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Every organization, besides its institutional, financial and social aspect, has and develops its own culture. The term culture is difficult to interpret and many different definitions have been given for it throughout the years. To provide a few examples, Hofstede in his work Communication Between cultures (1984), defines culture as "â€¦ the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another.". Also, Parson in his work Essays in Sociological Theory (1949) states "Culture...consists in those patterns relative to behaviour and the products of human action which may be inherited, that is, passed on from generation to generation independently of the biological genes". As a general definition, culture is a system of shared valuesâ€‹â€‹, beliefs, concepts, assumptions, symbols, customs, norms and standards that apply to a group of people or an organization. Essentially, culture is a philosophy, which gives direction to individuals and groups and contributes to the harmony and effective communication in the organization.
Culture as an iceberg
Culture can be illustrated as an iceberg. Like icebergs, a very small part of culture is visible, that of roughly 10% and is composed of characteristics under the name ''doing'', and then there is the invisible part which is composed of ''thinking'' and ''feeling'' aspects. To start with, the observable part of culture consists of characteristics that are obvious to the average person. These are the artefacts that include aspects such as language, food, dress, customs and rituals and represent what is important and ideal. However, just like icebergs, there is more to it than the eye can see. Below the ''water line'' there are many hidden aspects of culture, which in fact are the ones who influence the visible characteristics of culture. The invisible part of culture includes beliefs, norms, ideologies, assumptions and expectations that only after systematic analysis can they be uncovered. These non-observable cultural features, which are very difficult to be changed, become visible in the form of behaviours and manners.
Hofstedes's Cultural Dimensions
Geert Hofstede, an influential, Dutch, anthropologist and social psychologist, is most known for his theory of the cultural dimensions. His theory is based on data collected from the company ''IBM'' in over forty countries. Hofstede's cultural dimensions are used to describe different cultures, measure their differences and analyse a society's cultural effects on its members. These culture dimensions are important for every manager to be aware of, as today's society faces a high level of diversity, cultural differences are wide and there is a need for respect towards cross-cultural relationships and these dimensions are the ones which help to cope with them.
Hofstede originally identified four cultural dimensions; power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism/collectivism and gender orientation. He then added a fifth cultural dimension, called time orientation, and after that, identified a sixth dimension, the indulgence versus restraint.
The first cultural dimension, called power distance, is deviated in two categories; high and low power distance. In high power distance, people expect and accept an inequality in the power distribution, where superiors give orders to the inferiors, which in line obey and respect them. Moreover, organisations that have high power distance means that they have high levels of hierarchy and usually the managers are unapproachable. This form is mainly observed in autocratic countries. On the other hand, in low power distance, people see themselves as equal with one another and thus, people in higher positions accept the participation of their inferiors in the decision making process. To continue with, in organisations, there is very low, or even no at all, hierarchy and the managers takes the opinions and the needs of his subordinates seriously into account. Lower power distance is usually observed in democratic societies. An example of high power distance country is Malaysia, while Austria has a low power distance index.
The second cultural dimension is called uncertainty avoidance. This dimension refers to the level of uncertainty that people feel comfortable with and the way people react in unorganized and unplanned situations. In high uncertainty avoiding cultures, such as Greece, people follow the rules and regulations, analyse their steps carefully and want to be in an organized and structured environment. In contrast, in cultures where low uncertainty avoidance is present, like Singapore, people prefer to work without laws or regulations and are comfortable with changes and new situations.
Thirdly, there is the individualism and collectivism cultural dimension, which can be described as the degree in which people are formed in groups and their relationship with each other. In individualistic cultures, people are independent, only look after for themselves and they do not have strong connections with other people. An example of a strongly individualistic country is the United States of America. Additionally, in collectivist societies, people rely on each other and work well in groups. For instance, Guatemala is a country with a high collectivism index.
Another cultural dimension is gender orientation, which is categorised in two parts; masculine and feminine gender orientation. In masculine cultures, such as Japan, there is a high level of competitiveness, assertiveness and power and the gender roles are strictly defined. In addition, in these cultures, material success is valued and attention is given to the acquisition of wealth. In oppose, feminine cultures, such as Sweden, have a more caring and modest approach. They give great emphasis on the importance of relationships and the quality of life and also, people are more equal. As for examples, China is found to have a high long term orientation index, while Ghana has a low one.
In 1987, Hofstede introduced a fifth cultural dimension, called time orientation. On the one hand, long term orientated cultures value determination and thrift and are willing to save and invest. These kind of societies are comfortable with adapting their traditions into new environments. What is more, they focus on the future and give great emphasis on what is going to happen in the long term. On the other hand, for the cultures that adopt a short term orientation, personal stability and the establishment of the truth are very significant. They respect their history and traditions and have a normative thinking. To add up, they focus on the ''today'' and on quick accomplishments.
There is a controversial sixth cultural dimension called indulgence versus restraint. Geert Hofstede decided to add this cultural dimension after Michael Minkov's examination on the findings of the World Values Survey. Indulgence, a dimension quite high in Latin America, gives the permission to the people to enjoy everything related to a good life. However, restraint, which is mostly found in East Asia, is related with having moderation and control over one's actions.
Although Hofstede's model of the cultural dimensions is an approachable framework, used by many management specialists, it has been severely criticised for its limitations and validity. His theoretical support and the fact that the data have derived from only one company have been questioned multiple times. One more weakness to this framework is that the profiles of the countries are most probably to be outdated. Lastly, his theory has been long judged for the fact that, as many argue, cultural dimensions are unlimited.
The importance of culture
A company is a fundamental institution of at least equal importance to that of other institutions, such as, for example, school or justice. It is an essential pillar of every society. The development, prosperity, social justice, and the evolution of societies are directly connected with the institution's business. For this reason, the establishment, the function of each firm, the relationship between the firm and its environment, even when an organisation closes down, is in a significant degree determined by the context of regulations of every society.
Culture is highly important; it is one of the main components of an organization, as it largely determines its principles and standards. Culture identifies the relationship of people within the organization, the relationship of the organization with its environment and the attitudes of the organization in terms of products, its customers and the environment. Thus, the fact that companies are extremely important for the sustainability of every society in today's world, makes culture an aspect of organisations that has to be acknowledged and taken seriously into account.
As already mentioned, businesses and organizations operate and thrive in an environment where they are in a constant interaction. Therefore, a key requirement of survival is to monitor and adapt to any developments and changes occurring in the cultural, economic, social, technological, political and ecological environment of the organization.
How important is culture to managers
Nowadays, we live in an era characterized by constant and rapid change. The ability to learn and adapt quickly to cultural changes is critical to the professional success of every organisation. Thus, successful managers are required to systematically monitor these important cultural changes and take them seriously into account in their decisions.
As it is widely known, culture is highly important to every manager. It is argued that culture is such a crucial aspect for managers to take into account in the extent that it is the greatest factor of a business success or failure and that it even predominates strategy and leadership.
Studies have shown that managers who have strongly incorporated culture in all of their actions, processes and, in general, in the whole organization, are found to be more successful. As a result, they provide stability in the organization and a steady work environment for their employees. In consequence, having strong foundations, gives the opportunity to the organization to grow fast and to the managers to achieve their goals. Conversely, managers who do not appreciate and understand the importance of culture are led to situations, such as wrong decisions and various mistakes which affect the organization negatively.
Further, another reason why culture is a requirement for managers is that culture is a source of influence. More precisely, managers who embody culture in all of their actions, pass on to their subordinates the encouragement to work harder and build balanced relationships with others. Culture influences workers in adapting to new conditions, changing their perspectives and having a positive view towards their job and life.
Another sign that shows that culture is important to managers in a great extent is that of globalization. Many businesses nowadays have branched out and are now targeting a larger customer base from all over the world. In order to be successful in their attempt to attract a wider variety of people, managers have to adapt the goods or services they offer in different cultural contexts. For example, an organization selling goods locally may want to expand its business by exporting these products in other countries, so they might find it beneficial to provide the products' information in other languages too, so the goods will be more approachable to international customers. We can also look this organizational expansion from a different point. For instance, an organization might want to expand its offices or industries in other countries, so the managers have to deal with subordinates from different cultures. That is, with a view to being effective, managers have to engage culture in every step they take so as to succeed in having a clear and positive communication with the employees who work from these other countries.
To sum up, culture, which is a very difficult term to define, is important to managers in a great extent. Culture has been given various definitions over time, but in general, culture incorporates a number of aspects, such as beliefs, values, norms and behaviours. In addition to that, culture can be illustrated as an iceberg; just like an iceberg, culture has two sides, a visible and an invisible one. More specifically, culture is not only all about the things people perceive and can recognize in their everyday lives, such as food, language and traditions. It is also about certain things that cannot be recognized until after a deep analysis. Furthermore, Hofstede's cultural dimensions play an important role in understanding the different cultures, comparing these differences and examining the results a culture has to its members. As far as the importance of culture is concerned, it is undoubtedly true that culture is an essential pillar of every society. Therefore, managers, in order to have a prosperous career, should incorporate culture in their actions and infuse the organization with strong cultural foundations.