Organisational Culture Every organisation manifests patterns of member behaviours and values, which together may be said to form a "culture". Many aspects of the culture will have evolved naturally, but it can also be created by activities of senior management. When an organisation is created it becomes its own world and its culture becomes the foundation on which the organisation will exist in the world. People's actions in organisations are not always 'their own' but are largely influenced by the socialisation processes of the specific culture to which they belong. "Organisational culture is the key to organizational excellence... and the function of leadership is the creation and management of culture." - Edgar Schein Organisational Culture and Leadership Understanding organisational culture is an important activity for managers because it affects strategic development, productivity and learning at all levels. Theorists began to apply the term culture to corporate/work situations over the past 20 years. Initially the term was used to describe the leadership practices and later in the 80s management gurus defined culture in terms of symbols, slogans, heroes, rites, and rituals etc. These may be elements of culture- but they are not the heart of culture. What is culture? "The way we do things around here" is a common sense definition of culture. But it over simplifies the concept and misses powerful underlying concepts and processes. Its better to regard culture as referring to the shared assumptions, beliefs, values and norms, actions as well as artefacts and language patterns. Culture is the unique whole, the heart and soul that determine how a group of people will behave. Cultures are collective beliefs that in turn shape behaviour. They can include: o Shared meanings and perceptions, o Behavioural codes o Values, stories, heroes & heroines, Symbols & rituals A key role for culture is to differentiate the organisation from others and provide sense of identity for its members. A strong culture is one that is internally consistent, is widely shared, and makes it clear what it expects and how it wishes people to behave. Schein argues that culture has three levels -· artefacts - values ·- assumptions. What is this thing called organisational culture? Conversations often refer to different organisations having different cultures. For the average person - "culture" may mean that they perceive the organisation they are involved with to be: o pushy, harsh and authoritarian o 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 o rule and ritual bound o cold and separated o brisk, dynamic, opportunistic o exploitative, all take and no give o caring and genuinely interested in people as people Culture Control and Change Managers seek to "change" the culture of the organisation. What they therefore try to do is shape the way that people behave, feel, contribute, interact, and perform as employees of the organisation. This is usually called leadership! Managers will introduce new policies, methods and roles to shape behaviours, encourage, promote and 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 characteristics of a whole range of issues such as: o the way work is organised o Value placed on planning o how authority exercised and o Degree of formalisation distributed o Scope for risk taking and individual o how people are and feel rewarded, expression organised and controlled o Rules and expectations (informality, o the values and work orientation of dress) staff o Results and performance orientation o team oor individual work Organisational 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, and their status in society. The culture of the organisation may embrace them. It may reject them. Visibility Organisational culture may be visible: o in the type of buildings, offices, shops of the organisation. o 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. Schools and Culture Think of your school. What type of culture does it portray? What is its personality? Is it geared towards attainment? Is it academic or vocational? Does it have high or moderate expectations of pupil behaviour? Is there a school uniform? Is attendance, lateness and misbehaviour clamped down upon or overlooked? What is the school motto? Are the teachers and SMT approachable? Is the school caring and friendly, or cold and authoritarian? Has the school an active extra-curricular life to teach and develop the whole pupil?
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