Business / Drawing On Appropriate Theory &Amp;Amp; Examples (I.E. Published Research, Case Studies And Personal Examples) Discuss The Extent To Which Managers Can Influence The Culture Of An Organisation?

Drawing On Appropriate Theory &Amp;Amp; Examples (I.E. Published Research, Case Studies And Personal Examples) Discuss The Extent To Which Managers Can Influence The Culture Of An Organisation?

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Autor:  anton  17 July 2011
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Culture is a term that is used in workplaces discussions but it is taken for granted that we understand what it means. In their publication In Search of Excellence, Peters and Waterman (1982) drew a lot of attention to the importance of culture to achieve high levels of organisational effectiveness. They made use of over 100 years of theory and research in cultural anthropology and folklore studies to inspire and legitimise their efforts. This generated many subsequent publications on how to manage organisational culture (e.g. Deal & Kennedy 1982; Ott 1989; Bate 1994).

If organisational culture is to be managed it helps first to be able to define it. However defining culture is not an easy task due to the many different perspectives taken by the diverse numbers of writers on the subject. There is general agreement about the components of culture as a broad construct but there is a considerable disagreement about what constitutes organisational culture, whether the culture of an organisational can be adequately described, whether culture management can ever be truly effective and, if so, which management strategies are most likely to succeed.

Taylor describes culture as �the complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.’ Taylor (1871/1958:1). Considering the early days of anthropology, culture was the understanding of what was distinctively human, what separates humans from other animals and hence what defines our similarities. Growing interest within this field brought about an association of culture with particular groups of people. This association caused anthropologists to talk about groups as if they were cultures and shifted the focus of anthropology from the general understanding of human kind as species, to the distinctive characteristics of particular groups, and thus to human differences. A comparison of the definition of Taylor and a definition from American anthropologist Melville Herskowitz helps illustrate this shift, �a construct describing the total body of belief, behaviour, knowledge, sanctions, values, and goals that make up the way of life of a people.’ Herskowitz (1948:625).

The shift that refocused culture to the culture of groups, in anthropology, has been repeated within organizational culture studies, there has been a shift from culture as an organisational unity, to culture as a means of explaining differences between various subgroups of the organisation.

Considering different perspectives on organisational culture, researchers who take an �anthropological’ stance, organisations are cultures (Bate 1994) describing something that an organisation is (Smircich 1983) and thus, Schein explains:

�an organisation comprises a pattern of shared assumptions invented, discovered, or developed by a given group as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered valued, and therefore is to be taught to new members of the group as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.’ (Schein 1992, p.247)

In this paradigm, organisational culture is both defined and restricted by group parameters, for example concepts or ideologies, and by normative criteria that provides the basis for allocating status, power, rewards, friendship, punishment, authority and respect. Culture determines what a group pays attention to and monitors in the external environment and how it responds to this environment. Thus, as Bate (1994) notes, for those who take an anthropological stance, organisational culture and organisational strategy are linked and interdependent. Culture, therefore, is not a separable facet of an organisation, it is not readily manipulated or changed, and it is not created or influenced by leaders.

For the writers described by Bate (1994) as �scientific rationalists’, organisational culture is but one aspect of the component parts of an organisation, a facet that can be measured, manipulated and changed as can organisational variables such as skills, style, systems, strategy and staff (Peters & Waterman 1982). In this paradigm, organisational culture is primarily a set of values and beliefs articulated by leaders to guide the organisation. �Scientific rationalists’ strategies for change focus on �modular, design-and-build activity’ often related to structures, procedures and rewards (Bate 1994, p.11).

Discussion, within this paradigm, within organisational culture is usually from the perspective of managers and often emphasise the leader's role in creating, influencing or transforming culture: �leaders help to shape the culture. The culture helps to shape its members … culture, then, stands at the apex of the leader’s responsibility hierarchy’ (Hampden-Turner 1990, pp.7, 9).

After the consideration of organisational culture as unitary I will now discus the possibilities of pluralist sub-cultures within the one organisation. Writes on this subject may adopt a fragmented or anarchist perspective and claim that �consensus fails to coalesce on an organization-wide or sub cultural basis, except in transient, issue-specific ways’ (Frost et al. 1991, p. 8).

A unitarist perspective underpins various category descriptions of organisational culture. A good example of this is Handy (1993), who believes an organisation will display either a role, task, power or person orientated culture. Writers with a unitary perspective believe in a top-down leadership of change or maintenance of an organisational culture. The unitary viewpoint of a single culture makes it possible for the manager to efficiently control or influence the direction of the organisation.

Those against the unitary perspective believe that an organisation is made up of diverse sub-cultures and take a pluralist stance. Their belief is that success is achieved through effective leadership and management of diversity and maintaining or change the culture of the organisation is attained through programmes specifically designed for different segments of the organisation.

The anarchist perspective argues that in any case, all organisations are comprised of individuals who bring with them their own values and assumptions and thus there really can be no underlying cultural unity at any level except on a transient basis (Frost at al. 1991). Such fragmentation may be found even in traditionally structured firms for, in their study of twenty organisational cultures, Hofstede et al. (1990, p. 311) found:

�shared perceptions of daily practices to be that core of an organization’s culture … employee values differed more according to the demographics criteria of nationality, age, and education than according to membership in the organisation per se.’

The anarchist perspective of organisational culture implies the impossibility of effecting culture change through concentrated efforts, but it also highlights the centrality of effective communication and management diversity if the loosely coupled organisation is to remain functional and not break apart (Weick 1991).

If individual values and assumptions are evident within the organisation, managers must be aware of these to make certain individual behaviour is driven by the organisational culture to ensure individuals do not act in a counter-culture way. An example of an individual acting in a counter-culture way was apparent within the video �Inside the Enron Scandal’. Due to the violation of an individual’s own moral framework, Enron were reported and brought down for their many scandals. This case illustrates that culture can be directly linked to ethics. The individual believed that the actions of the management within Enron were morally wrong. Another example within General Motors includes the story of the quality cat �Howie Makem’ whose job was to patrol the factory exhorting workers to produce higher quality. General Motors’ employees reacted to this by producing their own �quantity cat’ that chased �Howie Makem’ off the factory floor.

There is also a question of stability within an organisational culture. The fragmentation perspective, which takes on a postmodern view of organisational culture focuses on the inconsistency of an organisational culture. Joanne Martin (1983) writes:

�When two cultural members agree on a particular interpretation of, say, a ritual, this is likely to be temporary and issue-specific congruence. It may not reflect agreement or disagreement on other issues, at other times. Subcultures, then, are reconceptualized as fleeting, issue-specific coalitions that may or may not have similar configuration in the future. This is not simply a failure to achieve sub cultural consensus in a particular context; from the Fragmentation perspective this is the most consensus possible in any context.’ (Martin 1983:52-64).

She is stating that coalitions can never stabilise into unified or sub-cultures because its important issues are always changing. Therefore this suggests influencing or even managing culture is a waste of management time.

Although I have discussed the view that influencing culture is not possible or a waste of time, I take on the view that influencing culture can bring about benefits to the organisation and therefore I will discuss this further, I will asses the reasons why management wish to or should influence the culture of the organisation. Interpreting and understanding organisational culture is an important activity for managers and leaders because it affects strategic development, productivity and learning at all levels. Mullins (2005) notes culture can have �a significant affect on organisational process such as decision-making, design of structure, group behaviour, work organisation, motivation and job satisfaction, and management control’. (Mullins 2005, p896-897) Taking into consideration these processes, management would be more successful in influencing and controlling them if they were fully aware of the culture of the organisation.

The processes mentioned by Mullins, motivation and job satisfaction can be directly linked to commitment within the organisation. �The relative strength of an individual’s identification with, and involvement in, an organisation,’ (Mowday at al 1982). The key word within this definition is identification. If a member of an organisation identifies with it, to some extent they must have the same values and beliefs, creating a strong bond and therefore commitment from the member towards to organisation. So what are the benefits of a high level of performance and a strong cultural bond? Commitment can be related directly to a high level of productivity, it also brings about increased job security and therefore an increase in motivation. An obvious improvement will be seen in staff turnover due to staff being more loyal and feel a sense of involvement. We also need to consider the change in demographics, the younger workforce have more bargaining power due to more people graduating from university. In order to keep these people at an organisation, commitment must be built up. This could lead to a highly skilled workforce.

An example that helps illustrate the close relationship between culture and commitment is that of ASDA in November 2005. Asda had experienced an 18-month decline in market share and profits and close competitors were catching them up in the market place. So where did Asda go wrong? It starts with the overall strategy of the organisation, which leads to the values. Asda were unsuccessful in adopting their strategy and values to the British way of life, which in fact led to a lack of commitment from employees. This clash in culture was Asda’s main problem. In order to fix the situation Asda could consider the following: re-assess the values and beliefs, train and develop the staff, use appraisal systems, ensure they create a work life balance and empower their employees.

Another reason why managers should influence culture is linked with the psychological contract. A psychological contract is a set of expectations that employees and the organisation have of each other. Both sets of expectations must be met for both parties to be satisfied, if not this will cause conflict within the organisation. Using recruitment as a tool of influencing culture, as I will speak more about later on, will ensure management hire employees with similar values and beliefs which will lead to a strong bond and a similar set of expectations. This will create an overall positive atmosphere within the organisation and an increase in commitment.

I will now discus particular theories surrounding organisational culture. In order to identify the physical manifestations of an organisational culture, we can use the culture web created by Johnson and Scholes (1999). This web incorporates the following elements: symbols, power structures, organisational structures, control systems, rituals and routines, stories and the overall paradigm of the organisation. The paradigm being in the centre of the web, overlapping the other elements, implies that the physical aspects of culture can be influenced by leaders or managers, as the change in the other elements will certainly bring about a change in the overall paradigm. However I believe that an organisation’s culture runs deeper than this: �The slogans, evocative language, symbols, stories, myths, ceremonies, rituals, and patterns of tribal behaviour that decorate the surface of organizational life merely give clues to the existence of an all-pervasive system of meaning’ (Morgan, 1986, p. 133). The cultural web shows only the physical manifestations of organisational culture. However Johnson (1999) argues 'The cultural web is a representation of the taken-for-granted assumptions ... of an organisation' (Johnson, 1999, p230). Also this theory takes only into account the unitary perspective as a solitary culture throughout the organisation. For a better understanding of the organisations culture, further analysis must take place as to what drives the culture from the inside out, the unconscious assumptions. This analysis leads us onto Edgar Schein and his work beginning in the early 1980’s.

Edgar Schein was a social psychologist that developed what has become a significant theory of organisational culture (Schein 1981, 1984, 1985, 1992). Schein identifies three distinct levels in organisational cultures; artefacts and behaviours, espoused values and assumptions.

Schein believes the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are: learned responses to the group's problems of survival in its external environment and its problems of internal integration; are shared by members of an organisation; that operate unconsciously; and that define in a basic "taken-for-granted" fashion in an organisation's view of itself and its environment.

In order for the management to successfully define the core assumptions of its members, Schein identified seven issues that must be resolved. These can be placed into two categories: external adaptation, including goals, mission and strategy and control systems, and internal integration, including rewards and punishment, status and power and common language.

At the next level of culture are values. Values underlie and to a large extent determine behaviour, but they are not directly observable, as behaviours are. Values may form some understanding on what is right or wrong to the member of the organisation and therefore values can be referred to as ethical codes. Values are certainly more recognisable than assumptions consequently members are able to identify when someone tries to change their culture. The values encourage activities that produce surface-level artefacts.

Artifacts are the observable level of culture, �the visible and audible remains of behaviour grounded in cultural norms, values and assumptions’ (Gagliardi 1990). They consist of behaviour patterns and outward manifestations of culture: privileges provided to executives, dress codes, level of technology utilized and the physical layout of workspaces. All may be visible indicators of culture, but difficult to interpret. Artifacts and behaviour also may tell us what a group is doing, but not why.

Although the different levels of Schein’s theory may be difficult to define he has created a deep analysis for managers to work with. Managers must understand that new values will be built into basic assumptions after members have accepted them as worthy. Their benefits must be notable by the members of the culture for this to happen. This will result in new values dropping to the level of unconscious assumptions. Schein’s model not only takes into consideration that culture is driven from inside out, but he suggests that it may be driven from outside in. We can see that the arrows on his model point both ways. He is showing that the artifacts can be interpreted to transform the values an assumptions, showing the influence of management is possible.

A study on IBM by Geert Hofstede in the 1970’s brought about the theory that differences in the attitudes expressed by the managers of IBM could be categorised into four dimensions: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism and masculinity. This was the result of Hofstede making comparisons across the international affiliates of IBM. He conducted a series of interviews with some 116 000 IBM employees from 72 countries.

When considering Power distance we are analysing the willingness of members of a nation to accept an unequal distribution of wealth, power and prestige. Power distance may well be determined by the structure of the organisation. For example within a flat organisational structure, power between the members will be more equal. Uncertainty Avoidance focuses on the level of tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity within the society i.e. the structuring of activities. If an organisation has unstructured activities, this suggests a low uncertainty avoidance. An organisation that is very control and rule-orientated expresses high uncertainty avoidance. Individualism focuses on the degree the society reinforces individual or collective, achievement and interpersonal relationships. In the U.S cultures individualism is seen as a source of well being. Masculinity focuses on the degree the society reinforces, or does not reinforce, the traditional masculine work role model of male achievement, control, and power. There is more emphasis on work goals and earnings in highly masculine cultures; where as physical environment and relationships are more dominant in less masculine cultures.

As with all theories, Hofstede’s dimensions are subject to criticisms. Many writers believe that a survey to measure culture was inappropriate as it was carried out on group date, 'The very special nature of the IBM study has confused or enraged many who have learned from statistical textbooks that factor analysis has been done on individual data. They would find it inconceivable or wrong to do it on group level data.’ (Søndergaard, 1994). We also need to consider is the study of one company a good representation about entire national cultures? Is the data for this analysis now out of date and obsolete? The external environment and the way it impacts on companies change as time passes by. And one last point to consider, will all companies fit within just four dimensions?

After thoroughly analysing the different theorists on the topic of culture we can see that all their theories, to a certain extent, allow an analysis of the conscious and viewable aspects of the culture, for example the physical analysis. I do not believe the cultural web gives an in-depth analysis on the underlying assumptions; however Johnson (1999) does bear these in mind and states that it is possible to identify the assumptions after a cultural web analysis takes place. It is Schein who takes it a step further and suggests for a fuller understanding, of the organisations culture, all three levels, of his theory, should be complete.

I have already discussed the theories of analysing which culture an organisation has; now I will discus a theory of how best to influence and manage culture. Jennifer Chatman and Sandra Eunyoung Cha believe that powerfully effective cultures display three criteria: a high level of agreement, a high level of intensity, and an emphasis on innovation. They refer to three tools that leaders can use to help develop, manage and change their company's cultures to meet these three criteria: recruit & select people for cultural fit, manage culture through socialization & training and manage culture through the reward system.

Chatman and Cha understood one can promote powerful culture by emphasizing person/culture fit in addition to person/job fit. Townley (1989) suggests �the growing trend in the use of systematic selection and appraisal schemes not only seek to improve competitive strength and efficiency but also, and more importantly, seek to control employees.’ An example of a company who have taken this on board are Hays Recruitment. When interviewed by them for my placement year I went through a series of personality tests. These tests would give Hays an understanding of my values and beliefs, the results then could be compared with the culture adopted by Hays to ensure I was likely to fit in and accept the overall culture which I would have to adopt in my placement year.

Training employees about the values, expected behaviours and social knowledge will help create a bond between members so that employees will hold each other accountable for upholding the values. Also a sense of belonging can be very motivating. Working for a fruit packing company, I found myself as an outsider. The existing staff had formed their own bond and was unwilling to allow anyone else within it. This drove me away from the company. In this situation management would be needed to influence the attitudes and values, possible through training, of the staff to prevent further high levels of turnover.

Linking the informal cultural reward system to the formal company reward system will ensure a clear, consistent and comprehensive message of company values. Seating arrangement in accordance with levels of sales in staff meetings is a good example of this (Chatman and Cha, 2002, pp, 2-3).

If there is a belief that culture can be managed, new forms of managerial influences and control within organisations will develop (Peters and Waterman 1982). If culture can influence behaviour via values and norms, then management of these values and norms is possible to ensure other organisational performance outcomes are achieved. As I have already discussed, this control can be achieved through recruitment and selection as well as other managerial tools. However an understanding of Schein’s work suggests norms and values are grounded in deeply rooted basic assumptions and therefore managing culture will be strictly limited.

The influence exerted by the manager, on organisational culture, depends on many factors. Consideration must be given to the history of the organisation, technology, goals and objectives, the size, location, management and staffing and the overall environment. Trust demonstrated by open plan offices and individual appraisal may not co-exist smoothly with each other. This ambiguity was well represented in the Channel 4 documentary �The Gilded Cage’. An influence or change in culture is evident in many case studies, for example British Airways, however as Smith and Peterson (1988, p.121) point out �major changes in culture have been successfully accomplished … but they are rare’. Managers need to assess the interests of both employers and employees in order to achieve a balance; in turn this may lead to more commitment, which leaves the manager in a better position to influence. Managers have placed too much emphasis on culture as an entity. I believe managers would be more successful in influencing culture if they began to think about it as a context for meaning, making and interpretation.

Bibliography

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