Organisational Culture Cannot Be Managed

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Culture cannot be managed

Organisations do not form accidentally. It is the result of the belief that a group of individuals working together can accomplish the task that one individual cannot and the work can be done faster and more effectively. The process of organisational culture formation is first of all the process of creating a small group of individuals.

From the 1980s there was a great number of discussions of organisational culture as a "source of fresh air" and antidote to attributes of organisational life that merely focus on easily measurable variables. On symposium presented in 1988 at the Academy of Management Conference in Anaheim, California, culture was said to be ‘an important concept that needs long-term attention as it is creates a frame for work being done within organisations'. Healthy organisational culture is vied as ‘a key to improved morale, loyalty, harmony, productivity, and – ultimately - profitability.' (Bate 1994).

The main reason for such an interest to organizational culture, however, is the desire to understand how it impact organizational change. There is a great deal of discussion of this issue in literature in recent years. The example of British Airways that claimed to have changed its culture from an emphasis on flying routes to an emphasis on company servise suggests that it is possible to be successful in implementing changes and gain positive outcomes (Ackroyd, et al 1990). According to Johnson (1992), however, culture is more an obstacle to organizational changes rather than key to its success.

This paper attempts to critically analyse cultural phenomenon and answer the question whether it can be managed by using theoretical proof and examples from real life.

Different sources give different definition of what organizational culture really is. Organisational culture can be defined as a set of shared mental assumptions that guide interpretation and action in organisation by defining appropriate behavior for various situations (Ravasi, et al 2006). As per Schein (1985) culture is a pattern of assumptions that a group that work together sufficiently has invented or developed during the process of coping with problems, and these assumptions can be used later to teach new members. According to Smircich (1983), "culture is not something that organization has but something that organization is". In other words, organization is both a product and producer of culture. Culture of any organisation is shaped by individual values and beliefs of its employees, subgroups values along with its leader influence, industry culture and its competition, overall company environment and its expectations (Linstead 1992).

It is essential to understand the different levels or elements of culture namely: values, rituals, heroes, symbols and practices. As per Bolman and Deal (2006), values are general broad beliefs of what is good and what is bad, rational and irrational, etc. Rituals are set of activities that are socially important to the group. Heroes are people, real or imaginary, who possess certain characteristics that are valuable to the culture of a particular organisation and thus serve as role models. Johnson (1992) argues that symbols carry particular important meaning within a culture (words, phrases, pictures, objects) and help to neglect differences between people and make them work together in an efficient way even without having to think about them. They play a role of umbrella of a national flag of a country.

In order to help analyse culture Schein (1985) has developed a tree model to combine all the elements of culture in three level where each level is a degree to which the observer see the cultural phenomenon. The first level of it is artefacts combined of organisational symbols, forms and practices by which an organisation can be identified. It is followed by beliefs and values of employees. The last level is the basic underlying assumptions of appropriate...
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