Strong Cultures Versus Weak Culture Business Essay


Many authors have defined the term culture but yet,everyone has the same meaning that culture in the organisation context is the organisations current customs,traditions and general ways of doing things that are largely due to what has been done berore and the degree of success it has had .There are normally two forms of culture namely strong culture and weak culture,the strong has a more strong impact in the life of a worker at the workplace.There are different components of culture namely: norms,values,artefacts and management styles.Harrisson (1972) has developed four key cultures namely: Power Culture,Task Culture,Role Culture and People Culture.There are also various factors that contribute towards the development of organisational culture.Culture has an important role to play at the workplace,Once a culture is established,practices within the organisation act to maintain it by giving the employees a set of similar experiences.For example,human resource practices like selection process,performance evaluation,criteria and promotion procedures ensure that the employees fit in within the culture.Culture is powerfully subjective and reflects the meanings and understandings that attribute to situations,the solutions that we apply to the common problems.In the organisation,the Human Resource Management has a pivotal role to play in order to in ensuring a healthy organisation culture.There are also some lacunas in adopting culture but culture is an inevitable element in the organisation.


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Every organisation has its own culture,whether it knows or not.It is a very powerful influence on everyone's behaviour,from the senior management to the janitor.Organizational culture refers to the general culture within a company or organization, and is often also referred to as corporate culture, though that isn't the best description since a large non-profit organization or charity could also have its own organizational culture even though they are definitely not corporations. Here are some of the many definitions of organizational culture that can be found.

According to Deal and Kennedy ( 1982),"culture is a system of informal rules that spells out how people are to behave most of the time." while Furnham and Gunter (1993) defined culture as "the way we do things around here ".

There are at least as many slants on the definition of culture but all of them suggests that culture is a complex set and pattern of assumptions,beliefs,formal and informal operating rules and policies,norms,values and behavioural artifacts ( examples-language,jargon language,stories,symbols,myths,ceremonies and rituals) that develop in an organisation.Organizational culture refers to the general culture that exist in a company or organization, and is often also referred to as corporate culture.

A recent Fortune magazine over story entitled " The 100 Best Companies to Work For" [ Levring and Moskowitz,2001,pg 148 ] states that the current business environment can be characterised as ' a pitched battle for talent '.There are many jobs than people,especially in firms..... that need highly skilled people." The article also poses the question " How do best companies maintain their leading edge in such a competitive environment?" Fortune's answer lies in one word: Culture.The concept of culture has become an increasingly important factor in the management of today's organisation.

Strong Cultures Versus Weak Culture

Strong culture-cultures in which the key values are deeply held and widely shared -have a greater influence on employees than do weak cultures.The more that employees accept the organisation's key values and the greater their commitment to those values,the stronger the culture is.For organisations that value and encourage workforce diversity,the organisation culture and thus, managers' decision and actions should be suppotive of diversity efforts.Culture is powerfully subjective and reflects the meanings and understandings that attribute to situations,the solutions that we apply to the common problems.

The Components of culture

An organisation's culture is normally composed of values,norms,aretfacts and management styles.

Values- belief that lie at the heart of the corporate culture.Areas where values may be expressed are namely:competence,innovation,performance.

Norms- unwritten laws of behaviour.They are never expressed in writing,in case they were,they would have been in terms of policies.They are normally informal guidelines to people on ho w to be done,said and believed.An example can be how managers treat the members of the team.

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Artefacts-visible and tangible aspects of an organisation that people hear,see or feel and which contribute to their understanding of the organisation's culture.Example can be the way in which the people work.

Management style-the way in which managers take decisions and deal with their staff.An example can be autocratic where the leader himself take decisions without any discussion to its workers,while another example can be democratic where managers engage in discussion with workers before taking discussions.

Language-sometimes the way of talking or discussing a particular matter or issue also can be totally termed in as culture that managers adopt.

Classifying Key Cultures

Harrison ( 1972) defined four key cultures

1.Power Culture

A power culture is frequently found in small campaiging societies.It involves a powerful character or leader that is only one person in the organisation who holds a lot of power and takes decision. Power Culture usually operates informally,with few rules and procedures.Control is exercised by the centre and decisions are taken on the basis of power and influence.Size is a problem for power cultures,if it becomes too large and complex,it has a tendancy to breakthus they must be a small or medium size organisation.Decisions in an organisation that display a power culture are centralised around one key individual.That person likes control and power behind it.As group work is sometimes inappropriate in a power culture,the organisation can react quickly to dangers around it as no consultation is involved.However,this culture has its shortcomings,lack of consultation can lead to staff feeling undervalued and de-motivated,which can lead to high staff turnover.

2.Task Culture

The task culture is job or project oriented.That is they construct people and give employees right to voice out their opinions.Task culture promotes team work.A task culture refers to a team based approach to complete a particulat task.They are very common in today's modern business society where the organisation will establish particular " project teams " to complete a task to date.A task culture clearly procure some benefits.Staff feels motivated because they are encouraged to make decisions within their their team,they will also feel valued because they may have been selected within that team and given the responsibility to bring the task to a successful end.

The matrix organisation is one of the structural form of the task culture.Task culture arranges human resources around the project in hand,and lets the team organisation themselves ( self-determining teams).Influnece is based more on expert power than on position or personal power.This culture is extremely adaptable,and appropriate for task-centred,mission driven organisations-particularly campaigning organisations-as it enhances creativity and motivation.It is flexible and enables reactivity.However, task culture finds it difficult to achieve economies of scale.This system can become strined when the organisationis short of funding or people.Then,the manager can tend to attemp to wrestle back control,and team leaders can begin to compete for funding or staff resources-leading to a breakdown of team mentality and a move towards power or role culture.

3.Role Culture

Role culture is what was previously known as "bureaucracy".Work is coordinated by a manager,or small number of managers,at the top of the structure.The pillars are strong functional departments.The work of these departments is coordinated and controlled by;

Procedures governing roles e.g authority and job descriptions

Procedures for communications e.g document distribution and circulation rules

Rules for settlement of disputes e.g appeal to lowest crossover points

With ultimate coordination of disputes and control by senior manager (s)

Position power is the major power source in this culture : personal power is not welcomed,and expert powerr only appreciated "in its proper place ".Rules and procedures are all encompassing.The success of this culture depends on appropriate allocation of roles nad responsibilities.Also,a stable environement is necessaryfor this culture to work. Role culture is frustrating for individuals who are power orientated or want control over his or her own work and the way in which it is done.

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4.People culture

Person culture is where the individual is the focus of the organisation.Communes and partnerships ( e.g management consultants) sometimes have this culture.Person cultures are commonly found in charities or non profit organisations.The focus of the organisation is the individual or a particular aim.

Determinants of culture

There are many factors that help in the establishment of culture in the organisation.These are namely:


Culture is normally developed by the owner or founder.He has an enormous role in establishing its onw culture,altough its impact will wane over time.


Culture often changes as an orgnisation grows.For example, as the number of staff and functions of an organisation expand,a move towards role culture is often seen.

Organisational Environment

In a rapidly changing environment,task culture may be approriate. In a static environment,role culture may be preferable.A challenging environement ( for example,in times of dictorship or other challenge,power culture may be appropriate )

National Culture

Different nationalities may work better in different organisational cultures.

Function and purpose

Different cultures may be appropriate for different fuctions or purposes.For example,a task culture may ne convenient for campaigning and role culture for servvice delivery.

Goals and Objectives

Qualityof service delivery is more likely to be achieved under role culture ,whereas successful campaigningis more likely under task culture.A power or task culture is more appropriate for growth goals.Goals are devised according to that culture.


Different individuals prefer working under different cultures.It may be counter-productive for an organisation to attempt culture if key staff would feel uncomfortable or alienated in the desired culture.


The move towards increased use of technology tends to push organisations towards role culture,with associated procedures and protocols.


An organisation's policies also become part of its culture,and impart strongly on its work.It follows that these should be formulated and agreed carefully,with full staff consultation.

Critical Incidents

Culture is also developed according to lessons that have been learnt from the past whether it has been a good experience or a bad one.

Importance of culture

Culture is an imporant variable in an organisation.Cultures believe to help people to cope with the uncertainty and ambiguity that naturally occurs in organisations.

No two organizations can have the same work culture. It is the culture of an organization which makes it distinct from others. The work culture goes a long way in creating the brand image of the organization. The work culture gives an identity to the organization. In other words, an organization is known by its culture.

It conveys a sense of identity for the organisation members.

Culture facilitates the generation of commitment to something larger one's individual self-interest.

It enhances social system stability.Culture is the social glue that helps hold the organisation together by providing appropriate standards for wht the employees should say and do.

Culture serves as a sense-making and control mechanism that guides and shapes the attitudes and behaviour of the employees.

Culture reduces ambiguity.

It focuses attention on the human side of organisational life,and finds significance and learning in even its most ordinary aspects.

It clarifies the importance of creating appropriate systems of shared meaning to help people work together towards desired outcomes.

It requires members especially leaders,to acknowledge the impact of their behaviour on the organisation's culture.

Organisational Culture also contributes significantly to the organisation's brand image and brand promise.

Organisation culture creates energy and momentum.The energy will permeate the organisation and create a new momentum for success.

The culture of the workplace also goes a long way in promoting healthy competition at the workplace. Employees try their level best to perform better than their fellow workers and earn recognition and appreciation of the superiors. It is the culture of the workplace which actually motivates the employees to perform.

Every organization must have set guidelines for the employees to work accordingly. The culture of an organization represents certain predefined policies which guide the employees and give them a sense of direction at the workplace. Every individual is clear about his roles and responsibilities in the organization and know how to accomplish the tasks ahead of the deadlines.

Every employee is clear with his roles and responsibilities and strives hard to accomplish the tasks within the desired time frame as per the set guidelines. Implementation of policies is never a problem in organizations where people follow a set culture. The new employees also try their level best to understand the work culture and make the organization a better place to work.

The work culture promotes healthy relationship amongst the employees. No one treats work as a burden and moulds himself according to the culture.

It is the culture of the organization which extracts the best out of each team member. In a culture where management is very particular about the reporting system, the employees however busy they are would send their reports by end of the day. No one has to force anyone to work. The culture develops a habit in the individuals which makes them successful at the workplace.

Role of HRM on organisation culture

HRM must cater for cultural values as the latter influence the behaviours of employees in an organisation.If a worker is satisfied and motivated,so the employer will surely contribute to the success of the organisation.

The first and the foremost factor affecting culture is the individual working with the organization. The employees in their own way contribute to the culture of the workplace. The attitudes, mentalities, interests, perception and even thought process of the employees affect the organization culture.So,the HRM must be prepared to confront all the challenges that will crop up.

Example - Organizations which hire individuals from army or defence background tend to follow a strict culture where all the employees abide by the set guidelines and policies. The employees are hardly late to work. It is the mindset of the employees which forms the culture of the place. Organizations with majority of youngsters encourage healthy competition at the workplace and employees are always on the toes to perform better than the fellow workers.

HRM is a reflection of culture in which it operates,of its characteristics and of power relationships between individuals.HRM has in ensuring employee groups and employee identity is the core of managing a healthy organisation culture.

The sex of the employee also affects the organization culture. Organizations where male employees dominate the female counterparts follow a culture where late sitting is a normal feature. The male employees are more aggressive than the females who instead would be caring and softhearted.

The nature of the business also affects the culture of the organization. Stock broking industries, financial services, banking industry are all dependent on external factors like demand and supply, market cap, earning per share and so on. When the market crashes, these industries have no other option than to terminate the employees and eventually affect the culture of the place. Market fluctuations lead to unrest, tensions and severely demotivate the individuals. The management also feels helpless when circumstances can be controlled by none. Individuals are unsure about their career as well as growth in such organizations.

The culture of the organization is also affected by its goals and objectives. The strategies and procedures designed to achieve the targets of the organization also contribute to its culture.

Individuals working with government organizations adhere to the set guidelines but do not follow a procedure of feedback thus forming its culture. Fast paced industries like advertising, event management companies expect the employees to be attentive, aggressive and hyper active.

The management and its style of handling the employees also affect the culture of the workplace. There are certain organizations where the management allows the employees to take their own decisions and let them participate in strategy making. In such a culture, employees get attached to their management and look forward to a long term association with the organization. The management must respect the employees to avoid a culture where the employees just work for money and nothing else. They treat the organization as a mere source of earning money and look for a change in a short span of time.

The workplace is where individuals from different backgrounds, religions, communities come together on a common platform to work towards a predefined goal is called an organization. Every organization has set of principles and policies mandatory for all the employees to follow.

The beliefs, ideologies and practices of an organization form its culture which gives a sense of direction to the employees. The work culture goes a long way in creating the brand image of the organization and making it distinct from its competitors. The employees are the true assets of an organization. They are the ones who contribute effectively towards the successful functioning of an organization. They strive hard to deliver their level best and achieve the assigned targets within the stipulated time frame.

The employees play an important role in deciding the culture of the workplace. Their behaviour, attitude and interest at the workplace form the culture.

Weak points of culture

Culture is considered to be a liability where the shared values are not in agreement with those that will increase the organisation's effectiveness.When,the environment is undergoing rapid change,the organisation's entrenched culture may no longer be appropriate.So,consistency of behaviour becomes a liablity to an organisation and makes it difficult to respond to changes in the environment.Organisations which have strong cultures become a barrier when the usual business is no longet effective.

Strong culture limit the range of values and styles that the employees bring.Organisations normally recruit diverse individuals because of the alternative strenghts thses people bring to the workplace.Yet,these diverse behaviours and strenghts are likely to diminish in strong cultures as people attempt to fit in.Therefore,strong culture become an obstacle when they effectively eliminate these unique strenghts that people of different backgrounds bring to the organisation.


An organisation's culture is its heart and soul.It is its shared understanding of how things are done,how things get done,why things get done and what are the ground rules.Its shared meanings and symbols facilitate everyone's interpretations and understandings of how to act within an organisation. If there is a freedom of expression,a lack of coercion and fear and a determinationto make work fun influences the way employees work and theway that managers plan,organise,lead and control.The organisation's culture is also reinforced by the office's environment which is open,versatile and creative.Moreover,in order to aid culture to propagate in the organisation, Human Resource Management acts as a powerful catalyst in creating and changing organisation culture for competitive advantage.Despite certain shortcomings,Culture remains the most important variable in an organisation.


From Books:

Table of Contents


Abstract 1

Introduction 2

Strong Culture Versus Weak Culture 3

Companents of Culture 3

Classifying Key Culture 4-5

Determinants of culture 5-6

Importance of culture 7-8

Role of HRM on organisation culture 8-10

Weakpoints of culture 10

Conclusion 10