Managing Organisational Culture - Its role in solving issues



Organisational success depends upon several factors which are both external and internal to the organisation. Culture is one of the internal factor by which the problems of the organisation can be solved and success can be achieved, but there are many researchers who oppose the same.

Culture has numerous meanings in varied contexts with different levels of significance. "In the context of organisation theory, there are as many definitions as there are experts on the subject" (Ogbonna, 1990). "Culture can be defined as the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organisation, that operate unconsciously and that define in a taken-for-granted fashion an organization's view of itself and its environment"(Schein, 1997). "It can be categorised into three levels, level of artifacts, values and basic assumptions"(Schein, 1997)

Organisational culture is quite difficult to define in specific, but as to differentiate it from other similar concepts we can define it as a common practice, belief or a procedure followed by people of a particular segment or organisation who are ignorant of actually why do they do the same. It is often formed or adopted by the founders or the board of directors. In some cases the culture is formed in an organisation as the time progresses and there are no particular guidelines or policies.

Critical Evaluation:

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In relation to the statement "culture is something an organisation is and culture is something an organisation has" (Smircich, 1983) it can be said that managing organisational culture is characterized by two different controversial arguments where some researchers say that, a strong culture plays a vital role in solving the problems of organisation and drives the organisation to success while, many researchers oppose the same saying that a strong organisation forms as strong culture and it is the key to success.

"Considered from the former view, it can be stated that culture of such organisations exists from the roots and cannot be changed easily. While in the latter view, the culture can be considered as a powerful organisational tool, gives organisational members a sense of identity and establishes recognized and acceptable premises for decision-making."(Ogbonna, 2007)

Strong cultures may not be necessarily "good cultures" if they are not appropriate. However, an organisation with very strong culture may fail in some cases and the one without a strong culture may succeed. It rather depends upon the external and internal situational factors. For example, IBM with very strong culture nearly collapsed in 1990's when it failed to respond to the Apple's challenging environment

But, the culture adopted by an organisation can be useful in effective problem solving and overcoming challenges when an accurate management strategy is designed and implemented. The employees adapt organisation's mission as their own when motivated, this can be achieved by culture factor and possible when there is a proper management channel to guide, assist and supervise. Hence, managing organisational culture is important and has an impact. Apple, Disney and MacDonald's are some of the companies having strong internal culture among their employees.

A change of culture can be adopted in an organisation when it faces major threats such as modernization, severe competition in market and other related issues affecting its financial progress. It can be said that a change is needed only when a problem arises or company underperforms. However, they may be several other reasons for this phenomenon, cultural being one of them.

"Organisations which follow the principle of 'organisation is culture and culture is organisation' are especially even more critical to change as the culture is in very roots of the employees of the organisation."(Ogbonna 2007) "Organisations don't have cultures, they are cultures and this is why culture is so difficult to change."(Sheil 1985:125) Organisational cultures which are followed dominantly and are basically tough to change. "Corporate culture" is a typically example. For example, in 2005 "Citigroup" faced a challenging task to change the culture. AT&T, a USA based telecom company faced severe issues to handle the cultural change and was time consuming.

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In critical situations, where an organisation is facing problems such as huge losses or negative reputation in the market there is definitely a need for an organisation to change the culture but it should be done in a way that the basic and old values of the organisation should be consistent and minor changes can be made in the areas where needed. For example, in 1998 "Shell" renewed the sense of freedom, while retained the "cultural and behavioural glue". The normative systems model shows on what guidelines should the change in an organisation should be made.

Source: Ogbonna, 2007

It should be noted that the organisational culture change is not possible over a short period of time, following the factors such as habited traditional culture, varied backgrounds, sudden change etc.

"Therefore, it is more important to understand the existing culture before we undertake any change." (Clarke, 1994) followed by constant monitoring of the modified culture, making necessary changes and sustaining the desired change. Thus, the changes made to an organisational culture should be followed up the management of the organisation till the employees are acquainted with the new culture. This plays a vital role resulting positive outcome thereby potential success of the organisation.


Having reviewed the theory of organisational culture and by understanding the concepts of managing organisational culture it can be concluded that culture, one of the factors created to solve the organisational related problems and contribute to the success of the organisation is restricted to various boundaries and should be constantly monitored by the management team for its part of success. The change in the culture can be adapted by an organisation following external and internal environmental challenges faced. The achieved change should be constantly reviewed by the management. Thus, management of organisational culture plays a vital role in solving the related issues and guiding through the changes.