Fincham R and Rhodes
“What is Organizational Culture? Critically analyse the extent to which it is related to organizational processes and outcomes. ” Culture, a concept that has had a long and checkered history, is difficult to define unambiguously. In the past few years, organizational researchers and managers have used it to indicate the climate and practices that organizations develop around the way they handle people (Schein E H, 1992).
The culture of an organization may be described as, ‘a general constellation of beliefs, mores, customs, value systems, behavioral norms, and ways of doing business that are unique to each corporation, that set a pattern for corporate activities and actions, and that describe the implicit and emergent patterns of behavior and emotions, characterizing life in the organization. ‘ (Tunstall, 1983; cited in Brown A, 1998) This definition would help to understand organizational culture and focus attention on the selective phenomena it refers to.
In the course of the essay, an endeavor has been made to elucidate some of the different types of cultures in an organization. Moreover, the essay will deal with different aspects of an organization’s culture, which have an impact on organizational processes, effectiveness and outcomes. However, before dealing with the aforementioned aspects, it is essential to understand exactly how culture can bear a relation to organization. Organizations have the paradoxical quality of being both ‘part of’ and ‘apart from’ societies.
They are embedded in a wider social concept, but they are also communities in their own right, with distinctive rules and values. They can thus be thought of as ‘culture producing phenomena. ‘ (Smircich, 1983, cited in Fincham R and Rhodes P S, 1992) The best way to think about culture is to view it as the accumulated shared learning of a given group, covering behavioral, emotional, and cognitive elements of the group members’ total psychological functioning. However, it has to be kept in mind, that not all cultures suit all purposes or people. Cultures are founded and built over the years by the dominant group in an organization.
What suits them and the organization at one stage is not necessarily appropriate forever. A large number of typologies or classifications of types of organizational cultures have developed, providing broad overviews of the sorts of variations that exist between cultures. An appropriate typology to sight would be Harrison and Handy’s typology, which suggests that there are four main types of organizational culture, namely: power, role, task and person. Each of these could be a good and effective culture; but that does not mean that the culture that works in one place, is bound to be successful everywhere.
The following paragraphs throw some light on these cultures, and outline some of their advantages and disadvantages. The power culture is usually found in small entrepreneurial organizations and it depends on a central power source, with rays of power and influence spreading out from that central figure. The internal organization of a power culture is highly dependant on trust, empathy and personal communication for its effectiveness. Characterized by few rules and procedures, little bureaucracy, and power-oriented individuals, these cultures are proud and strong.
They have the ability to move quickly, and can react well to threat or danger. However, size can be a problem for power cultures. Often seen as tough and abrasive, they may suffer from low morale and high turnover in middle management positions, if they fail to recruit appropriate personnel. (Handy C B, 1985) The role culture is often stereotyped as bureaucracy, the organizing principles of which are logic and rationality. The role organization rests its strength, in its ‘pillars’ of functions and specialties, which are controlled and coordinated, by a small group of senior executives.
Rules, procedures and job descriptions dominate the internal environment of a role culture; and the efficiency depends on the rationality of the allocation of work and responsibility, rather than on individual personalities. Such a culture is likely to be most successful in stable and predictive environments. The civil service, the oil industry, and retail banking are often cited as examples of role cultures. The main problem with role cultures is that they can be slow to recognize and react to change. (Handy C B, 1985) The task culture is job or project orientated.
This culture focuses on bringing together appropriate resources, and the right people at the right level of the organization to make the project successful. Flexibility, adaptability, individual autonomy and mutual respect based on ability, are the most important organizing principles here. Task culture can be highly successful in those environments, where the market is competitive, product life spans are short, and constant innovation is necessary. Advertising agencies would be a good example to cite for this sort of culture. However, such organizations find it hard to produce economies of scale or great depth of expertise.