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Organizational Culture is sometimes hard to define. Is it a philosophy? Does it involve procedures? Is everyone involved in organizational culture? When we think of culture we think of how people act and react in the workplace. We think of what people do. We think of company policy and good and proper business practices.
So what is culture? A basic definition of organizational culture "is the collective way we do things around here. It involves a learned set of behaviors that is common knowledge to all the participants. (Corporate Culture Defined n.d. ¶ 1)". Usually that involves standard business practices and procedures. Perhaps and example would be a defined set of procedures and employee follows to process requests or contact the president of the company.
Many times an organization has a set of values and ideologies that influence business practices. Robert Duska, PhD states "Culture has been defined as "the shared philosophies, ideologies, values, assumptions, beliefs, expectations, attitudes, and norms that knit a community together". (Duska, 2010, p.22 ¶8)
"Culture is the environment that surrounds you at work all of the time. Culture is a powerful element that shapes your work enjoyment; you work relationships, and your work processes. But, culture is something that you cannot actually see, except through its physical manifestations in your work place.
In many ways, culture is like personality. In a person, the personality is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, interest, experiences, upbringing, and habits that create a person's behavior (Heathfield, n.d. Your Environment ¶ 1-2)".
Schermerhorn, Hunt & Osborn define organizational culture as "the system of shared actions, values and beliefs that develops within an organization and guides the behavior of its members" (Schermerhorn, Hunt & Osborn 2008, p. 364).
In their article "Uncovering Organizational Culture: A Necessary Skill for Athletic Trainers (Hudson & Irwin, 2010), organizational culture is also defined as the combination of knowledge, beliefs, values, behaviors, and practices that influence the manner in which members of a group think and act (Defining Organizational Culture (¶ 4)".
Finally, Hudson & Irwin cited Schein (2004) defining organizational culture as:
"a pattern of shared basic assumptions that was leaned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems (Hudson & Irwin, 2010 ¶ 5)".
How is culture created and what types are there?
Since organizational culture, sometimes referred to as corporate culture is the shared assumptions, values beliefs etcetera, it is common belief that foundation of organizational culture start with upper management, specifically the Board of Directors and the CEO. While organizational culture also embodies sub-culture, we are only looking at culture in the broad corporate sense. Any change or development of organizational culture cannot occur "without the buy-in and commitment of the CEO (Ferro, 2010 ¶ 3)".
Leadership needs to establish "respect for the mission (Goltz, 2009 ¶ 3)".
Leadership also needs to "train their employees rigorously and empower them to solve problems (Goltz, 2009 ¶ 4)". Goltz also stated that "building a strong culture requires hiring the right people, firing the wrong people and managing the work environment. (¶ 9)"
"One of the surest ways to align the culture to the organization's strategy is to apply leadership practices that are also aligned. The leaders, at all levels, need to know what the required culture is and then determine ways of establishing practices and procedures in all operations that will closely reflect the desired culture. They also need to role model the very behaviors they wish exhibited by everyone in the organization and provide the necessary support to others that will enable them to function accordingly as well. Particular attention also needs to be given to all communications (Corporate Culture Defined, n.d. ¶ 7)".
Organizational culture "can be created or reinforced through the use of socialization. Avenues for socialization abound in functions like selection, placement on the job, job mastery, the measurement and rewarding of performance, and recognition and promotion. Reinforcing a culture can emerge through the stories told and the folklore propagated and, most importantly, through the adherence to chosen important values (Corporate Culture Defined, n.d. ¶ 6)".
McNamara, in his book "Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision (2000)", defined culture as "the personality of the organization (McNamara, as cited in Organizational Culture, n.d. ¶ 1)". McNamara went on to state "Corporate culture can be looked at as a system (McNamara, as cited in Organizational Culture, n.d. ¶ 2)" which can be broken down into several categories as defined by Jeffrey Sonnenfield (as cited in Organizational Culture, n.d. ¶ 5-9) which are listed below.
Employees are highly skilled and tend to stay in the organization, while working their way up the ranks. The organization provides a stable environment in which employees can development and exercise their skills. Examples are universities, hospitals, large corporations, etc.
Baseball Team Culture
Employees are "free agents" who have highly prized skills. They are in high demand and can rather easily get jobs elsewhere. This type of culture exists in fast-paced, high-risk organizations, such as investment banking, advertising, etc.
The most important requirement for employees in this culture is to fit into the group. Usually employees start at the bottom and stay with the organization. The organization promotes from within and highly values seniority. Examples are the military, some law firms, etc.
Employees don't know if they'll be laid off or not. These organizations often undergo massive reorganization. There are many opportunities for those with timely, specialized skills. Examples are savings and loans, large car companies, etc."
There are also functions of organizational culture. External adaptation and Internal integration. As Schermerhorn, Hunt & Osborn (2008) state, "External adaptation deals with reaching goals, the tasks to be accomplished, the methods to be used to achieve those goals, and the methods of coping with success and failure. Internal integration, deals with the creation of a collective identity and with ways of working and living together (p. 365)".
Organizational Culture change and failure.
Can there be successful organizational culture change? Can organizational culture fail?
In order for organizational culture to change it must be a "shared responsibility, and to be successful, every member of the team must play a role. No matter where one sits in the organization, everyone has an impact on its fabric (Ferro, 2010 ¶ 7)". In an effort to improve their organization and change its culture, Ferro stated that "they should have taken a more aggressive approach to terminate those individuals who impeded their ability to change and no longer fit into the company culture. They should have worked more aggressively with the constant complainers and those with a sense of entitlement, coaching them on their behavior. Negativity can impede productivity because so much time is spent coddling these individuals and does not allow the recognition of the impact these workers have on others (Ferro, 2010 ¶ 8)".
Sometimes it is necessary to start from scratch and start all over. "If you want to change the culture, you have to change the people (Wines & Hamilton III, 2009 p. 434 ¶ 2)".
"In cultural changing, organizational employees generally fall into three groups: (a) those who have signed on for the task; (b) the resistance forces; and (c) those that fall on the fence who hesitate while they wait to see which side will prevail (Wines & Hamilton III, 2009 p. 434 ¶ 2)".
Any "genuine change in organizational culture probably needs at least two parts: (a) organizational changes such as a strong, well-funded ethics office endorsed and actively supported by the very top management levels with resources, power, and status; and (b) new vocabularies empowered by new stories conveying new values Wines & Hamilton III, 2009 p. 434 ¶ 4)".
Work experiences can "turn sour because of corporate culture and internal politics (Knox & Butzel, n.d. ¶ 1)".
In fact, "most culture change fails not because clinicians and managers don't want to change, but because many times, leaders make the mistake of decreeing new processes rather than listening to those in the rank and file who have their own ideas about making things better (Betbeze, 2009 p.19 ¶ 1)".
As we can see, culture is inherent in any organization. From processes, stories, myths, rites, values and assumptions, all has an effect on the productivity of an organization. If upper management allows a toxic culture to form the ultimate price is sometimes the demise of the organization as seen with Washington Mutual.