Organizations culture dictates how employees should conduct themselves. Leaders establish shared beliefs and values, which are then communicated and reinforced through various methods, influencing employee perceptions, behaviors, and understandings. Culture is an organization’s personality. Corporate culture is the sum of an organization’s values, customs, traditions, and meanings. For this reason, corporate culture is often referred to as “an organization’s character”. A company’s culture is distinct. Even if two companies are doing the same thing, their cultures will be different.
The characteristics of organizational culture
- Culture is distinct to every organisation. Characteristics of organizational culture are:
- Key members of an organization can actively develop
- Intangible, but felt by all in an organization
- Changes over time
- Unique and distinctive to an organization
- Symbols for underlying beliefs and values of an organisation
- There is no best culture for a company; it depends on its goals, nature, competition, and other factors.
- Emphasizes on outcome i.e. result oriented
- Competition oriented/aggressiveness
Levels of culture
- Artifact: This is the most visible level of culture and built environment. It includes physical layout, technology output, written and spoken language, and overt group member behavior.
- Values: Cultural learning reflects initial values.A new task, issue, or problem requires a new set of solutions. If the solutions work, value can become faith. Group members use values and beliefs to justify their actions and behaviors.
- Basic underlying assumptions: When a solution to a problem works repeatedly, it comes to be taken for granted. Basic underlying assumptions are unconsciously held beliefs that shape group members’ perceptions, thoughts, and emotions.
Types of organizational culture
Organizational culture is classified in different types. Charles Handy, a renowned British management writer and teacher, identified four major organizational cultures.
- Power Culture
- Role Culture
- Task Culture
- Person Culture
This culture is based on a central figure with rays of influence throughout the organization. Small businesses often have a power culture that relies on trust, empathy, and personal communication.Characteristics are:
- Based on trust
- Mostly face-to-face
- Fewer rules and regulations
- Minimal bureaucracy
- Autocratic (power figures make key decisions)
- Adaptable and quick
- Promotes people who are comfortable with power, can make quick decisions, take risks, and influence others.
This is probably the most common in large organizations. Roles cultures are structured around clearly defined roles within defined structures. This creates the typical top-down hierarchical structure of large organizations. Although predictable and stable, this predictability and stability can lead to rigidity and slowness.Characteristics are:-
- Strong pyramidal or hierarchical structure
- Systematic and ordered
- Protocols and standards
- Formalized communication
- Prefers to design work that is predictable and stable.
- Indecisive and bureaucratic
- Afraid of large-scale change
- Believes in strict authority with little or no questioning
The focus is on problem-solving, goal-setting, and action. The structure is adaptable to the task at hand. The image depicts a net or matrix, with power coming from the connections (of which there are many). Rather than rank, title, or position, knowledge and contribution bring power and respect. So power is task-dependent.Characteristics are:-
- No formal hierarchy, prefers a matrix structure that adapts
- Team work and collaboration oriented
- Problem-solving, action
- Questions the existing system and believes in it.
- Feedback is valued at all levels and is formal and informal.
- But can still make pragmatic decisions.
- Work relationships are expected to be formed.
- Expertise and power exchange
Person culture is characterized by individuals believing they are superior to the organization (“the organization only exists because of me”). An organization implies a group of like-minded individuals working together to achieve a common goal.This culture is rare, but exists in some organizations. It usually consists of educated and articulate individuals or specialists who share an interest. Lawyers, academic researchers, and consultants are examples.Characteristics are;-
- Minimalist organizational structure
- Recruits employees based on talent and skills
- Influence and persuasion communication
- Personal decisions reached through personal bargaining
- Less controls and procedures
- Few company-wide standards, allowing individuals to develop their own systems and methods
- Adapts careers to individual preferences and skills
- Accepts long tenure for expertise
Influence on the development of culture
An organization’s culture and structure evolve over time and in response to many factors. Among the key influences likely to play a role in the development of any corporate culture are:
- History: Every organization has a history of founders, founding managers, duration, and founding managers’ philosophy and values. If the founding managers set an ambitious work philosophy, the current managers will be influenced to work harder to maintain the status quo.
- Goals and objectives: Managers set goals. They set deadlines for achieving them. The aggressiveness of a manager’s work will be influenced by the set goals and objectives..
- Primary function and technology: The organization’s primary function and business nature influence its culture. This includes product and service range, reputation, and customer type.
- Size: Larger organizations usually have a more formalized culture. Increased size means more departments and possibly more problems. Changes in staffing and size will impact structure and culture.
- Location: The physical characteristics of the location influence the behavior of customers and employees. Staff and customers in urban areas tend to be more aggressive than those in rural areas.
- Management and staffing: Top executives can shape the company’s culture. Top executives who create aggressive policies that benefit both junior managers and staff will positively impact the company’s culture..
- The environment: Effective organizations respond to external environmental influences. For example, a dynamic environment necessitates a flexible structure and culture. Most people behavior is influenced by people that have excelled in their operations. Such people will work hard to match the standard of their heroes ‘great admiration.
Importance of culture
- Culture helps to account for variations among organizations and manages, both nationally and internationally.
- Culture helps to explain why different groups of people perceive things in their own way and perform things differently from other groups.
- Culture can help reduce complexity and uncertainty.
- Culture provides a consistency in outlook and values. Culture enables management and staff to easily coordinate their activities.
- Culture enables managers to make proper decisions.
- Culture enables management and staff to cordially control their operations.