From 100 years ago to nowadays, organization theory has been changing until become a distinctive social science discipline that is nowadays. This discipline explains and influence what happen in organizations or companies.
Since decades ago, people used to do together various activities. One of the main reasons of that is because some kind of activities we cannot do it by ourselves. The persons are interdependent because they rely on other persons for doing different activities and this issue have some strengths and weakness. Moreover, people also need help from people through the cooperation, interaction and coordination of their efforts in order to achieve the goals.
In today's lives, organizations are an important phenomenon that has some effects in our lives. Probably, we cannot live without an organize type of life. With this, I mean that for example we are used to make queues in bus stops, shopsâ€¦ without any law forcing to do that. Besides, organizations organize our lives such as, what we do, how we do it, who decides what the company should doâ€¦
In sum, institutions, companies and organizations influence our sense of identity since we are students. Because of that, organization theory is important in two aspects:
It help us finding answers to questions like, why we are here and who we are
The theory is about us and how we interact with other people in different social context (Clegg, 2002, p.xxvii)
2. - Organizational Culture:
With reference to what is organization theory, it is important to say that often there is an important confusion about the term of theory.
For John Maynard Keynes, 1936, " theory involves the development of explanations about some aspects of our world. Moreover, it is a short step from explaining why something has happened to thinking about what we might be able to do about it in order to change things".
So, theories have a huge impact upon our acts guiding them.
Also, it is important to explain what is an organization; "an organization is a coordination of the activities of a number of people working together in order to achieve the same goal, through division of labour or function, and through a hierarchy of authority and responsibility" (Schein, 1970)
However, there are two problems created by organizations that David Silverman explained in 1970:
In case that organizations were individual persons, this could be misleading because it create an image of agreement amount members regarding the organization purposes that might not exist
And also, we may be prioritizing the particular goals of certain individuals or groups.
Gouldner (1959) pointed out that "the organizations cannot have just a goal. They have to be orientated to a certain goals often means no more than these are the goals of its top administrators"
Now, in order to explain the intellectual war game on organizational culture, it is important to emphasize the perspective outcomes. So, with this perspective managers have the opportunity to present a set of approaches that give managers the best way to manage organizations, companies and people. However, this process has some implications:
The same information can be given in many different interpretations.
The language that people use is not straightforward, as it seems.
Within the organizational theory, there are different approaches in order to explore the organization culture. In the interpretavist perspective, culture is understood through his or her subjective experience. There are 4 important points.
Communicating cultures: Here, the key interests are the nicknames, stories, jokes, myths and sagas. For those people who have power in organizations, these myths and stories provide them the sense of preserving their authority, while for those who feel powerless, they help them to make it bearable.
In the interpretavist approach is really important the myths, because with that people still belief their version that their organizational story is true.
Negotiation of meaning influences organizational design: Here, this aspect explains how members use language and symbols in order the design of their organization.
Ideology, rhetoric and negotiation: Here, Strauss pointed out that the position in the hierarchy is important and that position could be use in the negotiation process.
Arenas and games: The games give to the players the sense of failure or success in the activities that they take.
With reference to the psychoanalytic view, culture is known, as a place where people feel that they are safe be the person that they are.
Lionel Stapley (1996) pointed out that:
Culture is a process in which people are interrelated with each other.
Conscious and unconscious features influence culture
Organization cultures have some features that are similar, however each culture is unique.
And, organizational cultures are dynamic. With this, I mean that people work in the same way that the changes, so changes make part of their experiences and lives of people.
Furthermore, leaders and managers have power and domination. This power and domination is use over the members of the organization. Hence, their obligation is motivate, lead and empower people from realizing their own potential and creativity.
However this power can be excessive and managers can become dominating or overwhelming in their search of control. Successful leadership consist in combine action with reflection.
Then, with reference to the different perspectives;
In Modernist perspective, organizations are seen as systems and organizations can be managed in an effective way. The bureaucracy and its location are important issues.
However, the Neomodernist perspective focuses on human relations and the emergence of democratic organizations. This perspective highlights the relevance of the human in organizations. There are two traditions: The fist one is the human relations approach that is focused in the development of the management and leadership in order to achieve the better working environment. And the second one is the approach that emphasizes the empowerment of the members of the organization. Also in this approach is important the participation in decision-making, commitment and morale.
Then, the New-wave perspective find three different kinds of formal control: Bureaucratic, output based and cultural. There are two explanations: One explains that new-wave management was necessary in order to respond the increasing levels of uncertainty environment in organizations. And the second explanation, describes the origins of new-wave management back to Durkheim's concept.
The Postmodern perspective highlights the importance of the way that the organization has developed partnership with other organizations. In this theory, the design of jobs and the organizational structure had an important role.
The Reflective perspective is focused on the ways individuals and groups build their organizational identities and the ways that these identities are developed in the culture of the organization.
Finally, Critical theory/Psychoanalytic perspective and Managerialist perspective. The first one examines the ways that an organization should operate in order to make organization-fulfilling places in which to work. The critical theory study the manner that managers, leaders and members use their power over other members of the organization. And the latter, focuses on the evolution of management. Also this perspective will develop a theory to understand managers as an identifiable and significant organization group.
Source: The interplay between different approaches to culture. Schultz and Hatch, 1996
All these theories have something to say about culture and the relationship between organizational culture and goals.
In conclusion, the new ideas and issues that are becoming in the organizational theory can supplant existing perspectives. Why there are many perspectives? Haridimos Tsoukas (2003) pointed out that the organizational theory is becoming more complex.
With reference to the organizational culture, it is one of the major issues in organization theory besides management. Is used to describe norms, symbolic manifestations and values and transmitted to the workforce. In the majority of the contemporary organizations culture is as complex and significant as it is difficult to understand. Managers use to attribute successes such as the quickly growth of the organization. The CEO of CompUSA said that companies win or lose based on the cultures they create.
Also corporate culture has different way in which culture has been understood. The corporate-functionalist approach, illustrated by Schein, culture is characterized by a condition of consistency and charity (Martin, 1992:45). So, culture could be designed and characterized by top managers.
In the symbolic-interpretive approach, culture is a subjective phenomenon. It means that culture is seen as the expression of their members (Meek, 1989:463). Here, managers play an important role in promoting and establishing new cultures.
For Martin (1992), the Fragmentary-postmodernist approach can perhaps best be understood as one that recognizes the centrality of fragmentation.
And finally, the Critical-emancipatory approach, where is important the ways in which forms of cultural management can be seen to legitimate unequal relation of power and control within organizations.
As I explained before, culture is very important for how companies, organizations or institutions function. From the everyday leadership to how managers and employees interact with customers, etc. Moreover, culture is not fixed, that's why it has a huge variety of meanings.
For Frost et all (1985), culture seems to mean talking about the importance for people of symbolism of rituals, myths, stories and legends and about the interpretation of events, ideas and experiences that are influenced and shaped by the groups within they live.
So, culture is central in the governance of understanding behaviour and also is the setting in which these phenomena become comprehensible and meaningful.
In order to understand it better I will explain an example: In a company a formal rule explains that managers can only make investment up to 25,000 pounds and higher investment have to be confirmed by higher authorities. This meaning have several interpretations and here is really important the culture. First, it could be understand like higher investments are intolerable and leads to dismissal. Second, that the investment could be divided in 25,000 pounds packages. Thirdly, that is necessary to consult top managers before exceeding this level.
Cohen in 1974 defined that "a symbol can be explained as an object, a word or statement that stands ambiguously for something else and something more than the object itself". Olie in 1994 illustrated an example of the significant of cultural meaning. The example explains the merge between two companies, one Dutch and the other one German. These two companies saw the meetings in different ways. For the German company, meetings were an instrument for decision-making, while in the Dutch company perceived them as a manner of sharing ideas and information and a preparation for future actions. So, during the periods of change, like a merger or and acquisition, culture is really important even in companies where it doesn't have an important role.
Also, the boom of the Japanese companies and the difficulties of the US and Western economies create an exaggerated view of corporate culture. In the recent decades, changes in technology and in the organization of work have an important impact in the cultural dimension. Furthermore, changes in life-styles among employees and among the society make more difficult the corporate control especially in big companies where they employ a huge number of people (Alvesson, 1995).
One of the main reasons of that is because modern management makes cultural patterns less stable and more diverse (Van Maanen and Barley, 1985).
Moreover, Habermas in 1972 identifies three basic motives or interest: The technical interest, the practical-hermeneutic interest and the emancipatory interest.
One example would be cultural meanings. The culture in organizations uses to bear with masculine domination, leading ideas of what is valuable in organization, what is natural, etc. These ideas have a doubtful value for business such us, allow only a set of leadership behaviour, exclude most of womenâ€¦ So the purpose is to liberate the human potential.
All the managerial action need to consider the cultural context, how subordinates, customers, etc, give meaning to the perception of the world. Many acquisitions and mergers fail due to the cultural differences.
With references to the implications of management, one of the important aspects is not to do correct things, what matter is how people understand the actions. When different people have different cultural orientations, they will understand and respond differently on the same symbolic acts, management talk and material re-arrangements and also, an important amount of time and effort will be spent negotiating and dealing with cultural difference. Also if an organizational culture has strong imprints of meanings and values originated in regions, societies, families, etc. there will be a pressure from outside groups.
There is no formula for the good overall organizational culture, but it is important to use cultural ideas in everyday interactions. The use of talk, actions and material arrangements appears to be coherent. So, symbolic effectiveness is the success in expressing a rich content of meaning that appeals in minds and hearts of a group. However, one of the possible effects could be the ambition to reduce the evoking of a negative response rather than influence people positively. Managers will interfere in the ongoing culture, as far as they have an ability to listen and know how people feel and interpret things.
With reference to the term of managing culture, it is important to highlight that is related to changing culture. Culture normally focuses on existing beliefs, ideas and meanings viewed as problematic, so therefore they need a transformation. The e-commerce, the global competition and the new generations are really different form the previous one, so it needs rapid changes.
A study of 448 European firms between 1992 and 1996 show some changes made by companies such as, increasing internal networking, etc. however, these changes were not big.
Lewin's pointed out three stages in an international change project. These stages are; unfreezing, change and refreezing. The world is always changing, the organizations, the people, so organizations are involve in a continuously changing social world and efforts to change are necessary for a sense in the ongoing cultural changes.
Many of these changes are seen as negative for those people involve in the organization.
Here we can explain what is cultural drifting, which is the outcome of new persons replacing others. Moreover, also growth affects the culture. Companies, which are growing, tend to include more or less between 2-300 employees, however it became impossible for the organizations to maintain a close spirit between workers and some groups of workers view growth as weakness, poorer workplace climate, etc. Also growth has a positive perception between managers and some groups of workers such as, vitality, success, strength, quality, etc.
So, in order to maintain and reproduce the culture, managers have an important task. With reference to this issue, we can explain here what is Cultural maintenance.
Cultural maintenance means counteracting gradual change, therefore no introduction of new culture.
The possible purposes for cultural maintenance that managers could do are:
Upholding virtues and morale and encouraging the continued dominance of a set of meanings showing how people perceive and relate particular issues.
Supporting organizational and departamental identity.
Creating cultural basis.
Furthermore change could be thinking as the grand of technocratic project. It portrays the possibility of an international large-scale change form a cultural situation to another. The cultural change has to be a combination of some ingredients:
New training programmes and forms of socialization
Promotion of people
New recruitment and selection procedures
Leadership in order to communicate cultural values, actions, etc.
Organizational symbols. Particular use of language, actions, material objects, etc.
This believes that the architects of the cultural change are the top managers.
Another thinking of cultural change could be seen as organic social movement, where change is something emergent. Inside the organization groups revise their thinking introducing new ideas that could originate discontent people with that practices or ideas. This thinking means that people inside the organization follow the new ideas in order to lead the cultural change. One of the main characteristics of this thinking is the exposure to change in ideas, values and beliefs.
A third view of cultural change is everyday re-framing. This view is more of an ongoing everyday thing rather than a grand project and is mainly informal. This type of change is weak than the last two, but has stronger action implication rather than lofty ambitions of efforts.
So, technocratic project is a top-down cultural change while everyday re-framing change moves form the middle down to some extent around.
One relevant aspect of cultural change concerns whether if is a matter of beliefs, values and ideas level or of it is a substantive matter, such as structural and material arrangements applying for behavioural changes. So, in other to make change possible it is important to change people's ideas and values, giving priority to a cultural level (Lundberg, 1985; Schein, 1985).
Regarding the gender issues, many people think that the increase in gender equality in particular in senior positions call for policy and legislation changes. In order to experience a behavioural change is necessary a cultural change before. One of the clearest examples is the case of Hewlett-Packard, moving from guaranteed employment to guaranteed employability.
There are also some cultural constraints. The majority reasoning on cultural changes is about how to change it and how should we change us, i.e. top managers. One of the common measures to change is the entrance of new CEO in the organization.
Siehl (1985) pointed out that the efforts that managers use to do in cultural changes have no major effects.
Another important thing in cultural change is stamina. The quick fixes and the pressure on many companies run against cultural change. One problem is that managers use to stay a few years in organization and after that a new manager will come to the organization with another values, belief, ideas and also another way of doing things.
For anti-cultural management practices is necessary cultural support such as, an evaluation of new concepts, problems and possibilities.
Nevertheless, the cultural thinking has seven sins: reifying culture, essentializing culture, unifying culture, idealizing culture, consensualizing culture, totalizing culture and otherizing culture.
Culture is understood as something heterogeneous and diverse, inaccessible to simplistic research strategies sees as being underpinned by the representationalist legacy of the natural sciences. Often the relation between social practice, culture and material aspects of people's organizational lives is neglected, which is a primarily consequence of the top managers.
To sum, cultural aspect should relate to specific events, actions, processes and situations, also culture should be treated as a network of meaning and meaning should be viewed as processual and situated and not as a fixed essence.
The intuition, creativity and knowledge are very important resources in analysing culture as well as using culture thinking in management.
The use of culture concept raise broader questions about cultural patterns in organizations, business and working life and diverts attention from questioning of the status quo.
However, culture not only have positive functions such as fulfilling people's needs but also have negative functions such as closure of mind and reduction of autonomy.
Moreover, organizational culture has changing very fast in the last years. In decades ago, organizations didn't use to give importance to the culture, however nowadays organizations are based in their culture so it has a huge importance in order to achieve their goals.