Definition of Culture
Culture is the
blueprint of beliefs, behaviors, and identitieswhich shape the
of a person or a group of persons. It
is an inheritance of ideas, practices, and attitudes which are conveyed and
reinforced from generation to generation through institutions of society, like
family, church, and community. Culture defines right and wrong, delineates
assumptions and expectations, and ultimately describes our dreams and the
meaning of life.
Chris Sandoval, Director
Multicultural AIDS Resource Center of California
Definition of Organisational Culture
The collections of traditions, values,
beliefs, and attitudes that constitute a pervasive context for everything we do
and think in an organisation.
Every organisation have their own special
culture, but they are usually similar if the are in the same business. For the
average person – “culture” may mean that they perceive the organisation they
are involved with to be
pushy, harsh and authoritarian
very political with traps and pitfalls
for people to fall into if they are not nimble and able to wheeler-deal and
hold their own in a brawl
rule and ritual bound
cold and separated
brisk, dynamic, opportunistic
exploitative, all take and no give
caring and genuinely interested in
people as people
People classify what they see as the
characteristics of organisations. We construe and
organisational culture. It is socially
defined and experienced. The experience of the things we feel are displayed by
the “culture and its practices” affect how we behave and respond to the
organisations we work in.
Control and Engineering
Managers seek to “change” the culture of
the organisation. What they therefore
try to do is shape the way people behave, feel, contribute, interact, perform
as employees of the organisation. This is usually called leadership! They
initiate the debates, set the imperatives and priorities. If the managers want
to pursue quality improvement then meetings will be held, training will be
done, banners will be waved – new imperatives are brought in to business to be
integrated by way of activities, expectations, values and sanctions into the
culture of the business. This business – the business must succeed in
co-ordinated, highly charged ways.
New policies, methods and roles are
introduced to shape behaviours, encourage, promote and require – to push
certain expectations of performance in the business and thus to control.
Spoken of in other ways, culture in
organisational terms is broadly the social/behavioural manifestation and
experiencing of a whole range of issues such as:
the way work is organised and
how authority exercised and
how people are and feel rewarded, organised
the values and work orientation of
the degree of formalisation,
standardisation and control through systems there is/should be
the value placed on planning,
analysis, logic, fairness etc
how much initiative, risk-taking, scope
for individuality and expression is given
rules and expectations about such
things as informality in interpersonal relations, dress, personal eccentricity
emphasis given to rules, procedures,
specifications of performance and results, team or individual working
Culture and Working Life
We are born into a culture, we take up
employment in a culture. We might therefore argue that the culture of an
organisation affects the type of people employed, their career aspirations,
their educational backgrounds, their
status in society. The culture of the organisation may embrace them. It may
culture may be visible
in the type of buildings, offices,
shops of the organisation.
in the image projected in publicity
and public relations in general. Think for example of the differences between a
local authority, a computer manufacturer, and a merchant bank.
An organisation’s culture may be
imperceptible, taken for granted, assumed,
a status quo that we live and participate
in but do not question. Elements of the culture may be questioned where
individual or group expectations do not correspond to the behaviours associated
with the prevailing values of those who uphold “the culture”.
An organisation may display elements of
several “cultures” which may contradict each other, which may compete. We can
even consider the characteristics of an
anti-organisational or countervailing
Types of organisational
Power culture – is found mainly in a
smaller organisations where power and influence stem from a single central
source, through which all decisions, communication and control are channelled.
Because there is no rigid structure within the organisation, it is theoretically
capable of adapting to change very, although its actual success in adapting is
dependent on the abilities of the central power source.
Role culture – is characterised by a
formal, functional organisation structure in which there is relatively little freedom
and creativity in decision making. Such organisations are more likely to be
production oriented and can have difficulty responding to new market
Task culture – is concerned primarily
with getting a given task done. Importance is therefore attached to those
individuals who have the skill or knowledge to accomplish a particular task.
Organisations with a task oriented culture are potentially very flexible,
changing constantly as new tasks arise. Innovation and creativity are highly
prized for their own sake.
Person culture –is characterised by
organisations which are centred around serving the interests of individuals
within them. It is relatively rare form of culture in any market-mediated
environment, but can characterise campaigning pressure groups.
Every organisation has their own unique
culture and most large businesses are likely to be something of a mix of cultures with examples for each of the four
types in varying areas of the organisation.
Organisation are increasingly aware that
culture has powerful impact on every aspect of their operations and
decision-making processes. Real improvement requires more than simply changing
systems and procedures. It requires changing the way people think and behave
throughout the entire organisation.
It is possible to change the way people
think about their work and how this translates into behaviour in the
But for change to be introduced
successfully, the organisation needs to ensure that people are concentrating
their efforts in the right areas. Many assessment tools such as climate surveys
primarily focus on the observable outcomes or end results of organisational
functioning. But the fact is that effective change cannot take place until the
underlying causes are addressed.
By focusing on the causes, the
organisation takes a revealing look at what behaviours are being rewarded, how
motivated and satisfied the employees are, and how effectively they perform. In
discovering the reasons why the people behave the way they do, the organisation
can then look at the factors that may need to be changed. What behaviours need
to be encouraged and how do the organisation develop these within the
This enables the organisation to not only
establish the most effective ways to deal with present issues, but also plan
strategies to prevent these recurring and anticipate those which may happen in
on the development of culture
The culture and structure of an
organisation develop over time and in response to a complex set of factors. It
is possible, however, to identify a number of key influences that are likely to
play an important role in the development of any corporate culture. These
include: history; primary function and technology; goals and objectives; size;
location; management and staffing; and the environment.
History. The philosophy and values of
the owners and first senior managers will have a great influence on the
development of culture. They have their own traditional way of doing it. A new
generation change in the top management, may bring about a change in culture.
Primary function and technology. The
nature of the organisation’s ‘business’ and its primary function have an
important influence on its culture. This includes the range and quality of
products and services provided, the importance of reputation and the type of
Goals and objectives. The organisation
must give attention to objectives in all key areas of its operations. The
combination of objectives and resultant strategies will influence culture, and
may itself be influenced by changes in culture.
Size. Usually larger organisations have
more formalised structures and cultures. Increased size is likely to result in
separate departments and possibly split-site operations. This may cause
difficulties in communication.
Location. Geographical location and the
physical characteristics can have a major influence in culture – for example,
whether an organisation is located in a quiet rural location or a busy city
centre. This can influence the types of customers and the staff employed.
Management and staffing. Top executives
can have considerable influence on the nature of corporate culture. However,
all members of staff help to shape the dominant culture of an organisation,
irrespective of what senior management feel it should be.
The environment. In order to be
effective, the organisation must be responsive to external environmental
influences. For example, if the organisation operates within a dynamic
environment it requires a structure and culture that are sensitive and readily
adaptable to change.
Managers who wants to change the culture
of an organisation must not only have insight into the dynamics of culture but
the motivation and skill to intervene in one’s own cultural process. To change
any elements of the culture, leaders must be willing to unfreeze their own
organisation. The leader must find a way to say to his own organisation that
things are not all right and, if necessary, must enlist the aid of outsiders in
getting this message across. It also requires the creation of psychological
safety, which means that the leader must have emotional strength to absorb much
of the anxiety that change can brings with it, and he must have the ability to
remain supportive to the organisation through the transition phase even if
workers become angry and obstructive.
So, is it possible for a manager to
change the culture?
I think it depends on a few factors, such
as size, history, workers and managers.
If the manager has bad contact with his
workers they won’t listen to new changes.
It will take a real good manager to
change organisational culture, there is nothing worse in a hard-workers life
than unwanted changes in his traditional work.
Lee R. &
Lawrence P. (1985) Organizational Behaviour: Politics at Work, Hutchinson and
Co. Ltd., London
(1983) Power in and around organizations, Pentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs
Mullins L. J.
(1999) Management and Organisational Behaviour, Pitman Publishing, London
Schein E. H.
(1985) Organizational Culture and Leadership, Jossey-Bass, San Franscisco
Can managers deliberately try to change
organisational culture in order to improve the effectiveness of an organisation
or is culture something which only evolves slowly and cannot be manipulated?