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What is culture? Culture is something you belong to. Here a few definitions of the word culture. Geertz describes culture as a system of shared meaning, (Griffin, 2003, p. 273), Pancanowsky said culture is not something a organization has, a culture is something an organization is. (Griffin, 2003, p. 273) Philipesen describes culture as "a socially constructed and historically transmitted pattern of symbols, meanings, premises, and rules."(Griffin, 2003, p.420).
In this case study EUROCOM Systems is a German organization and SOFTCOM is an IT organization in New Zealand.EUROCOM Systems is taking over SOFTCOM.
According to the above definitions about culture, we can see that EUROCOM Systems and SOFTCOM are two different types of organizations with two different cultures. Firstly their languages are different, and also the German organization has a very traditional management style. Their staff are expected to wear traditional business suits and ties and keep to fixed daily working hours. The New Zealand organization has an easygoing and relaxed atmosphere, including a dress code and flexible working hours that suit their customers.
There are also other problems that could happen in the new organization. As the case study mentions that EUROCOM will send their own managers to New Zealand. These managers have to face a new environment, so could have a lot of anxiety.
During the takeover, it will be two different countries with different cultures merging together; obviously this could cause culture conflict.
How can these cultural differences be overcome? The above provides two hypotheses, using some theories to help to achieve the hypotheses.
Maxwell McCombs & Donald Shaw's Agenda Setting Theory uses framing where they select a feature and put this into the mind of people making them think about it.
For example, SOFTCOM's flexible working hours change to fixed daily working hours. If at lunch time or outside working hours, the customers has some software problems needing speciality help, who can serve them to figure out the problems. Does the customer have to wait until the speciality staff are back from lunch? No, no one has the patience when they have a problem. They want the company solve the problem at once.
As no one can run a business without customers, SOFTCOM should put those points to frame the cultural differences, and let EUROCOM think about by changing SOFTCOM culture it may cause many problems, and even lose customers.
Social Penetration Theory & Cultural approach to organization Theory
Social Penetration Theory is when the "onion is peeled by layer" the two nationalities will soon be friends and appreciate each other. (Griffin, 2003, p. 133) Once they penetrate well below the surface, the Germans and New Zealanders will become close.
Story and ritual (Using the metaphor) can help to understand an organization culture. So in this case, SOFTCOM can tell some stories through ritual that will help EUOROCOM Managers to understand SOFTCOM' culture.
Below is an provide an example combining these two theories.
When the managers of EUORCOM come to New Zealander at first, they might feel uncomfortable and not know what to say to SOFTCOM staff, but after a few days they will start to know each other. Also SOFTCOM can provide some rituals such as a party or a BBQ, and by corporate stories, collegial stories or personal story telling increase their relationships and help them understand the SOFTCOM' culture.
Understanding organization culture
Information Systems Approach to Organisations
Cultural Approach to Organizations
Narrative Paradigm Theory
From the case study, it seems that SOFTCOM Systems is a culture system and belongs to Individualistic culture. EUOROCOM Systems is an information system and belongs to collectivistic culture.
Below are some theories to identify the statement, and also will provide a strategy for SOFTCOM to keep the unique features of the organisation.
Information Systems Approach to Organisations Theory
According to Weick's Information Systems Approach to Organisations theory, every organisation as living organizations that must constantly adapt to changing environment in order to stay alive. (Griffin, 2003, p. 259). Weick talks about the information and how it relates to the organisation, whereas organisation systems depend on the information system. Weick considers in his theory the hierarchy structural of the organisation. Every employee is put on different levels of positions. The boss is at the top, flows down to the associate managers, along the path to the next level will be the workers at the lower level. From this hierarchy structural, Weick forms up the "chain-of-command lines of communication". Information is pushed down from the top, where the boss is, down to his associates and from the associates to the workers below. Information flows in the organisation.
Cultural Approach to Organisation Theory
Geertz and Pacanowsky's theory of the Cultural Approach to Organisation base on Information Systems Approach to Organisations theory, but they state that "culture is not something that an organisation has; culture is something an organisation is". Geertz describes culture as a system of shared meaning, (Griffin, 2003, p. 273),
From the above explanations of the two theories, we can see EUOROCOM is an information system, because the boss at top level pushes information down to the next level associates, and to the workers. The workers do not have a chance to raise opinions to the managers. As the case study said the EUOROCOM organization has a very conservative management style.
SOFTCOM is a culture system. As EUOROCOM the boss from the top pushes the information to the next level and to the workers. But SOFTCOM have effective communication and a shared meaning about the information. The case study says SOFTCOM has an easygoing relaxed atmosphere, which is why SOFTCOM is an innovative and creative software development.
According to Ting-Toomey's Face- Negotiation theory, she distinguishes national cultures within collectivistic and individualistic categories. (Griffin, 2003, p. 436).
Collectivistic culture means where people identify with a larger group loyalty thus acting from a We-identity. The collectivistic culture has a high context communication or message.
Individualistic culture means where people look out for themselves and their immediate families thus acting from an I-identity. The Individualistic culture has a low context communication
Using these definitions we can see that EUOROCOM is a Collectivistic culture, because the EUOROCOM System values collective needs and goals over individual needs and goals. In EUOROCOM, staff behaviour is controlled by the company, for example, the EUOROCOM System boss asked the SOFTCOM staff to wear traditional business suits and ties everyday, and they had no choice, but to do it no matter whether they want to it or not.
EUOROCOM has a very high context on sending messages from their boss to staff. The power gap between the boss at the top and his associates below is wide. It is hard for the worker to communicate their thoughts to the top level.
The SOFTCOM system is an individualistic culture; because SOFTCOM treat every person as unique.
SOFTCOM has a very low context communication between their boss and staff. It's a narrow hierarchy structure. The power gap between the boss at the top level and his associates below (the workers of the organisation) is narrow. In other words, communication between the workers is easy and they help each other, not like the high context communication staff of EUOROCOM Systems. So their company is conducive to more innovation than EUOROCOM.
How can the take over be effective? In the case study EUOROCOM will create a more disciplined culture in the new organization which means the Germans will run the merged organisation to their collectivistic culture. How could the New Zealanders persuade the Germans not take away the unique features of SOFTCOM? Here using narrative paradigm theory could persuade EUOROCOM to keep the SOFTCOM system, so that SOFTCOM will not lose the unique features of the organization.
Narrative Paradigm Theory
Using Walter Fisher's theory Narrative Paradigm would be effective. Fisher says that "people are storytelling animals" and to reason to others we use stories.
SOFTCOM could persuade the Germans and point out that the organisation is living in its own culture and they do their own work according to the features of the culture of their organisation and their effect on the society. So they can use their customers to tell a story to EUOROCOM to persuade the Germans to confirm the takeover without taking away their unique features.
Customers might say they are familiar with the service that SOFTCOM gives them because SOFTCOM serve them on their own way. If EUOROCOM takes that away, loss of customers could turn out to be true which EUOROCOM would not want to happen for the sake of the organisation.