The Organisational Culture Theory Business Essay


Schein points to the possibility of the co-existence of subcultures and a dominant culture when dealing with pivotal and peripheral values. Pivotal values are central to an organization's functioning; members are required to adopt and adhere to the behavioural norms derived from these values and are typically rejected from the organization if they do not (Chatman, 1991; O'Reilly & Chatman, 1996). Peripheral values are desirable but are not believed by members to be essential to an organization's functioning. Members are encouraged to accept peripheral values, but can reject them and still function fully as members. Boinsier and CHAPMAN!!!

With Schein's work in mind, subcultures could be seen to exist that maintain the pivotal values but only some or a few of the peripheral values. In this way, the subcultures not only cannot be viewed as a counterculture, but should not affect the organization's function. According to Boisnier and Chatman (2002), the "members' degree of conformity to peripheral norms can vary considerably". Thus it could be claimed that subcultures may vary in the extent they are related to the dominant organisational culture. Poskiene (2002) found that there were overlapping values among the subcultures in the university culture, which highlighted certain pivotal values held throughout the organisation.

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An example of this can be seen in the work of Bloor and Dawson (1994), who observed that certain pivotal values were held such as high professional standards and a commitment to client rehabilitation. When considering peripheral values, the social workers within the organization held ethical behaviour and client advocacy as values. Thus the pivotal values were maintained and the peripheral values they adopted did not interfere with the organization's pivotal values, so the social workers' beliefs did not detract from the strength of the dominant organizational culture.

It has been argued that in some of the strongest culture organisations, such as prisons, pivotal values are so widely adopted that they restrict the emergence of peripheral values and thereby, the emergence of subcultures (O-Reilly and Chatman, 1996; Van Maanen and Barley, 1984). However, as pointed out by Boisnier and Chatman (2002), this is less likely in strong culture organisations in general where a set of pivotal values may be relevant to day-to-day functioning and performance of tasks but also a set of peripheral values which are far less important. The question for higher education is where the pivotal values come from and if there is a difference according to occupation (see section on occupational subcultures). For example, teaching staff have a number of influences upon them, such as the discipline (prestige, publications, reputation), profession, and the organisation.

In higher education, Kuh and Whitt (1988) claim the shared (and strongly held) values of this profession are: the main responsibility is to be learned and convey this learning (through teaching, inquiry and publication); autonomy in the conduct of work; and collegiality (e.g. mutual support). This does not necessarily mean that within HEIs there is a single strong homogenous culture and a unitarist perspective is required. These common values through the profession can thus be seen as pivotal values with subcultures existing with a combination of these pivotal values and other peripheral values shared in the subculture itself. These differences in peripheral values may go towards explaining the fragmentation and complexity in HEIs. Bess (1982) described the academic profession as a 'complex of subprofessions'. Becher (1987) points out that the differences in the academic profession may be more significant than the similarities. Studies such as that of Bowen and Schuster (1986) which found that members of different disciplines showed different values, attitudes and personal characteristics seem to indicate the need to adopt a pluralist perspective. Becher (1987: 292) even refers to subcultures within disciplines, which is a subculture in itself: "to affiliate with a particular specialism is to become, except in a few heavily populated areas, a member of a small and close-knit community". Thus, it could be said that despite the common and strongly held values of the academic profession, within each institution subcultures have been found to exist.

When considering the implications of the perspective taken in any study, Toarniczky and Primecz (2006) highlight the studies to date according to perspective and approach as can be seen in the following table:

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The above table hinges on the three perspectives put forward by Martin et al. (2004) as well as the non-managerial or managerial perspectives and the four approaches to organisations: functionalist, interpretive, radical humanist and radical structuralist (Burrell and Morgan, 1979). In order so assess subcultures in the organisation, a differentiation perspective has been taken in this study, with both managerial and non-managerial perspectives. When considering this study from a functionalist, interpretive, radical humanist and radical structuralist perspective. The aim is not to consider the best fit of the organisation or effective strategies to manage diversity (functionalist), or to interpret artefacts and superficial manifestations of organisational culture (interpretive), but rather to consider and identify the divisions within the organisation using various factors such as demographics, occupation and discipline. Thus it could be said that this study adopts a radical humanism approach with a differentiation perspective (in that the existence of subcultures is a basic assumption) and is both a managerial and non-managerial study. It should be noted that this does not mean that the organisational culture of an HEI cannot have some form of overall dominant culture, subcultures and also ambiguous fragmented areas simultaneously, which would indicate the need for a multi-paradigm approach (Toarniczky and Primecz, 2006, p9), since the research question is concerned with the mapping of the organisational culture and from this resulting map the required perspective become apparent.

3.2 Organisational culture theory

According to Hofstede et al. (1990) the roots of the concept of organisational culture can be traced back to as far back as 1976 to a paper by Silverzweig and Allen. There is a plethora of definitions ranging from the detailed to the more generalist and varying in perspective and focus from a range of fields including anthropologists, sociologists, social psychologists, managers, consultants, organisational behaviourists and so on with their roots in studies into culture. Definitions of culture may also depend on whether it is seen as a cause or an effect. As an effect, the focus of the definition is on outcomes and culture as a manifestation of behaviour, hence the definition of culture as "the way we do things around here". When considering culture as a cause then culture is defined as the means by which behaviour is formed involving the reference to values, norms and beliefs from which individual and group internal and external interactions within an organisational context stem.

Definitions of culture can be seen as the means by which definitions on organisational culture developed. Definitions concerning culture as a generalist term vary according to the needs of the author and the context in which the word is being applied. For example, Hall's definition of culture as "Culture is communication, communication is culture" is fitting in the context of anthropologist writing about the issue of language (Hall, 1959). When Gudykunst and Kim (1992) refer to culture as "the systems of knowledge shared by a relatively large group of people", their research is concerned with communicative predictions based on data from three levels, and data is rather information about a person's culture, such as its dominant values and norms as this is often the only level of information available when communicating with a stranger.

Hofstede (1981) defines culture as: "the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from those of another. Culture in this sense is a system of collectively held values". Although this is rather a definition of culture than organisational culture, this 'programming of the mind' to distinguishes one group from another, fits well into the idea that Higher Education Institutions are fragmented and made up of a number of subcultures, however it doesn't refer to the process by which groups form. Becher and Trowler (2003: 23) refer to culture as 'sets of taken-for-granted values, attitudes and ways of behaving, which are articulated and reinforced by recurrent practices among a group of people in a given context'. In this study the given context is the case of Budapest Business School concerning the market-orientation and by referring to recurrent practices it seems for suited to a workplace scenario. This is similar to one of the early definitions of organisational culture as a system of publicly and collectively accepted meanings for a given group at a given time (Pettigrew 1979: 574). The following table gives a list of the best known definitions: -

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From the above table, Schein (1985)'s definition in particular is relevant to this study which will group subcultures according to perceptions and thoughts. Bate (1994) takes the anthropological perspective that organisations are cultures, describing something that an organisation is (Smircich 1983) and thus, like national cultures, an organisational culture can be said to be: "a pattern of shared basic assumptions invented, discovered, or developed by a given group as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered valid, and, therefore, is to be taught to new members of the group as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems (Schein 1991; 247). The implication of adopting such an anthropological stance according to Bate (1994) is that organisational culture and organisational strategy are inextricably linked and interdependent. Some definitions indicate the culture-formation process as being achieved through more than simply internal integration and interaction and refer to problem-solving as a key issue. This is referred to in Schein's definition perhaps as 'external adaptation', although with a seemingly monolithic entity that is behind the times like an HEI, the importance of externalities may be debatable. Pettigrew (1987; 658) refers to studying organisations within a given context, which may be an outer or an inner context. The outer context refers to the social, economic, political and competitive environment. The inner context refers to structure, corporate culture and political context. This being the case, this study focuses on the inner context, more specifically the corporate culture, although references are made to externalities in terms of those affecting market-orientation and these two variables: corporate culture and market-orientation are not seen as mutually exclusive but rather than one impacts on the other (see section on theoretical framework). Bokor (2000) sees culture as based on the following elements: a cognitive level (belief systems), a values level and a perceptional level (perception filters). This study will focus on values and perceptions, but, as mentioned in the introduction, the issues concerning externalities are beyond the scope of this study. Likewise, the socialization of new members referred to by Schein (1991; 247) is also beyond the scope of this study.

Maanen and Barley (1985) refer to the members of organisations interacting overt time and addressing problems cooperatively and that through this, collective understandings form. Although staff in HEIs have such a high degree of interaction and problem-solving on a daily basis, Maanen and Barley (1985) point out that these collective understandings form on a subgroup level within work organisations. This leads to their definition of subcultures as "a subset of an organisation's members who interact regularly with one another, identify themselves as a distinct group within the organisation, share a set of problems commonly defined to be the problems of all, and routinely take action on the basis of collective understandings unique to the group".

When considering the concept of organisational culture, it is often confused with organisational climate. According to Schneider et al. (1994) and Denison (1996) there is a difference. Organisational climate concerns the psychological environment in which the behaviour of the members of a culture occurs, thus organisational climate is seen as focussing on assessing the perceptions of individuals in the organisations (Jackofsky and Slocum, 1988), whereas organisational culture on the other hand is concerned with the beliefs, values and norms shared by people in the organisation (see earlier in this section). In other words, organisational climate is seen as the members' perceptions of observable practices, procedures and behaviours i.e. a specific situation - and as such is at a more superficial level than organisational culture research (Ryder and Southey, 1990). Hofstede (1998, p486) claims "climate is more closely linked to motivation and behaviour than culture, which resides entirely at the organisational level". In a nutshell, Snow (2002) refers to climate as how it "feels" to work in a particular workplace or the general atmosphere of the workplace with descriptive beliefs about a situation that has occurred or occurs in an organisation. Therefore climate can be seen as temporal, subjective and subject to manipulation. Organisational culture on the other hand has some degree of roots in history as beliefs, values and norms are developed and shared over time as Denison (1996) claims that culture with roots in history, collectively held and complexity is far less prone to direct manipulation. Whilst it is conceded that this study will consider employees perceptions to some extent, it is not concerned with perceptions of certain behaviours or the mood of the workplace at a given point in time but rather perceptions of the organisation as a whole. Alvesson and Berg (1992, p88) reinforce this by stating that organisational culture is "the construction of the corporate collective's pictures of the world", whereas climate is "the experiences which culture…produce in individuals".

In essence, organisational culture is a macro phenomenon whereas organisational climate is a micro phenomenon. The study attempts to delve deeper into cognitive aspects of culture in terms of values, assumptions and beliefs. Due to the distinct difference in interpretation and theoretical framework of these two concepts, organisational climate will not be referred to in this study and the focus will remain on organisational culture. Furthermore, this study is concerned with the internal map of the organisation and the market-orientation at the time of research, it is beyond the scope of this study to examine the change process itself in organisational culture and consider externalities in relation to organisational adaptation.