Used :
The various terms used in the context of organisational culture are - values, ethics, beliefs, ethos, climate, culture and so on.
Ethics refers to normative aspects to what is socially desirable. Values, beliefs, attitudes and norms are interrelated.
Ethos can be defined as the underline spirit of character of an entity or group and is made up of its beliefs, customs or practices. At the base of Ethos are core values. Ethos is primarily concerned with values and is the fundamental character or spirit of the organisation. It is characterised by openness, confrontation, trust, authenticity, proaction, autonomy, collaboration, and experimentation.
Culture is learned rather than inherited. Ed Schein suggests that there are two ways in which this learning takes place. First, the trauma model, in which members of the organisation learn to cope with some threat by the erection of defence mechanisms. Second, the "positive reinforcement" model, where things which seem to work become embedded and entrenched. Learning takes place as people adapt to and cope with the external pressures, and as they develop successful approaches and mechanisms to handle the technologies of their organisation.


Handy (1985) has analysed the different types of organisational culture and offers a four-fold typology:

A.   The power culture
In this, the organisation stresses the role of individuals rather than committees. Individuals are power-oriented and politically aware. Control is exercised at the centre and is characterised by informal webs of influence rather than formal procedures. It is not characterised by bureaucracy.

B.   The role culture
Here the stress is upon formal rules and roles and authority is vested in these roles. It is characterised by formal procedures and offers the individual security, stability and predictability. It is, therefore, characteristic of bureaucracy.

C.   The task culture
This is job-oriented and is concerned with getting the job done. It is concerned with utilising resources to meet the organisation's objectives and is characterised by the requirement of efficiency. The culture adapts itself to change and is driven by the need to provide goods and services for the customer.

D.   The person culture
The individual is at the heart of this organisation and this culture, according to Handy, is not often found. The organisation serves the individual rather than the other way round. Control mechanisms or hierarchies are virtually impossible and influence the shared.

One way of classifying organisational culture can be autocratic or feudal, bureaucratic, technocratic, and entrepreneurial or democratic:

Traditionally bureaucracy has been described as a role culture, but there is no reason to suppose that the different cultures cannot exist within the same organisation particularly if the organisation is as large and diverse as a government department or a local authority. Each of the different cultures may express the roles that organisations perform. Problems arise where there is a clash of cultures.

All organisations exist within some wider context and we would expect an organisation's culture to reflect this. Thus it may be unrealistic to expect a democratically run workplace when the prevailing political and social ethos is authoritarian. Organisations are social systems that have shared understandings, norms and values and have a common language. The history of the organisation, its past values and beliefs also influence the present culture of the organisation. Each of the different cultures may express the roles that organisations perform.

Organisation cultures are developed and reinforced in a variety of ways. There are five primary and five secondary cultural development mechanisms. The five primary mechanisms are:

1.   What leaders pay attention to, measure, to, and control,
2.   Leaders' reactions to critical incidents and organisational crisis.
3.   Deliberate role modeling, teaching and coaching.
4.   Criteria for allocation of rewards and status.
5.  Criteria for recruitment, selection, promotion and retirement employees.
There are five secondary mechanisms by which organisational culture develops. They are:

1.   The organisation's design and structure.
2.   Organisational systems and procedures.
3.   Design of physical space, facades and buildings.
4.   Stories, legends, myths, and parables about important events and people.
5.   Formal statements of organisational philosophy, creeds and charters.


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