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Culture and management



Topic: Organizational culture and managerial effectiveness

Time required: Approximately 2 - 3 hours

This session is intended to help the participant better understand the concept of culture as an organizational phenomenon and how it impacts on the effectiveness of organizations and individuals within organizations.


1. Prepare a lecture from the written materials and your own experience to highlight the various aspects of organizational culture. Encourage the trainees to express ideas about the culture of their work organizations (e.g., What aspects of its day-to-day operation are traceable to the nation’s culture, or various ethnic groups within the country. If the country was a past colony of another country, what emanates from this source of influence?). The various approaches that can be used to bring about change in an organization’s culture should also be covered at this time.

2. Following the lecture and discussion, there are many options to consider. The course materials include an exercise as one option. If you use it, you may be asked whether the first word in the statements listed on the first page was “strategy” or “culture.” It was STRATEGY in all four statements! The exercise is designed to help individual participants reflect about their organizations, so it is important to give them sufficient time to respond to the questions in the exercise. The training process can be as simple as individual time to respond to the exercise, small group (3 or 4 participants) discussions and a short plenary session to pull major ideas together.

3. Another exercise you might consider is developing a list of behaviors which are common to the various participants’ organizations. Once these are posted, have the participants: (a) identify the roots of these behaviors; (b) whether or not they are negative or positive to the organization’s effectiveness; and (c) what might be done to bring about desired change.



“Organization culture” is one of the latest fads in American management Dozens of books have been published recently on the topic and management training programs can hardly ignore the subject if they want to be considered up-to-date. Culture, as a management issue, is not being raised in this series because it is currently a “trend” in the Western world. In my opinion, one has to be cautious about adopting the latest management idea being used in a very different setting.

Having said this, let it be said that culture is, nevertheless, an important factor in the management of organizations, particularly in developing countries. There are many reasons but let me mention just a few.

First, most developing countries, whether or not they were previously under colonial rule, have adopted Western industrial models of organization and management. If the country was previously under colonial rule this adoption process has been exacerbated even further by the underlying rationale of the colonial system. The raison d’etre for colonization was, after all, control and exploitation, not development.

Secondly, many developing country organizations may have a contemporary facade but underneath is a system driven by centuries of societal and cultural experiences. In Africa, and other parts of the world, the duality of managerial processes at work in an organization is further complicated by tribal traditions that vary greatly, one from another.

Thirdly, the cultural implications in organizations and management are both opportunities and impediments to the development of effective production and service systems. They become even more critical when the environment, in which the organization must function, is in a constant and accelerating state of social, political, economic, and technological change.

Finally, managers and organizations cannot optimize their effectiveness without confronting the issues of culture. Culture, as an organizational reality, includes overlapping patterns of basic assumptions that emanate from: (a) colonial rule, (b) Western industrial models of organization and managerial behavior, (c) the societal fabric of the geographic region, and (d) the experiences of sub-units within the larger society (in an African context, this requires a look at not only what it means to be Kenyan, for example, but Kikuyu, Luo, or a member of one of the other 40 some tribes that make up that heterogeneous and dynamic society).


Richard Weaver has described culture “as a complex of values polarized by an image that contains a vision of its own excellence.” Culture provides its members with

a coherent world of shared meanings, a set of values that differentiate cultural roles and guide appropriate behavior. A culture is an orientation system from which its most powerful and humble members can borrow to give dignity, direction and a sense of belonging to their lives.1

1 Richard Weaver, Vision of Order: the Cultural Crises of Our Time, Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1964.

D. Gutnecht, in linking the larger issue of culture to organizational theory, sees three functions that are consistent with the conceptualization process, whether we are viewing culture as a societal phenomenon or as a factor in organization life. Culture, according to Gutnecht, provides its members with:

(a) Socially legitimate patterns of interpretation and behavior in dealing with relevant problems;

(b) A hierarchical motivational structure that links their identity to relevant roles and values; and

(c) A symbolically integrated framework that regulates social interaction and goal attainment through the creation of cultural meaning.2

2 D. Gutnecht, “Conceptualizing Culture in Organizational Theory,” an unpublished paper (Honolulu, East-West Center, 1982).

Organizations, and societies, operate within the framework of these functions: legitimacy, motivation, and integration. Without them, we suffer the potential of anarchy, social degradation and chaos.


To study culture means to look at how things, events and interactions have meaning. There are many different ways to construct the world we live in - to make sense out of it from our evolving experience. One anthropological study, that was conducted on the Norm American continent, has relevance in understanding cultural differences and their implications in terms of managing organizations. The following is taken from a discussion of that study by Linda Smircich.

The example comes from Walter Miller’s study of the central Algonkian Indian tribes of the western Great Lakes region (Miller, 1965). When Europeans encountered the central Algonkians around 1650, they proclaimed that the Indians had an absence of authority. The Europeans saw no leadership and no visible forms of government. They also noticed that any comment that carried the appearance of a command was instantly rejected with scorn. The Indians seemed to be too independent to be controlled.

These Europeans were accustomed to a society with highly centralized authority, which was assigned to position holders. They were socialized to distinguish between people on the basis of assigned authority with such terms as master-servant, student-teacher, leader-follower, officer-enlisted man, coach-team member, foreman-worker, pastor-parishioner, and parent-child. To Europeans at that time and to many of us today, this ordering of relationships seems natural. The vertical authority relationship is a fundamental aspect of European society; the functioning of our organized institutions depends on this kind of ordering.

As Miller points out, however, to a member of seventeenth-century Algonkian society such authority would be oppressive and intolerable. The Algonkians did have coordinated collective action in the political, economic, military, and religious spheres, but this collective action was based on such a different conception of authority that the Europeans saw no authority. In Algonkian society “each individual participating in organized activity related himself directly to the body of procedural rules governing that activity. He was free to select and execute appropriate modes of action: His access to procedural rules was not mediated through another person who transmitted these rules to him” (Miller, 1965:774).

Miller observes that in the European cultural tradition, authority or power is conceptually equated with height or elevation. It originates in some elevated locus and passes down to lower levels.

This metaphorical way of thinking about authority is closely tied in with European religious conceptions, many of which utilize the notion that power originates in a supernatural being or group of beings located in the heavens, or some elevated location. The equation of authority with altitude is firmly built into European linguistic systems; e.g., the terms of superior, inferior, and superordinate and subordinate.

By contrast, the central Algonkian religion places its deities at the four corners of the universe, and on the same plane as humans. It is possible for an individual to possess some power from a “manitu” (a kind of generalized essence of supernatural power), but such power is never possessed permanently. It is always temporary, the result of ongoing interactions between individuals.

In the European cultural tradition, authority is reified (pictured as a liquid-like substance). “We speak of the ‘flow’ of authority, of ‘going through channels,’ of the ‘fountainhead’ of authority. As a substance, authority can be quantified, and thus, we speak of a great ideal of authority, little authority, no authority” (Miller, 1965:678).

To the central Algonkian, power is universally available and unlimited; it is everywhere and equally available to all. “Power is not hierarchical; since its possession is temporary and contingent, fixed and varying amounts of power are not distributed among a group of beings arranged in a stable hierarchy. The control of power is dangerous; powerful beings are to be feared, not adored or admired” (Miller, 1965:771).

The central Algonkian’s different conception of power and authority meant that they organized collective activity very differently from the Europeans. In fact, their organization of village life, with its consensus decision making, facilitative leadership, and individually interpreted normative modes of social control, was very similar to the organization of many autonomous work groups in industry today.

What I find interesting in this encounter between European explorers and the Algonkians over three centuries ago is its contemporary relevancy. American and Japanese corporate executives have experienced the same kind of puzzlement, even confusion, in their attempts to work together in the past two decades or so. More importantly, the Algonkian experience highlights the timelessness of certain managerial concepts. It also brings new meaning to the issues of “appropriate” organizational behavior and the overblown and unfortunate impact Western industrialized concepts of management have had on the rest of the world. The perfection of consensus decision making, by the Algonkian in the wilds of the 17th century North American continent, is a concept that modern corporations struggle with today. It should be a sobering thought to those who worship the social machinery of Western industrialization.


If culture is a social construction that both reduces ambiguity and facilitates social interaction, the modern organization, as a cultural entity, is often the antithesis of these norms.

Part of the dilemma is our lack of understanding about how organizations are constructed and the roots from which they have grown. Public organizations, as a general rule, have their roots in bureaucracy. Bureaucracy, in turn, has its roots in the Prussian military establishment of the 19th century. It is hardly an auspicious heritage or necessarily an appropriate model for modern day management. Nevertheless, we cling tenaciously to this pyramidical perspective of the “ideal” organization and perpetuate it with great frequency in far flung corners of the world.

Organization is a metaphor for order and orderliness (why else do we organize?). And yet, as the organization interacts with various cultures, within the organization and the larger environment, the end result is often un-orderliness, tension and confusion. Organizations are constructed for purposes of order and orderliness, on the basis of rational and conscious patterns of behavior. They operate, more often than we like, in both an irrational and unconscious manner. Karl Weick suggests that “organizations don’t have cultures, they are cultures and this is why culture is so difficult to change” (1983).

It may be folly to believe that we can, in fact, change culture, even the culture of an organization. What is possible is the opportunity to understand its identity and from that understanding facilitate an evolution of change. In order to do this, as a manager, it is necessary to better understand what we mean by organizational cultures, what they represent as opportunities and constraints and what we can do to manage them more effectively.


Edgar Schein, who has studied and written about organizations for over 30 years, defines organizational culture as:

The pattern of basic assumptions that a given group has invented, discovered or developed in learning to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, and that have 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.3

3 H. Schein “ Coming to a New Awareness of Organizational Culture,” Sloan Management Review, Winter 1984 p. 3

William Dyer, following up on Schein’s description of the various levels of analysis one can engage in to better understand an organization’s culture, describes these levels. They tend to progress from the concrete to the abstract and the conscious to the unconscious. At the concrete and conscious levels of analysis and understanding are artifacts and perspectives while the more abstract and unconscious cultural manifestations are values and assumptions. Dyer describes these levels in the following manner:

Artifacts: The tangible aspects of culture shared by members of an organization. These verbal, behavioral, and physical artifacts are the surface manifestations of organizational culture. Language, stories, and myths are examples of verbal artifacts, while behavioral artifacts are represented in rituals and ceremonies. The technology and art exhibited by members are where physical artifacts are found.

Perspectives: The socially shared rules and norms applicable to a given context. Perspectives may be viewed as the solutions to common problems encountered by organizational members; they involve how members define and interpret situations of organizational life and prescribe the bounds of acceptable behavior. Perspectives are relatively concrete, and members are usually aware of them.

Values: The evaluational basis that organizational members utilize for judging situations, acts, objects, and people. Values reflect the real goals, ideals, standards, as well as the sins of an organization and represent members’ preferred means of resolving life’s problems. Values are more abstract than perspectives, although experienced members sometimes articulate them more or less in statements of organizational “philosophy” and “mission.”

Assumptions: The tacit beliefs that members hold about themselves and others, their relationships to other persons, and the nature of the organization in which they live. Assumptions are the non-conscious underpinnings of the first three levels - that is, the implicit, abstract axioms that determine the more explicit system of meanings.4

4 W.G. Dyer, Jr., Culture in Organizations: A Case Study and Analysis, (Cambridge, Mass., Sloan School of Management, MIT, 1982).

Artifacts are those things that are visible, easily seen or experienced, in the organization. These include office layout, technology being used, manner of dress, public documents and statements about the organization and patterns of behavior, (e.g., tea time in former British colonies). Artifact data are easy to obtain but often difficult to interpret. We can easily construct the “what” and the “how” of an organization’s artifacts - those things they openly display - but often it is difficult to understand “why” they exist.

Perspectives held by the organization and its employees are also visible but manifested a bit differently from artifacts. Perspectives get concretized through rules, regulations, acceptable boundaries of behavior (the norms of the organization) and other operating modes, e.g., how decisions get made and problems solved.

Values are more abstract than perspectives and are not necessarily reflected in the overt behavior of the organization and its human capital. Values are often what people say is the reason for their behavior, what they ideally would like those reasons to be, and what are often the rationalization for what they do. In other words, values are sometimes espoused but not followed.

To understand an organization’s culture, according to Schein, you must delve into the underlying assumptions that determine how groups or individuals perceive, think and feel about themselves, their organizations, and the world around them.

Underlying assumptions tend to be very powerful because they are less debatable and confrontable than espoused values. They are learned responses. They are also typically non-conscious and determine the more explicit manifestations of the organization’s culture.

To bring about fundamental changes in the way an organization operates then, it is important to analyze the “culture” of the organization at these various levels. The further down we dig, (underlying assumptions being the deepest strata of organization reality) the more difficult it is to unearth these aspects of the culture and to understand why they exist. And yet, organizational changes will not be effective in the long run unless we can:

(a) Identify the underlying assumptions that drive the system;

(b) Analyze those assumptions in relationship to current and desired performance (behavior); and

(c) Formulate new assumptions that are more in keeping with both present day reality and the anticipated and desired future state,

Central to the challenge of understanding an organization’s culture is the cyclical nature of events which lead to the solidification of cultural patterns.

Espoused values lead to behavior; when the behavior is successful in solving the problem that prompted it, it evolves into assumptions. When the behavior is repeated often enough with desirable results, the assumptions sooner or later are taken for granted (driven underground). Only when they no longer work (organizational trauma) are they dug up and re-examined. The re-examination of the organizational trauma and its genesis can lead to new values more consistent with the contextual realities and demands of the organization and on the organization.

To summarize, organization culture is the complex, overlapping, ambiguous, often contradictory, pattern of artifacts, perspectives, values and assumptions that manifest themselves, consciously or otherwise, rationally or otherwise, to the organization itself and to others. Furthermore, these patterns of artifacts, perspectives, values and assumptions are invented, discovered and developed as the organization evolves from one state of being to another in its attempt to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration.


We’ve examined the “what” of organizational culture, now it is time to look at “how” that culture gets invented or constructed and how it might be influenced to change.


Edgar Schein has identified 10 ways in which cultures form, develop and change. They are worthy of note for those who both want to better understand their organization’s culture and how it might be influenced to change. I have used the term “influenced” rather than a more positive executive type directive because Schein reminds us the “organizational culture evolves through shared history not through managerial decisions.”


Schein’s typology of cultural change mechanisms include the following:

(a) Natural Evolution: When alteration is based upon what works, and doesn’t, over the years, we are experiencing evolution.

(b) Self-guided evolution through self awareness: Schein calls this approach organizational therapy.

(c) Managed evolution through hybrids: Some organizations deliberately foster alternative systems and norms in an experimental manner to determine whether or not they represent an improved state of operation.

(d) Managed “revolution” through the infusion of outsiders into key roles: This is one of the more common strategies for influencing changes in an organization’s culture, although not always effective. The United States Department of State, under President Kennedy in the 1960’s performed radical surgery on the bureaucracy - cutting out layer after layer of the hierarchy between Washington and various embassies around the world. The changes caused great consternation within the bureaucracy but changes were made. Once the administration changed hands and those responsible for the structural alteration of the organization were gone, every single layer of the bureaucracy that was pruned away grew back. It took several years but the bureaucrats prevailed over the policy makers.

(e) Planned change/organization development: These are conscious efforts to alter the organization’s culture through a variety of approaches, including data collection and feedback, team building, and something called soda-technical interventions.

(f) Technical seduction: This involves the introduction of new technology such as word processors, computers in offices, and electronic typesetting machines in printing plants.

(g) Change through scandal, explosion of myths: There are numerous examples of this unplanned approach. The demise of the Nixon Presidency in the United States is one. In fact, one could argue that the culture (assumptions, values, perceptions as well as artifacts) began to change with the Watergate break-in and continued unabated until Nixon was forced to resign.

(h) Incrementalism: The incremental approach to change is experienced when ongoing decisions are biased toward a new set of assumptions with each decision bringing about or encouraging a relatively minor alteration of the ongoing reality.

(i) Coercive persuasion: When the President of a country decides to encourage more accountability to the management of parastatals and the managers know their leader has the power to make necessary changes in leadership and other aspects of their operation, that is coercive persuasion.

(j) Reorganization, sometimes even destruction and rebirth: Reorganization is a common ploy to bring about change or at least to think one is bringing about organizational change. While it is a strategy, sometimes the more the boundaries of an organization are moved about, the more it remains the same. Reorganization often creates the myth that things are happening when in reality the status quo is maintained.

Be constructively discontent


Another way to perceive how the organization culture functions is to look at the rites, the socialization processes it engages in. These processes can be used to solidify values and assumptions or they can be used to confront them. They are organized and planned activities that have both practical and expressive consequences.

Trice and Beyer have identified the following rites that might be used to bring about changes in an organization. These rites, according to the authors, are activities which involve relatively elaborate and dramatic events. They consolidate various forms of cultural expression into one episode which is carried out through various interactions, usually for the benefit of the organizational members themselves.5

(a) Rites of Passage: The process of bringing new people into the organization includes such activities as induction and basic or orientation training. These rites facilitate the transition of “newcomers” into social roles and levels of status that are new to them.

(b) Rites of Enhancement: These rites include such activities as: recognizing individual employees for their accomplishment; annual reports that spread good news about the organization; and promotions designed to provide public recognition of individuals for their accomplishments and to motivate others to similar efforts. For example, President Moi of Kenya, in 1986, promoted several women to high level parastatal positions. His pronouncement both enhanced the role of women in managerial positions and stressed the importance of the performance of certain social roles in the managerial process.

(c) Rites of Degradation: The dismissal of key officials in an organization has the consequence of providing public acknowledgement that problems exist and offers details about them. It also re-establishes the boundaries of the organization by defining who belongs and who does not.

(d) Rites of Renewal: These are activities to refurbish organizational structures (social and otherwise) and to improve the way they function. These events, sometimes known as organization development, have various consequences. They can reassure employees that something is being done about their problems by focusing attention on certain problems and away from others. Organizations often engage in re-organization - shifting boundaries between certain roles and responsibilities as a manifestation of renewal.

(e) Rites of Conflict Reduction: Collective bargaining is one mechanism for reducing conflict and aggression in an organization and re-establishing equilibrium where there are disturbed social interactions. “Suggestion boxes,” the “open door policy,” gripe sessions are other less obvious and formalized rites used to reduce tension in the system and to compartmentalize conflict and its disruptive effects.

(f) Rites of Integration: Organizations often engage in activities to encourage or revive shared feelings that bind employees together and keep them committed to the organization. The Japanese have refined the concept of integrative rites as a corporate strategy more than most industrial cultures. They use a myriad of rites to integrate employees’ social and recreational life space into the mainstream of corporate activities.

5 Harrison Trice and Janice Beyer, Using Six Organizational Rites to Change Culture, p.372


Organization culture is the embodiment of solutions to a wide range of problems, both experienced and anticipated. They include mechanisms to: (1) reduce anxiety and pain; and (2) reward and reinforce appropriate behavior.

The mechanisms designed to reduce pain and anxiety often deny testing and experimentation; are generally reactive in nature, and posited toward the status quo. On the other hand, the reward and reinforcement mechanisms tend to test the system and its environment; are more pro-active in their approach; and are posited toward change.

While these two models of organizational culture (the trauma and success models) represent polar points of view, they embody many of the same rituals, artifacts and symbols. What is different are the perspectives, values and assumptions that underlie more visible and manifest expressions.

In either case, it is possible to identify:

(a) A common language within the organization - its mode of communicating messages of importance;

(b) Ways of defining the organizations boundaries, and sub-boundaries;

(c) Mechanisms for selecting and de-selecting its members (hiring and firing);

(d) Norms for handling interpersonal relationships and intimacy - sometimes referred to as the style or climate of the organization;

(e) Ways of allocating authority, power, status, property and other resources within the system;

(f) Criteria for dispensing rewards and punishment (rites of enhancement and degradation); and

(g) Ways of coping with unmanageable, unpredictable and stressful events.

Whether the organization is pro-active or reactive in its orientation, modeled to reduce trauma or achieve success, it embodies a set of mechanisms that define social interaction within organized settings. The mechanisms are similar but the underlying assumptions, values and perspectives differ dramatically. These, in turn, get translated into behavior, both individual and collective, which define, over time, the organization’s culture.

To understand the organization’s culture, we need to concern ourselves with: (1) where did “it” come from? (what are its origins?); (2) what does “it” lead to? (what are the effects and outcomes of the organization’s culture?) and; (3) what does “it” look like? (what are the manifest characteristics, artifacts, norms, evidences that we can identify and hold up for analysis?).


It was stated earlier that much of the world still operates on Weberian time (bureaucracy) when it comes to organizing resources and tasks in collective settings. While this is true, the Japanese operate from a very different approach to management. This suggests that different management styles (or organizational cultures) can and do exist, based in large part upon societal preferences and norms of behavior.

The other interesting aspect of any comparative study of Japanese and American management is the influence they have had on each other’s organizational cultures, particularly in the past few years.

One idea that has had an influence on organizational cultures in Japan, the United States, and Europe over the past thirty years is that of the quality circle. The idea is simple: Small groups of workers and managers gather once or twice a week to discuss ways of improving productivity and efficiency.

The quality circle concept was originally put forth by an American management specialist but was rejected by his own country’s work organizations. He then took the idea to Japan where it was embraced with enthusiasm (this was in the 1960’s). It became a major work practice and contributed to the phenomenal industrial success Japan has enjoyed over the past 20 years.

In the mid-seventies, quality circles started to appear in American factories although they were seen by many union officials as a devious means of exploiting workers without “really” sharing decision making powers. Nevertheless, the quality circle movement grew. The International Association of Quality Circles counts over 2000 American companies among its members. A similar number of French organizations are using quality circles in their work settings while more than 4000 West German firms have adopted the concept.

While the overall impact of this much traveled concept is still inconclusive in its Western context, the quality circle movement does demonstrate the ability of organizations to alter basic patterns of behavior and to borrow ideas and strategies from across very different cultural boundaries. This should be encouragement for those managers who are dissatisfied with the performance of their organizations and want to consider the possibility of influencing changes in the organization’s basic assumptions, values and norms of organizing and operating. Because the Western (European-American) model of management is so prevalent in the Third World settings (and not particularly successful in meeting national or organizational needs and goals), and the Japanese model represents an alternative approach to management, it might help to look at some of the differences they represent in terms of managerial tasks.


One of the more dramatic differences between Japanese and Western management is in the making of decisions. The Western manager puts primary emphasis on getting an answer to the question. Business schools spend a great deal of time teaching their graduates systematic approaches to problem solving (getting answers). To the Japanese, the element in decision making that gets priority is defining the question. Is a decision necessary and what is it all about?

The American places confidence in technical information and, more often than not, permits technicians and experts to exert considerable influence on the final decision (finding an answer). This pattern of thinking translates into a digital language of “yes-no/on-off/either-or” dichotomies. It is a prevalent feature in managerial decision making within Western organizations. This dichotomous style strains toward the extreme, avoids contradictions, and facilitates choice. Given its highly structured nature, the strong reliance on quantitative analysis lacks the dynamism of the Chinese Yin-Yang, the Japanese pattern recognition or even the European dialectic.

The Japanese do not differentiate carefully among facts, impressions, opinions, or even gossip in resolving conclusions. “Data and information,” as concepts, are very different in meaning and use in the Japanese context.

The Japanese “take” decisions rather than “make” them and, in so doing, engage in consensus building. The Japanese huddle in seemingly endless discussions, examining the question (problem) in great detail. In these discussions, there is no mention of what the answer should be and, therefore, individuals are not forced to take sides and get caught in a win-lose situation. This consultation process involves all the critical people in the organization and can start at the bottom or middle of the organization as well as the top. “Decision making” in many Western organizations is often seen as the prerogative of top management.

Only when all the people who will be involved in carrying out the agreement have come together in the need to make a decision will the decision be made in a Japanese organization. The process takes much longer in Japan but makes for very effective decisions. The Westerner, particularly the American, by contrast, is quicker in “making a decision” but spends more time “selling” it and getting people to act on it.

The “selling” process does not necessarily result in strong commitment by those who must implement the decision. In fact, the decision may even be subject to subtle or even blatant sabotage by employees down in the system.

The American decision maker bases his action on a number of assumptions that have become accepted in the management culture of many American organizations. For example, the American believes the locus of control resides in the individual. The concept of self-centeredness (being in charge of one’s fate) is very strong with the American manager. In Japan, the locus of control is with the group. In fact, “control” is too strong a term. The Japanese prefer events to shape whatever actions are required. They stand back from a developing event rather than attempt to control it by decision making.

The American manager places a heavy reliance on factual data which is the basis for “rational” decision making. The Eastern view of reality is less based upon logical realism and, therefore, less prone to weigh decisions heavily in terms of facts and figures.

These and other “cultural” norms affect basic management processes like planning, decision making, conflict resolution, and the allocation of scarce resources.


There is much more one could say about culture and management. Rather than pursue the issues any further, it is time to ask “so what.” Several responses came to mind immediately.

It should be obvious that organizations do have their own “culture,” and these cultures impact on effectiveness of organizations and upon the lives of those who work within organizations. The culture of an organization is subject to change. It is an invented reality constructed, in large measure, by those who are involved in the organization on a day-to-day basis. If the culture of the organization is not working for the good of the institution, its constituents and its employees, then consideration should be given to changing it. There are strategies and tactics that one can use to bring about cultural change at the organizational level.

If a decision is made to influence changes in an organization’s culture, one of the first questions to ask is whether or not it is inherent within the organization’s culture to bring about such changes. Is planned change seen as “appropriate,” “legitimate” within the organization? If not, this may be the first place to begin. Any reluctance to change, as well as prohibitions placed upon employees who want to foster change, are part of the culture of the organization. Ultimately, they will have to be dealt with in any attempt to bring about change.

If one agrees with these premises, there are still the issues of: (a) what to change; (b) how to change it; (c) and what to change it to. From our earlier discussion, it should be obvious that there are many ways to affect change in an organization. Furthermore, there are many role models of change that one might choose from, although most are Western in their origins.

The dilemma, for developing country organizations interested in cultural change, is two fold. They must come to grips with the what issues: what to change and what to change to. And, they must decide how to bring about cultural change.

If an organization seriously addresses the “why,” “what,” and “how” of cultural change, it is my prediction that whatever change comes about, as a result of this inquiry, will strengthen the organization. It will also close the gap between the rhetoric of the organization and the reality of its day-to-day behavior.

The organization’s culture should be a matter of great concern to all managers - not just what the culture represents at any given moment in time but what it needs to become in the future to help the organization remain viable and productive.



Organizational Culture: Is it a key to strategic planning and management within organizations - or is strategic planning and management a key to organizational culture?

Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises

(Samuel Butler)

I. Listed below are four statements from recent management articles. The first word in each statement has been deleted. You are asked to decide whether the first word in each statement should be “strategy” or “culture.”

· ______ evolves from inside the organization - not from its future environment.

· ______ is a deeply ingrained and continuing pattern of management behavior that gives direction to the organization - not a manipulable and controllable mechanism that can easily be changed from one year to the next.

· ______ is a nonrational concept stemming from the informal values, traditions, and norms of behavior held by the firm’s managers and employees - not a rational, formal, logical, conscious, and predetermined thought process engaged in by top executives.

· ______ emerges out of the cumulative effect of many informed actions and decisions taken daily and over years by many employees - not a “one shot” statement developed exclusively by top management for distribution to the organization.

As you think about these statements and whether they define organizational culture or strategy, also consider various aspects of your own organization’s behavior, as described by these statements.

Are there aspects of your organization’s culture, strategy or behavior that you believe are:

(a) Worth keeping and building upon;

(b) Destructive to the organization’s well being and should be overcome in one way or another; or

(c) In drastic need of change?

After reflecting upon these questions, complete the following statements.

II. One aspect of my organization’s behavior (culture/strategy) I believe is worth keeping and building upon is:

III. One aspect of my organization’s behavior I believe is destructive to my organization and should be overcome is:

IV. One aspect of my organization’s behavior I believe is in drastic need of change is:

V. Go back to items II, III, and IV and decide on a statement you are willing to commit to in helping your organization become a better place to work. Restate it below as an action statement, (e.g., I am willing to commit to....)

[If you are unwilling to make such a commitment at this time, think about the meaning of this for you personally, for your work colleagues, the organization and your future sense of job satisfaction.]

VI. Given what you have learned thus far in the course, list three specific things you can do to carry out your commitment stated in the previous task.

(a) ____________________________________________________________

(b) ____________________________________________________________

(c) ____________________________________________________________